After more than a year of doing these Meh Car Mondays, I’m starting to realize some things. Things like the most meh decade for cars seems to be the 1990s. At some point we’ll evaluate why this is, but for today I just want to talk about a fiercely meh car that’s very much a product of the 1990s: the Plymouth Breeze, a car you probably haven’t thought about in years unless you’re trapped in the trunk of one right now.
Chrysler put the same amount of effort and interest into the Plymouth Breeze that your average 11-year old kid puts into the process of bed-making: the absolute minimum needed for mom to say it’s fine. Only here, “mom” is the car’s target market, people too broke to afford a Chrysler Cirrus and either too disinterested or anesthetized to seek out a better, more interesting car.
See, the Plymouth Breeze was the entry-level sibling car to the Chrysler Cirrus, one of Chrysler’s mid-’90s “cloud cars” that featured their “cab-forward” design philosophy. On the larger LH sedans that Chrysler built (Chrysler Concorde, Chrysler LHS, Chrysler 300M, Dodge Intrepid, Eagle Vision, and the last Chrysler New Yorker) the design concept was a bit more developed and realized, but on the smaller Cirrus and Breeze things got watered down a bit.
The result was a car that, while in 1996 seemed relatively modern, aged with the grace of an insecure child actor, and, as the decade progressed, became so bland and anonymous that a Plymouth Breeze could be modified to defecate on the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in broad daylight and nobody would remember what the hell it was.
The Breeze was further forced into mehitude by its role as the cheap, entry-level offering, which meant it got only the most basic of equipment, and nothing that could have even tried to make it more interesting.
The base engine available was a two-liter inline-four that made a soporific, if pretty symmetrical, 130 horsepower and 132 lb-ft of torque. It was possible to get a five-speed manual, but most of these came with a forgettable four-speed auto.
There were two trim levels: the evocatively-named Base and Chrysler’s then favorite for many models, the Expresso, which offered the 2.4-liter engine that made a mildly better 150 hp, which offered performance that could be thrillingly and breathlessly described as “fine, I guess.”
Chrysler barely seemed to care about the Breeze, and you can tell, because here’s the list of updates it received over its production run:
1996: Plymouth Breeze sedan is released.
1997: A new center console which included storage space, an integrated armrest, and rear-seat cupholders.
1998: The 2.4 L I4 is added as an option, and so is the Expresso trim level.
1999: Revised suspension tuning for 1999 which promised a smoother ride.
2000: Breeze production was halted early in 2000, due to the phaseout of the Plymouth brand name. Only a base model Breeze was available.
Now, I know there are some fans of the Cirrus out there, and for its time, it was reputed to have decent handling and be a decent car. I can accept that. But time hasn’t been kind to these cars, especially the Breeze, which, while I’m sure did its general job well enough, has become absolutely forgotten and if one manages to invoke indifference in somebody, I’d be impressed at the intensity of emotion.
Chrysler’s ad team didn’t really have much of a hook for the Cirrus other than it was cheap, so they opted to take advantage of the decades’s CGI innovations and go a bit goofy:
Look at that. If your dream has always been to live the rest of your life in the Windows XP default desktop, you’d be thrilled by this ad. The ad does show that the car is capable of stopping and has opening doors, though, to its credit.
Here’s another one where someone had fun with a green screen and some wires:
Then they tried to get the market for drivers who were also thrill seekers who sought out the solitude of the desert:
Why are all these ads set in the strange, empty wastelands?
Chrysler actually sold well over 200,000 Breezes—more than they sold Cirruses—so the thing wasn’t a failure. As with so many meh cars, though, I just can’t imagine anyone really giving a shit about these cars. If there’s one car that gets thought about the most in terms of people wondering how they can get one out of their backyard the cheapest, I bet the Plymouth Breeze has to be that car.
I also imagine the Breeze is one of the biggest contributors of faded, cracked plastic wheel covers propped against telephone poles to the American landscape.
That’s something, I guess?