Choosing between a Chevrolet Astro and a GMC Safari is more a matter of image than necessity. Do you want to see Chevrolet's badge every time you approach? Or would it be viscerally satisfying to face those bold "GMC" block letters, with their implication, as brand managers hope, of upscale luxury?
Tangible differences between the two are modest -- a fact that's true of most Chevrolet and GMC cousins. Once you've decided that a rear-drive (or all-wheel-drive) General Motors midsize van is the rational choice, you'll likely be satisfied with either one.
Because of their traditional-type full-frame construction and rear-drive layout, Safaris are most adept at heavy hauling and burly trailer towing. Not everyone will relish the trucklike ride over harsh surfaces, but it's not bad at all when the highway smoothes out. Don't expect top-notch fuel mileage, though.
Dual airbags are housed in an artfully styled dashboard, and antilock brakes are standard. For added safety and visibility, daytime running lights blaze the trail. For 1998, a PassLock theft deterrent system has been added to the Safari.
GM's 4300 Vortec V6 is standard, sending 190 horsepower to an electronically controlled four-speed automatic transmission. Long-life engine coolant and 100,000-mile spark plugs help keep maintenance costs to a minimum. This year brings transmission refinements that result in improved fuel economy, better shift quality and increased reliability.
The Safari Cargo comes in just one trim level. Basic items like air conditioning, an AM/FM stereo and bucket seats are standard. Optional equipment included convenience features like a tilt steering wheel, keyless entry and power windows and locks. Whether rear-drive or running full-time all-wheel drive, the Safari Cargo provides a great alternative to gas-guzzling full-size vans. If you're looking for a medium-size work vehicle that's big enough to get the job done yet still easy-to-drive and live with the Safari is a solid choice.