2003 GMC Safari

  • 2003 GMC Safari Base Extended Cargo Minivan

    Base Extended Cargo Minivan

    • MAX MPG
    • SEATS
    • ENGINE
      4.3L V6
    • MSRP
  • 2003 GMC Safari Base Extended Passenger Minivan

    Base Extended Passenger Minivan

    • MAX MPG
    • SEATS
    • ENGINE
      4.3L V6
    • MSRP
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  • Review

2003 GMC Safari Review

Although the 2003 GMC Safari still has a lot of brawn, you’ll be hard pressed to find it attractive enough to consider a buy.

Reviewed by Automotive on


The 2003 GMC Safari is a minivan that’s been around since 1985–the stone age for contemporary vehicles. Although it has been around for a long time, it has remained a viable option for those that want a cargo van, or something with a towing ability that’s comparable to an SUV. It isn’t uncommon to see the Safari towing a camper van behind it.

Unfortunately, the day of the heavy-haul minivan is done, especially with GMC itself offering an SUV that can pull 7,200 pounds (the Envoy XL). There isn’t much else to the Safari to entice new buyers. Sure, you have the option between rear-wheel and all-wheel drive. Yeah, it has a torque V-6 and enough passenger room for eight. Other than that, you’ll be hard pressed to find a reason why you’d want to purchase the Safari over other passenger vehicles on the market.

The Range

Body Styles: minivan
Engines: 4.3-liter V-6
Transmissions: four-speed automatic
Models: GMC Safari

What's New

The 2003 Safari gains 16-inch aluminum wheels as a standard feature. The braking system is greatly improved as well, which is helpful when lugging large loads.


The 2003 GMC Safari has the same size as the Chevrolet Astro, measuring 189.8 inches overall with a 111.2-inch wheelbase. The Safari is six-inches longer than the Dodge Caravan, but that hardly translates to more passenger room.

Unlike other minivans of the period, the 2003 GMC Safari only has one sliding door available on the passenger side. However, the Safari also has rear-hinged cargo doors at the back of the vehicle for easy load-in, load-out. Optional are Dutch doors that have a swing-up function, and a swing-out function.

Exterior features include 16-inch steel wheels, intermittent wipers, privacy glass, trailer hitch and wiring, dusk-sensing headlamps, short and long arm front suspension, solid live axle rear suspension, and front independent suspension.

Don’t expect the 2003 GMC Safari to win any beauty contests–it’s big and boxy like a minivan usually is.


The interior of the 2003 GMC Safari comes with standard eight-way passenger seating. The rear passengers receive a three-person bench in the SLE version. The SLT puts two bucket seats in the second row, lowering the seating capacity to seven passengers. Cargo volume inside the GMC Safari is fairly impressive at 170.4 cubic feet of space when the second and third row seating is removed from the vehicle. Unfortunately, the placement of the engine has taken up space in the wheel well area of the vehicle. This causes some cramped legroom inside the vehicle.

All versions of the vehicle have tilt steering, cruise control, power windows, power locks, folding rear seatbacks, rear ventilation ducts, cloth covered seats, one touch power mirrors, front console with storage, front door pockets, speed proportional power steering, 12V outlets, air conditioning, cargo area light, front and rear floor mats, dual vanity mirrors, AM/FM stereo, and eight speakers.

Performance & Handling

A 4.3-liter Vortec V-6 engine that produces 190 horsepower and is paired with a four-speed automatic transmission powers the GMC Safari. The engine has a Tow/Haul mode that engages the best shift points while towing a large load on the vehicle. The GMC Safari can carry between 1495 and 1636 pounds of payload, and can tow between 5,100 and 5800 pounds. The GMC Safari comes as a rear-wheel drive or all-wheel drive vehicle. All-wheel drive ensures the front wheels engage when traction is lost. This is the best option if you’re likely to carry a lot of items with the vehicle.

The GMC Safari, when compared to other minivans, behaves more like a full-size vehicle than anything else. The strong engine coupled with the large body creates a truck-like experience when driving, even with the newest refinements. It is best to look for a more refined vehicle.


The GMC Safari comes with four-wheel anti-lock brakes, child seat anchors, front and rear-wheel ventilated disc brakes, dusk sensing headlamps, rear center lap belt, electronic brake force distribution, and more. Unfortunately, even with these features the Safari performs poorly in crash tests. The IIHS gave the Safari a “poor? rating, its worst, for frontal offset tests and rear crash protection.

EPA Fuel Economy

2003 GMC Safari Base: 14/19 mpg city/highway
2003 GMC Safari SLE: 14/19 mpg city/highway
2003 GMC Safari SLT: 14/19 mpg city/highway

You'll Like

  • Strong V-6 engine
  • 5400 pound towing capacity with trailer hitch
  • Eight-passenger seating

You Won't Like

  • Terrible fuel economy
  • Small footwells due to engine
  • Old model
  • Lack of refinement

Sum Up

Although the 2003 GMC Safari still has a lot of brawn, you’ll be hard pressed to find it attractive enough to consider a buy.

If You Like This Vehicle

  • Chevrolet Astro
  • Dodge Caravan
  • Oldsmobile Silhouette

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