What's New for 1996
Last year for this van. A 3.4-liter V6 good for 180 horsepower replaces standard and optional V6 engines from last year. Air conditioning, seven-passenger seating and an electronically controlled four-speed automatic transmission are standard.
Not quite so dramatic or futuristic-looking as it used to be, Chevy's front-drive minivan never really rivaled the sales-leading Dodge Caravan and Plymouth Voyager, and the latest rendition of those two champs are proving unbeatable. Like the similar--but more costly--Oldsmobile Silhouette and Pontiac Trans Sport, the strangely-shaped Lumina never quite caught hold in the marketplace.
Fiberglass-like plastic body panels, bonded to a steel space frame, mean no rust worries. Acceleration is outstanding with the new standard 180-horsepower, 3.4-liter V6 engine, not only from a standing start but when merging and passing. The Lumina is much quicker than one would expect. Upshifts are quick and barely discernible with the electronically controlled four-speed automatic.
Driving the Lumina Minivan takes some getting used to. Most drivers can't see the front end for parking, and even after you're accustomed to it, the vast, steep windshield seems odd every time you step inside. Even though the extra windshield pillars don't impede much of the view, large triangular panes on the side can be trouble in bad weather, lacking wipers or defrosters.
Occupants enjoy pleasant seating and a comfortable ride--a bit floaty and boatlike at times, but more like a ship that's moored securely. The van absorbs bumps capably, almost gliding past a lot of them. For a vehicle of this size and weight, too, the Lumina maneuvers with some dispatch. A driver's airbag and antilock braking are standard. Traction assist is optional. In keeping with Chevy's family focus, integral child seats are available. Storage space actually is minimal unless seats are folded down or, better yet, removed. A small glovebox is compensated for by lots of auxiliary storage spots, including a dashboard recess.
New to the standard equipment list for 1996 is air conditioning, seven-passenger seating, and an uplevel acoustical package. Extended maintenance schedules for the new 3.4-liter V6 make owning a Lumina Minivan easier.
Chrysler is still the standard of comparison, but the GM minis are stronger contenders than ever. One could hardly ask for more on a long trip: comfort, easy handling--and most people quickly get used to that enormous front glass. Next fall, a new Chevrolet minivan debuts, called the Venture. It will be constructed of steel, will sport more conservative and attractive styling, and will offer a left-side sliding door. Finally Chevy dealers will have a minivan that can compete head-to-head with the Chrysler vans. We suggest you wait that extra twelve months.