Text: Raymond D. Young / Photos: Raymond D. Young | posted July 10, 2003 00:00
The Chinese Yankee
Everything about the Chevrolet Venture described our family back then: an Eastern family with an American-sounding surname driving an American vehicle. Just like the Venture; as it is purely American in all aspects, it is now made in China. Very interesting resemblance indeed!
From the outside, the vehicle is large in all aspects, promising to accommodate everything and everyone in the household. The twin sliding doors of the Chevrolet Venture always provided the safe side during times when egress from either the left or the right side could mean danger; also it provided that thing called convenience when alighting from the van.
Adding to the bulky stature of the vehicle are the attractive creases of the protective side moldings. It's hard to imagine the Venture without it. The chrome grill, on the other hand, tries its best to blend with the overall package while adding a touch of elegance, although it would have been sportier if the standard mesh grill with the bowtie logo (like in its home market) is used. But then again looks has always been subjective.
The attractive five-spoke 15" rims are courtesy of ABS. Err, it actually says that the Venture has ABS or Anti-lock Braking System. The roof rails, on the other hand, reinforces the Venture's promise to be of utmost use during long trips. The inconspicuous LT logo on the B-pillar and on the tail gate tells its owner that it is the top-spec Venture available, at par at what's available in the United States.
The quick steering ratio of the Venture is indeed welcome news. First, it really helped define the overall maneuverability and drivability of the van, which is excellent for its size. Second, it also inspired confidence when dealing with tight situations. Third, coupled with a powerful engine, it also encourages spirited driving from its would-be pilot.
The four-wheel disc brakes of the Venture provided more than enough braking power. It's aided by Anti-lock Braking System, which the stylish 15" rims and the brake pedals kept on reminding. Brake pedal feel is short of superb for a van, devoid of that sinking and lifeless feeling every time the brake pedal is depressed.
The 3.0 liter SOHC EFI V6 engine is definitely torquey and responsive, as expected from an automaker known for making big-block engines. Passing chores and occasional sprints become a breeze. There's definitely no trace of uncertainty or anxiety from the engine when its power figures are needed on demand.
Equipped with independent suspension on all four corners, the Venture, although Asian made, retains the suspension characteristics its home country has grown to love. It soaks out bumps and road imperfections very well, while maintaining solidity and sturdiness expected from an American vehicle.
The 4-speed automatic transmission unit of the Venture performed flawlessly, with shift shock events almost absent. This is to be expected from a manufacturer whose home country has more slushboxes than H-gates. And expectations are indeed exceeded, as the automatic transmission not only does its assigned duties with grace, but also provides some fun factor by letting the driver "shift-like-a-manual".
In a people mover like the Chevrolet Venture, the interior characteristics are of utmost importance, and are worth discussing in detail.
The theme of the interior in general is versatility and flexibility. Seats fold and tumble for the sake of hauling more cargo. The driver's seat, on the other hand, is constructed to Caucasian specifications and features an armrest. It is also infinitely adjustable, although adjusting it would entail some time to fully master due to the non-conventional location of the controls. But it's nice to note that it is very comfortable on long trips, in which this van would be at home most of the time.
Instrumentation cues, meanwhile, glows to an Audi-inspired red at night. The left control stalk controls the signal light, wiper, and headlight dimmer functions. The headlights are then controlled via a rotary switch similar to European cars. Front and rear fog lamp switches are situated on the center console below the air-conditioning controls, together with the rear wiper and washer switch. The gauge cluster features a unique message center which conveys colorful graphics to alert the driver of vital signs such as low fuel, unclosed doors, low battery charge, and others.
Cabin lighting is abound on the Venture; from reading lamps, map lamps, even the kick panel area has subdued lighting. This adds life to the beige theme of the interior, and is such a cozy sight at night. One reminder though; they're not door activated and a switch on the overhead console is the only way they'd come to life.
The overhead console provides room for other accessories such as sunglasses and the like. It also features a multi-readout screen that displays information such as the range of fuel in the tank, average/instant fuel economy, fuel consumed, the vehicle's current orientation (via an 8-way digital compass) and outside temperature. A press of the button converts the readings from English to Metric system and vice-versa.
Going to the rear, one could find a nicely-thought rear convenience center, which is a large, covered, shelved tray that could accommodate loads of different types such as tools, dirty shoes, and the like. Cargo nets and hooks are also present in the rear. What's good that they are accessible even with the rearmost seat folded up, which means people and load could mix and match.
The dual air-conditioning system of the Venture cools the cabin very quickly via larger and more vents, and it also has a heater function. To start with, heat is minimized in the cabin with green glass all around. Tunes are supplied via a CD/VCD radio with premium coaxial speakers. This combination is one of the best sounding stock audio systems available, as the large doors allowed for the installation of larger, more musical sounding speakers. Excellent noise insulation also helps. For long trips, entertainment via an AudioVox LCD monitor is also available. Don't clamor for the videoke function though; its main purpose is to keep passenger noise low by keeping them concentrated on whatever movie is playing and not to display lyrics.
The Venture is equipped with more than a handful of safety features, starting from the default ABS and Airbag tandem (for the driver and front passenger). Protecting the passenger cell are side door beams on all four doors. Driving fog lights are standard, so are the rear fog lamps, which are handy during poor visibility situations. The 4-point back-up sensor more than secures the van's rear end, giving an audible and visual warning tell tale signs if obstructions are detected. Other remarkable safety features are seat belts for all ten passengers, and that left sliding door stops halfway if the fuel door lid is opened to prevent gasoline-related accidents when filling up.
Chevrolet's efforts for tailoring the Venture for Asian markets are commendable. From the start, there is actually little effort needed to make the Venture Asian-friendly. Maybe a diesel engine would be a value-added option to the already potent petrol power plant.
Summing up, the Venture is the ultimate representation of a people mover. Suave but brawny. Indeed a wolf in sheep's clothing. The engine is more than enough for hauling and transporting duties; though once in a while it may cry out for some open road to justify its existence. When it cries out though, be prepared for the greatest ride the Chevrolet Venture has to offer.