by Bob McHugh

1999 Plymouth Breeze
1999 Plymouth Breeze

The Plymouth brand of automobiles has joined Studebaker, Rambler and all those other famous nameplates that have been cast aside over the years. However, not too long ago Plymouth was being touted as having the cars that would appeal to smart-shopping young buyers, looking for a car that was both stylish and practical. And a new 1996 Plymouth Breeze had the goods to deliver on that promise.

A compact/midsized sedan, the Breeze fitted perfectly into the new Plymouth image. Its cab-forward, wedge-like design gave the 4-door Breeze a sporty coupe-like appearance. In-between its short, low hood, which is wider than it is long, and the high rear deck of a large trunk, is a deceivingly roomy interior that can accommodate five occupants comfortably.

While combining style with practicality, the Breeze also has a sporty side. Its four-wheel double wishbone, fully independent suspension gives the Breeze an agile personality on the road, just enough to keep those enthusiastic drivers happy.

Breeze was the third member of a trio of “JA” coded sedans, two of which were launched by Chrysler in 1995, the Dodge Stratus and the Chrysler Cirrus (the most luxurious version). Cirrus came with a Mitsubishi built 2.5 litre V6 engine, which was originally an option on the Stratus, but not available on the Breeze. The AutoStick transmission, an automatic with a manual shift feature, was teamed with the V6 engine option on the Stratus mid-way through 1996.

The base engine on Breeze was a 2.0 litre 4-cylinder. Although a little noisy at high engine speeds, it has adequate power, and the fuel consumption figures are excellent, 9.3 L/100 km (30 mpg) in the city and 5.9 L/100 km (48 mpg) on the highway (with a 5-speed manual transmission). The optional 2.4 litre four-cylinder is technically a much more refined motor with performance figures that almost match the V6 in the Cirrus.

Safety features include dual air bags, protective side-guard beams in the doors (that meet the ’97 side impact standard), height-adjustable front seat shoulder belts, childproof rear door locks and an optional built-in child seat. However, the adjustable head restraints used on the front seats get a thumbs-down from the Insurance Corporation of BC, when it comes to whiplash prevention.

Safety problems include an oil galley plug on the V6 cylinder head which may leak on engines made in 1995 and ’96. Sticky solenoid valves in the anti-lock braking systems (ABS) hydraulic control unit, on cars fitted with ABS in 1995 and ’96, can cause the brakes to pull to one side. Brake fluid may also leak from the rear seal of the master cylinder on cars made in 1995 and ’96.

Cars made in 1996 and ’97 may have a faulty secondary hood latch, that can cause a hood fly-up situation, while the vehicle is in motion. Owners of 1995, ’96 and ’97 editions of the JA cars should have the lower control arm ball joints checked for accelerated wear, due to lack of lubrication.

A ’96 that fails an emissions test may have a powertrain control module (PCM) that needs re-calibration. Vehicles made between 1995 and 1998 with a floor mounted automatic transmission shift-mechanism may have a poorly adjusted shifter release button. This may cause a pin in the shifter to break and the brake interlock system will then mal-function.

Plymouth Breeze offers outstanding value as a used vehicle in the mid-sized car class, so check out this domestic auto option, before spending thousands more on a same year import that could pan out to be more expensive to run.

1996-99 Plymouth Breeze Used Prices (November 2000)

Year Model Price today Price new
1996 Plymouth Breeze 2.0L $7,800 to $10,300 $19,474
1997 Plymouth Breeze 2.0L $8,700 to $11,700 $19,763
1998 Plymouth Breeze 2.0L $10,600 to $13,600 $22,224
1999 Plymouth Breeze 2.4L $12,900 to $15,900 $22,566

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.

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