Vehicle Overview from Kelley Blue Book
KBB.com 2004 Chevrolet Astro Overview
More Than A Minivan
The minivan market is crowded with any number of excellent choices. This fact does not seem to deter the Chevrolet Astro, which faces stiff competition even from within its own family (we point your attention to the front-wheel drive Chevy Venture.) But the Astroand the loyal many that swear by itoffers something most front-drive unit body minivans can't: a potent rear-drive platform from which to tow up to 5700 pounds. The Astro also offers an AWD (all-wheel-drive) variant for better traction in deep snow.
The Astro works on so many levels because it combines the agile size of a minivan with the utilitarian features of a traditional full-sized van. Take for example the rear door configuration. With the Astro, you can opt for a double door design that places the doors side-by-side or Dutch door treatment (Dutch doors feature two small lower doors topped by a flip up glass hatch.) Features like this give the Astro more flexibility than traditional minivans, allowing it to serve as both a family transport and a daily work truck. Of course, in traditional van style, the Astro offers only one sliding-side door on the passenger side, but even this design has its advantages (think conversion van.)
If family transport is your main objective, your clan won't be disappointed with their accommodations. With the exception of the front passenger, legroom for all aboard is abundant, especially when you outfit the Astro with the second and third-row captain's chairs. Though this seating configuration limits capacity to six people, it creates a wide center isle that makes it easy to move from front to rear; it also helps to keep angry siblings at a comfortable distance from each other. The aforementioned front seat passenger must contend with the intrusive engine and transmission tunnel, a design that forces their feet into a narrow footwell.
You'll find the Astro's step-in height to be a bit higher than most minivans, but that additional leg up places you nice and high, with a clear view over most passenger cars. The Astro's added floor height also gives it exceptional ground clearance, an important point to keep in mind if you regularly motor through deep snow. Thanks to the boxy upright design of the Astro's greenhouse, you'll not only find headroom to be first rate, but overall cargo hauling ability as well. The captain's chairs and bench seats can be removed, though this may not be an easy task for everyone. The Astro's seats are heavy and accessing those on the left side will require you to climb into the vehicle and pull the seats out through the right side door.
From the driver's seat, you'll find you sit upright, with the dash and steering wheel slightly below chest level. Again, from this vantage point you get a good clear view in all directions, aided by large glass windows and narrow side pillars. The Astro's oversized side mirrors can be angle so that you get an eyeful of whatever is sneaking up beside you and can be folded in when you need to squeeze into a tight spot. In front of you resides a well designed, if somewhat aging dash layout. A large central speedometer is flanked on both sides by smaller gauges for fuel, temperature and voltage. The radio and heating controls are positioned high up in the center of the dash and angled toward the driver for an easier reach.
Chevrolet offers the Astro as either a cargo or passenger van. The passenger version comes in two well-equipped trims that both use the same 4.3-liter V6 engine as the cargo van. Like the Astro itself, this engine is also getting on in years but its design is still a rock solid one. Rated at 190 horsepower and 250 lb-ft. of torque, the 4.3 has all the muscle it needs to haul the Astro, though when fully loaded, the engine does have to work overtime to perform passing and merging maneuvers. A V8 would probably provide better power, but it would also diminish the Astro's fuel consumption, which stands at 16-mpg city and 20-mpg highway for the rear drive model. Couple that last figure with the Astro's 27-gallon fuel tank, and you get a cruising range of nearly 540 miles.
Despite the Astro's utilitarian roots, it provides a quiet and smooth ride. The handling is fair, with good steering response and strong brakes. The tall Astro does lean a bit in the turns, but it only goes so far and then seems to correct itself, stopping its list before reaching the point where loose objects begin rapidly rolling across the dash and floor. The standard 16-inch tires provide excellent grip and contribute to the steering wheel's nice, heavy feel. Our Astro tracked straight and true at highway speeds and in city driving and proved rather easy to park thanks to the short front end.
Standard equipment is generous with the Astro and includes an automatic transmission, air conditioning, anti-lock brakes, power windows and door locks, tinted rear glass, dual power mirrors, cruise control, tilt wheel, AM/FM stereo and steel wheels. The LS package adds keyless entry, a CD player, rear air conditioning, overhead-storage console and a six-way power driver seat. The premium LT includes a leather-wrapped steering wheel, garage door opener, rear-seat audio controls and a folding center console. Options include leather seating, a trailer package, a cold climate package, a limited-slip rear differential and a rear window wiper washer.