What's New for 1998
New colors, improved clearcoating, a standard theft-deterrent system and the addition of composite headlights and an uplevel grille to base models are all that's different on this year's Astro. Full-power airbags continue for 1998.
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. 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 trucklike 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. Unfortunately, overly small front foot wells drop the comfort level a notch. A 190-horsepower, 4.3-liter V6 is standard, driving a smooth shifting four-speed electronically controlled automatic transmission.
Dual airbags and antilock brakes are standard. This year, Chevy adds a standard theft-deterrent system, just in case there might be some thieves around dying to get their hands on an Astro. Base models come equipped with the same composite headlights and uplevel grille of LS and LT versions for 1998. Three new paint colors are available and clearcoats are etch-resistant for better longevity.
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 Astro remains a tempting (if dated) choice. If you need a small van with big van capacity, the Astro should be on your shopping list.