I had a 95 that only was in the shop a couple of times for non-maintenance work - a bad EGR valve and the exhaust system rusted out at 92k miles. Based on my experience I bought a new 2001. It's five years old and has 120k miles on it. I've had a few non-maintenance repairs. At around 50k miles the turn signal switch went out. This was a $450 repair but about three years later, GM had a recall on the switch and re-imbursed me. I installed new front shocks at around 70k miles. At about 105k miles the fuel pump went out. This cost $750 plus the towing!
This is the second Astro I have owned, the other being a 1995 AWD that was a maintenance nightmare. But the Astro is so ideal for my needs that I traded for the 2001 AWD. What a difference! So much more thoughfully laid out, seats are MUCH lighter (still no picnic) to remove. The driver controls are thoughfully laid out easy to reach and control. The response to driver imput is much improved and better power when it's needed. The rocker arm mouldings are a nice addition and make the van more attractive than the 1995. I am very happy with my purchase and expect to continue with the Astro/Safari for yet another one.
I have owned an 85 and a 91. My most recent Astro is the worst one yet. I miss the comfort of the seats of my other vans; I have deflated the back support completely and it is still uncomfortable. I cannot adjust the AC vent to prevent the air from blowing right on me; it is the same for the passenger. The rear suspension is too soft; I had to reinforce it. I have spent a lot of time at the dealer (leaking roof, brake light, door lock, rear axle, brakes, power windows, etc.). Like my other Astros, the idle is rough, the rear brakes are weak, and the check engine light comes on.
The Astro’s greatest merit is its interior space. It has room for 8 large passengers plus considerable cargo. It is also the only newer minivan that can tow 4500 pounds. Otherwise, it’s a humdrum vehicle that delivers dependable, no-frills transportation. AWD, a common option, is valuable for driving in snow, but unfortunately doesn't work in reverse. It also reduces mileage by 2 mpg. Expect 13-17 mpg for an AWD model. The powertrain performance is adequate but doesn’t feel strong, and it’s noisy when pushed hard. The seats are only moderately comfortable, but they were improved in 2002. The Astro offers usefulness and value to owners willing to sacrifice modern design and performance.