The 97 Venture is OK except for a few flaws. The major one is the transmission. I've had to replace mine shortly after the purchase. Now it seems to be functioning great. I dislike the location of the cupholders next to the seat...easy to spill stuff. I also dislike the fact that the wiper system breaks. I do wish the driver side door was standard but that doesn't come until 2000. However, I do love the look of the minivan interior and exterior. I just wish it didn't rust and chip easy. It has great acceleration and has great gas mileage (better than my friends Caravan Sport). It handles pretty great. Need to haul stuff...take out the seats and you have yourself a cargo van.
Its power, gas mileage, versatility, features available considering its a base model(power windows, tinted windows, roof rack, cargo nets, power mirrors, AC)
Transmission primarily. Although the 98+ gets a redesign, the 97 does have its pitfalls. Also the driver side door would be nice as a standard feature(available in 2000). The wiper system needs work since they park upright when system malfunctions and/or the rear system motor burning out.