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At its introduction, the Chevrolet Venture and its corporate siblings were top-notch examples of the hot minivan class. We went so far as to describe it as "outstanding," impressed with its communicative chassis, sharp steering and nimble handling. Well, in a "the 320-pound left tackle was surprisingly nimble" sort of way.
At the time, the Venture matched Chrysler's innovative new minivans by offering a driver-side sliding door and two wheelbases, then added a few tricks of its own to entice families. We weren't so impressed with its toothy chrome grille and uncomfortable modular seating, but in general, we considered the Chevrolet Venture a good buy.
Time and the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) was not kind, however, as newer minivans and a poor offset crash rating conspired to sink the Venture's favorable opinion marks. The downturn of all minivan sales also torpedoed Chevy's entry, forcing General Motors to throw together a replacement van using the Venture's body, a long aardvark-inspired nose and raised ride height to create the supposed SUV-like Uplander. Nobody bought the idea of a crossover minivan and for that matter, nobody bought the vehicle either, signaling the eventual end of Chevy's participation in this mom-mobile segment.
Most Recent Chevrolet Venture
The Chevrolet Venture was sold from 1997-2005. Buyers could choose from standard and extended wheelbases, and three- and four-door bodies. The three-door body disappeared in 2000, while only the long-wheelbase model was available in 2005. Seven-passenger "modular" seating with individually removable chairs was standard, while eight-passenger capacity and middle-row captain's chairs were optional.
Standard features included antilock brakes, front side airbags (starting in 1998), a tilt steering wheel and an acceptable quota of cupholders and storage bins. Traction control, a power-sliding door, rear seat audio and climate controls, and a load-leveling suspension were options. As its life progressed, features like leather seating, rear parking assist, OnStar and satellite radio became available. A Warner Bros. special edition featuring special badges and a VHS entertainment system (later DVD) was offered from 2000-'03. Although initially satisfied with Venture's fit and finish, we eventually saw it as increasingly cheap and as just one area where Chevy's minivan was being outclassed by a new generation of competition.
The Venture's safety was also put into question by the IIHS' frontal offset crash test, which slapped a poor rating on the minivan's Pontiac Trans Sport clone. Although it did just fine in the NHTSA's full-frontal crash test, other minivans at the time did better at handling the added structural stresses of an offset collision. However, the Venture was the first minivan to offer front side airbags as standard equipment, while standard antilock brakes and optional all-wheel-drive improved traction.
During its first few years on sale in the late-1990s, the Venture was our top pick in the minivan segment. But once the next millennium dawned, so did other, more attractive family haulers – particularly those from foreign manufacturers. Although a well-equipped Venture could present a good bargain, it would be a wise idea to shop newer minivan designs that have better safety ratings.
Past Chevrolet Ventures
There was only one generation of the Chevrolet Venture. It replaced the Lumina minivan.