Before you slip under the covers each evening, do you run out to the garage to hug your car?And each Saturday morning, before the neighbors have a chance to rise and shine, are you in the driveway scrubbing your vehicle inside and out? If so, the 1997 Plymouth Breeze is not for you. Breeze is a practical machine that puts function ahead of fun, a vehicle for those who don't let their car dictate their life or lifestyle. It's a sedan for those who consider themselves blessed with an abundance of common sense, who purchase a car simply to transport them from here to there and back, and who consider money invested in a set of wheels a necessary evil. Rather than boast how much they paid for their new car, Breeze owners brag how little they went into debt. Breeze is an alternative car: an alternative to shopping used when you can buy new for about the same amount of money, and a larger, roomier, more stylish compact-size alternative to that subcompact or mini when you have a cap on your vehicle spending. Breeze is a member of the compact Chrysler Cirrus/Dodge Stratus family at Chrysler. Cirrus is the luxury car, Stratus the performance car and Breeze (what a wonderful name) the economy car. We tested the '97 model that's offered as a four-door sedan only. Changes for '97 are minimal, such as a few new exterior colors, increased-flow rear-seat heat ducts and white wheel covers on white cars. Base price is $14,825 and for that you get dual air bags, air conditioning, four-wheel independent suspension, power brakes and steering, stainless-steel exhaust, dual outside mirrors, tinted glass, bodyside moldings, all-season 14-inch tires (sure we'd prefer 15-inch but would demand them more on Cirrus and Stratus than Breeze), tilt steering, rear-window defroster, AM/FM stereo radio with four speakers (add cassette and two more speakers for $180), remote decklid release, rear-door child safety locks, folding rear seat back and dual cupholders in the center console armrest. You can add automatic transmission for a much-too-hefty $1,050, anti-lock brakes for $565 and power windows/door locks/mirrors for $760. Breeze is powered by a 2-liter, 132-horsepower, single overhead cam 4-cylinder with 5-speed manual transmission. A 2.4-liter, 150-h.p. dual overhead cam engine is a$450 option--with automatic transmission only. Fuel economy with the 2-liter and 5-speed manual is superb at 26 miles per gallon city/37 m.p.g. highway, but those 132 horses act as if destined to become glue. The 5-speed is tolerable, but it's sad that at $1,050 Chrysler will keep some buyers from opting for automatic or chase some first-time buyers away who don't know how to drive manual and can't afford automatic. Other than being under powered, Breeze's other shortcoming is rather stiff cloth seats. Very stylish, but toug h on the back for long distances. An update is needed, we hope for '98. Seat comfort is an issue because Breeze is built on a long 108-inch wheelbase for optimum cabin room. You can stretch your arms and legs in a Breeze whereas in many smaller, but similarly priced, subcompacts you'll find yourself bumping door armrests, seat backs and firewalls. So with all that room, comfort should be a given. >> 1997 Plymouth Breeze Wheelbase: 108 inches Length: 186.7 inches Engine: 2-liter, 132-h.p. 4-cylinder Transmission: 5-speed manual EPA mileage: 26 m.p.g. city/37 m.p.g. highway Base price: $14,825 Price as tested: $16,330. Includes $760 for Customer Preferred Group (21B) with power windows, door locks, heated mirrors, driver-side seat height adjuster and floor mats; $565 for ABS; and $180 for AM/FM radio with cassette and six speakers. Add fo $535 freight. Pluses: A lot of car (air conditioning stand ard) for a little money, but without looking cheap inside or out. Dual air bags standard. Excellent mileage. Stylish compact alternative to bland low-cost subcompacts for first-time buyers or recent grads. Press[RETURN] to continue or type q to return to Menu: Minuses: Tad short on giddyap with 2-liter. Stiff seats. For automatic, add $1,050. >>
|Jim Mateja||chicagotribune.com||August 3, 1997|
|Richard Truett||Orlando Sentinel||March 6, 1997|
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