What's New for 2001
Performance from Astro's Vortec 4300 V6 is enhanced, compliments of a new powertrain control module. Also new is a low-emission vehicle (LEV) version. Color choices are expanded to include Light Pewter Metallic and Dark Carmine Red Metallic.
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 hauler, sporting a conventionally boxy shape, has -- if anything -- mellowed with age.
No, you don't get the curvaceous contours or the ergonomics of a modern machine. What you do acquire is a highly practical heavy-duty hauler that can be equipped to suit just about any need, trimmed in just about any way you like.
Astro passenger vans can be equipped with standard LS or upscale LT trim. Included with the basic van are such items as chrome wheels, air conditioning, power windows and door locks, cruise control, a tilt steering wheel, and remote keyless entry. Step up to the ritzy LT and you've opened the door to leather seating, as well as rear A/C and heat, second-row captain's chairs, rear Dutch doors and brushed aluminum wheels.
All Astros offer a host of appealing features, such as a tow/haul mode on the transmission that holds revs longer when Astro is laden with cargo or a trailer, headlights that automatically activate in low-light situations, and a flash-to-pass feature for those interested in inciting road rage.
Out on the road, loaded with passengers and cargo, 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. Seats are a little short, but comfortable. Unfortunately, overly small front footwells drop the comfort level a notch, especially after long stints behind the wheel. Dual depowered airbags and antilock brakes are standard, but the aged Astro doesn't perform well in crash testing.
A 190-horsepower, 4.3-liter V6 is standard, putting power through a smooth-shifting, four-speed electronically controlled automatic transmission to drive the rear, or optionally, all wheels. Depending on configuration, Astros can haul as much as 5,500 pounds. 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.
Changes for 2001 are minimal since Chevrolet is still trying to decide when the Astro should die. A more powerful alternator, a new powertrain control module and two new colors are the primary changes this year. Also, you can opt for a new National Low Emissions Vehicle system.
Despite the fact that the Astro is celebrating its sweet 16 birthday, Astros remain tempting, especially if you need to combine 170 cubic feet of cargo space with substantial towing capacity and all-wheel drive.