What's New for 1996
A new interior with dual airbags, new radio systems, an improved V6 and three new paint colors are the changes for this year.
Models that have been around for a while can still deliver impressive value--and valor. That's true of the long-lived Astro van, a staple in Chevy's lineup since 1985. This hard-working passenger/cargo hauler, sporting a conventionally-boxy shape, has, if anything, mellowed with age.
No, you don't get the curvaceous contours of a Caravan/Voyager or a Windstar--or even the rear-drive Ford Aerostar. What you do acquire is a highly practical carrier that can be equipped to suit just about any family, trimmed in any of three levels. Depending on configuration, Astros can seat up to eight passengers and haul as much as three tons.
Out on the road, rolling hour after hour, is where the Astro demonstrates its true worth. Taller than its likely rivals, Astros are admittedly more truck-like in temperament, but deliver a pleasant highway ride with competent handling for long journeys. Seats are a little short, but comfortable, in both the front and center positions.
Last year's fresh front-end styling gave this mid-size van a "corporate look" more closely resembling other Chevy trucks. A 190-horsepower 4.3-liter V6 is standard, driving a smooth-shifting four-speed electronically controlled automatic transmission.
An all-new interior, including a revised instrument panel complete with dual airbags, debuts for 1996. Ergonomics are much improved, and front occupants benefit from added leg and foot room. New fabrics cover new seats. An integrated child safety seat has been added to the options list this year, and a child safety lock has been added to the sliding side door. Front and rear audio systems are new and heat ducts for middle seat passengers have been added. Astros can be painted with three new exterior colors.
You get only one body choice: the extended-length version. The lower-priced rear-drive rendition is the ticket for hauling plenty of weight. All-wheel drive costs more and delivers improved wet-pavement traction, but slurps up more fuel along the route.
Solid and substantial, the Astros remains a tempting (if dated) choices, whether in passenger or cargo form. If you need a small van with big van capacity, the Astro should be on your shopping list.