About the Chevrolet Astro
Despite its minivan classification, the Astro resembled a full-size van and had many similar capabilities. Something of a workhorse, the Astro was perhaps better suited for towing and hauling than it was for dropping the kids off at the curb at school. The Astro featured the same rugged body-on-frame construction and rear wheel drive that were common on full-size Chevy vans and trucks.
Despite the Astro’s rugged capability, its old school van design put it somewhat out of step with modern minivans. For starters, the engine was located very close to the passenger compartment. This resulted in high levels of cabin noise and somewhat cramped conditions. The Astro’s height also made entering and exiting something of a challenge for small children attempting to pile in or out of its single sliding door.
But in spite of its design shortcomings as a minivan, the Astro offered drivers a smooth ride and decent handling. With a suspension that was more truck-like than car-like, the Astro also handled the road well. However, its truck-like build did make the Astro something of a gas-guzzler. While the Astro could be regarded as a functional minivan for its ability to accommodate eight passengers and a considerable amount of cargo, its truck-based build makes it far less practical and more cumbersome than most car-based minivans from the same year.
Chevrolet introduced several safety innovations to the Astro over the years including driver and passenger-side airbags. Yet, despite these improvements, the Astro never earned particularly high marks for safety. In 1996, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety gave the Astro a poor rating.Chevrolet Astro Features
Chevrolet made the last Astro minivan in 2005. A 4.3-liter V-6 engine matched with a four-speed automatic transmission powered the 2005 model. The engine was capable of producing 190 horsepower and 250 pounds-feet of torque. It also featured all-wheel drive (AWD). In terms of fuel economy, the 2005 Astro was capable of 14/20 mpg city/highway.
Like all Astros produced after 1993, the 2005 model featured 16-inch wheels. It also featured most of the features that were standard for the Astro during its lifespan. These included power steering, cloth seats, air conditioning, power accessories, cruise control, and an AM/FM stereo. Additional options included leather seats, second-row bucket seats, rear air conditioning, locking rear differential, and upgraded stereo systems. The 2005 Astro also featured rear disc brakes that were made standard in 2003.Chevrolet Astro Evolution
The Chevrolet Astro remarkably made it through its entire two-decade run of production without a major redesign. Although early models were available exclusively as rear-wheel drive, Chevrolet introduced an AWD option in 1990. The 1980s models also had less seating capacity; it only accommodated five passengers in two rows of seating. An extended version was introduced in 1990 that could be outfitted with a third row of seating, increasing the van’s passenger capacity to eight. During the final 10 years of the Astro’s production Chevrolet only sold the extended version.
The year of 1990 also saw the introduction of four-wheel antilock brake systems that were made standard an all Astros for the remainder of its run of production. Astros produced between 1985 and 1992 featured 15-inch wheels, while from 1993 onwards, 16-inch wheels were made standard. 1993 was also when the option of a driver-side front airbag was introduced for the first time. In 1996, Chevrolet began fitting dual front airbags into all Astros. This significantly improved the Astro’s crashworthiness.
The Astro was given a design refresh in 1995, providing the interior and exterior with a look that was slightly more modern and stylish. In terms of the van’s exterior, this redesign consisted of giving the Astro an extended nose. It was also at this time that the shorter length body option was dropped. The interior face-lift brought about an improved dashboard with controls that were easier to use as well as the introduction of passenger-side airbags. In 1997, speed-sensitive power steering was added. Chevy also made steps to improve the van’s fuel economy over the years. One such step was the introduction of an AWD system in 1999 that only sent power to the front wheels when the rear wheels began to slip.