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The Chrysler Voyager gets the cachet of a premium brand name, but offers a strong value. The Voyager delivers all the minivan essentials at prices that are hard to beat.
The Voyager is comfortable and easy to drive, with excellent visibility. It seats seven. The seats are easily removable, so it can be quickly set up to haul a load of lumber. Its shorter length makes it more maneuverable than the long-wheelbase minivans.
For 2003, the exterior and interior appearance of the four-cylinder model has been upgraded so it looks more like a V6 model.
The Chrysler Voyager provides plenty of civilized, all-purpose family-mobile at an attractive price. We drove a base model, kids in tow, across lower Michigan and back. Only a lack of power from the base engine clouded an otherwise rosy picture.
Voyager's 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine makes plenty of torque (167 foot-pounds), as four-cylinders go. Steady refinement over the past few years has made this engine smoother and much quieter, and the new four-speed automatic takes better advantage of its power band. On the plus side, we managed an honest 24 mpg on the Interstate without even trying.
Yet in a 3900-pound minivan, 150 horsepower is adequate, and not an ounce more. Off the line, Voyager is one of the more sedate performers we've encountered in some time. This is not particularly a problem around town, as long as you judiciously choose your holes in traffic. On the open road, with a light load and the little engine wound up to high revs, you can pass slow traveling vehicles without much angst. Yet during those filled-to-the-gills family trips, you may have be content with the slow lane, behind the semi trucks and large motorhomes, particularly on anything resembling an upward grade.
Last year, Chrysler offered the 3.3-liter V6 as a stand-alone option, and measured by performance or peace of mind, it was $970 well spent. The V6 is not only more powerful than the four-cylinder engine, but smoother and less intrusive as well. But for 2003, you have to upgrade to the Popular Equipment model to get it.
Beyond the lack of punch from the standard four-cylinder engine, however, there's nothing to limit Voyager's performance or its operator's satisfaction. The short wheelbase (relative to some minivans) is actually an advantage. Voyager's 37.6-foot turning circle is quite manageable, allowing it to negotiate tight parking lots as adeptly as a mid-size sedan. Ride quality is good, but there's no feeling of disconnection from the pavement. The steering is light, but never sloppy. In short, the Voyager driver feels firmly in control in all circumstances. At 75 or 80 mph, even with a crosswind, this minivan is stable and firmly grounded.
Voyager stops with less authority than some minivans, but we have no gripe about braking distances. If there's an issue, it lies in the pedal. The brakes can be tricky to modulate just short of lockup on bumpy surfaces. In the name of carefree operation and peace of mind, ABS ($565) is the first upgrade we'd recommend.
This latest-generation Voyager has nearly eliminated squeaks, rattles and flex, and that does a lot to enhance the driving experience. Compared to the better-insulated Popular Equipment model, there is noticeably more ambient noise inside the Value Equipment version. But that noise isn't intrusive, and whether the standard family fare is news radio, classic rock, or Britney Spears, the standard AM/FM/cassette goes a long way toward masking it. Finally, the view from the Voyager's driver's seat is nearly unobstructed in all directions, and van-high seating eliminates a problem sedan drivers face on modern American roads: a proliferation of SUVs that limit sight distances.
In that sense, the Voyager is, indeed, like having your cake and eating it too. It delivers the commanding view outward that many drivers seek in an SUV, and it does so in a vehicle that is more economical, efficient and practical for the vast majority of the buying public.
You get what you pay for. With the Chrysler Voyager, you're paying for a solid minivan with all the essentials and even a few frills. The Chrysler Voyager might be the ideal vehicle for the one-car family that wants space, comfort, convenience and reasonable economy without hocking the future. Even with side-impact air bags, our test Voyager listed for under $21,000. Many small sedans retail for more than that.
Ever wonder why Chrysler sells 62 percent of the minivans in the lowest price bracket? Take a look at the Voyager.
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