Basic American Compact Coupes From 1998


The Buy/Drive/Burn series has taken on a late Nineties theme lately: Our last two entries represented midsize sedans from 1997. Based upon a suggestion in the comments, we return once more to the period. On offer today are three very basic American compact coupes from 1998.

Note: We’re using 1998 as there was no two-door Escort model at all in 1997.

Chevrolet Cavalier

The faithful Cavalier is in its third generation in 1998, after a debut in 1995 on the same J-body platform it’s used since 1981. It’s even on sale now in Japan as a Toyota! Cavalier is GM’s best-selling car this year and is available in coupe, sedan, and convertible forms. The coupe is available in Base, RS, and sporty Z24 guises, but today we’ve opted for the Base. Spending $11,700 nets us a 2.2-liter inline-four good for 115 horses, paired to a five-speed manual.

Dodge Neon

The Neon has been with us since 1994 and still looks as fresh as ever. A new face to replace Chrysler’s dated K-car offerings, the Neon is available as a sporty coupe or slightly less sporty sedan. Unusual in the class, Neon features stylish frameless windows in both its forms. The coupe is available in base Competition and Highline trims and asks for $11,100 as a Competition. At that price, you’ll receive a class-topping 150-horse 2.0-liter inline-four, paired to a five-speed manual.

Ford Escort ZX2

The Escort was new in 1997 but had no two-door availability at that time as Ford waited for the Probe to finish out its last year. 1998 sees the debut of the new ZX2 model, which carries the sales expectations of Probe and Escort GT simultaneously. ZX2 is lower and more aggressive-looking than its sedan and wagon counterparts, with a unique front and rear clip. Two lamely named trims of ZX2 are on offer: Cool and Hot. All examples are powered by a 2.0-liter inline-four of 130 horses, and the base Cool asks $11,580 with a five-speed manual.

As cheap as can be, and all better than any compact available for purchase a decade prior, which one is worth a Buy?

[Images: GM, Chrysler, Ford]

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