1997 Chrysler Cirrus LX
1997 Chrysler Cirrus LX, Click image to enlarge

They were known as the “Cloud” cars, this trio of mid-size sedans launched in the fall of 1994 as 1995 models. They were the Chrysler Cirrus, Dodge Stratus and Plymouth Breeze.

How things have changed in just a few years! DaimlerChrysler Canada no longer sells Dodge cars in this country, except the new Dodge SX and Dodge trucks, and Plymouth is completely gone as a stand-alone brand. The Cloud cars are all gone, too, replaced in 2001 by the Chrysler Sebring.

Back in the middle of the last decade, though, the Cirrus was the most upscale of the three Clouds. The Dodge was mid-range and the Breeze was the most basic.

All three, though, had the exterior dimensions of a compact car and the cabin room of a mid-size. Lots of space front and rear, not to mention a very, very roomy trunk, proved to be popular with buyers. The big trunk came courtesy of a high parcel shelf, which obscured rearward visibility. Visibility everywhere else was very good.

For drivers, the Cirrus (and these points apply to the other Clouds) has a nice driving position, with instruments and controls logical and accessible. Cabin materials were made of at-best average materials and a thorough inspection is advised.

Stylish and sleek to look at, the Cirrus has a number of interesting features that used car buyers should note: the battery is hidden behind a panel inside the fender; open it and you can slide it out for inspection.

Under the hood, all the items that need regular attention are marked in yellow. It’s important to know if original owners have neglected these items, because the Cirrus was designed to be tune-up free for the first 160,000 km.

In the fall of ’95, the Cirrus came in two versions: LX and upscale LXi. Initially, the Cirrus came with only a Mitsubishi-supplied 2.5-litre V6 engine. Later, a 2.4-litre four-banger was added.

In all, the Cloud cars were also sold with a 2.0-litre four-cylinder. The 2.4-litre offers good punch and is more fuel efficient than the 2.5-litre V6. The 2.0-litre doesn’t really have enough power for a car this size. The 2.5 litre is a fairly rough V6 in terms of noise. Cars with the automatic transmission have been notorious for long pauses before passing downshifts and those shifts can be rough.

In terms of handling and ride quality, the Cirrus is tight and reasonably responsive — something of a sports sedan, in fact. However, the Cirrus does not have a particularly quiet highway ride.

The first Cirrus models had a long list of standard equipment: air conditioning, dual airbags, four-wheel anti-lock brakes, adjustable front shoulder restraints, tilt steering, AM/FM stereo cassette, remote keyless entry, manual seat-height adjuster, power windows and door locks.

Used buyers should be alert to a few quality issues and the 12 Transport Canada recalls. Prices are affordable, though, and if a used Cloud car checks out, it’s not a bad buy at all.

Used vehicle prices vary depending on factors such as general condition, odometer reading, usage history and options fitted. Always have a used vehicle checked by an experienced auto technician before you buy.

For information on recalls, see Transport Canada’s web-site, www.tc.gc.ca, or the U.S. National Highway Transportation Administration (NHTSA)web-site, www.nhtsa.dot.gov.

For information on vehicle service bulletins issued by the manufacturer, visit www.nhtsa.dot.gov.

For information on consumer complaints about specific models, see www.lemonaidcars.com.

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