If you grew up in the 90s, you probably experienced a ride in the Chevy Astro or the Ford Aerostar, but which of these classic minivans was better?
Growing up in the 90s meant you were hauled to birthday parties, sports games, school, and across the country on a family vacation in a minivan. There were two minivan models in particular from this time that generate some major childhood nostalgia for all of us. One was Ford’s foray into the family van segment known as the Aerostar, and the other was GM’s iconic box on wheels known as the Chevy Astro van. Both of these models hold a nostalgic place in our hearts, but which one was the better option back then? Which one is the better option now? Let’s check these classic minivans out and see who wins when the Chevy Astro goes up against the Ford Aerostar.
For this classic comparison we’ll focus on the first-generation Chevy Astro van since that’s the only time period that the Ford Aerostar existed before being replaced by the Windstar. These old school minivans held a lot in common when it came to power and options. Both offered a V6 engines with a limited run of 4-cylinder engines available at the early stages of their generations. Both models offered a new drivetrain option in 1990 with the Chevy Astro adding an all-wheel-drive option and the Ford Aerostar adding their electronic 4-wheel-drive option.
Both the Astro and Aerostar sourced their engines and transmissions from trucks too. Chevrolet threw in components from the Chevrolet C-10, and Ford swapped in parts that were shared with the Ford Ranger. With the help of these mid-size truck components, both of these classic minivans received some noteworthy towing numbers. Chevy Astro vans were capable of towing up to 5,500 lbs and the Ford Aerostars could tow up to 5,000 lbs. That’s great for people looking to haul more than just their family, especially when you consider modern day minivan options like the Toyota Sienna or Honda Odyssey max out at 3,500 lbs for towing. What they didn’t do much better than the minivans of today is get great fuel economy. The Chevy Astro reached 17 mpg city and 21 mpg highway, while the Ford Aerostar got decent numbers of 19 mpg city and 25 mpg highway.
Inside the first-generation Chevy Astro, you’ll find seating for up to 8 passengers, plasticky dashboard and door panels, cloth or vinyl covered seats, and plenty of cargo space. With all the rear seats removed, the Chevy Astro provides 151.8 cu-ft of room for the typical passenger van and 170.4 cu-ft for the extended models. If you were to fully install the max seating, the base Astro still has 22.7 cu-ft of cargo space at the rear with the extended models nearly doubling that to 41.3 cu-ft. Plus, even with the seats installed, the bench seating leaves room for bags underneath of them further extending its passenger and cargo capabilities.
The Ford Aerostar sat up to 7 passengers, also had a plasticky interior, had cloth seats with leather available in Eddie Bauer editions, and was a little smaller than the Astro for passengers or cargo. With all of its rear passenger seats removed, the Ford Aerostar offered just 135.5 cu-ft of cargo space in its regular form and 164 cu-ft in its extended form. Ford also never did give us exact cargo dimensions behind that third row, but that’s well below what the Astro offered for space inside even with the forgotten metric. The rear seating of the Aerostar did have the available option to fold flat into a bed though, so that’s pretty nifty.
The available trims for the Chevy Astro were the base model CS, the mid-level CL, and the top-of-the-line LT that came with every option and advancement the Astro provided. All of its trim levels came available in standard or extended sizes too. There was also a short-lived RS variant that added some sporty elements like an alternate front bumper with integrated fog lights, sport-tuned suspension, and a special red striped paint scheme. Optional features throughout the first generation included second row captain’s chairs, reclining front seats, and additional trailering packages to get the most utility out of the Astro.
The Ford Aerostar came in the trim levels of XL, XL Plus, XLT, and a top tier Eddie Bauer special edition. If you’re shopping for an Aerostar, the Eddie Bauer is the one to find. It added every available option as it tried to hit a niche as a “luxury minivan”. The Ford Aerostar could be optioned with rear seating that folded into a bed, second row captain’s chairs, leather seats, and if you opted for the Eddie Bauer edition you could dress to match your minivan.
There’s a reason the Chevy Astro continued into the 2000s while the Aerostar got completely dropped from Ford’s lineup and replaced with an entirely different minivan. While the Ford Aerostar did check some boxes, especially if you were a big Eddie Bauer fashion fan in the 90s, the Chevy Astro is still the better choice. The Astro came with more towing power, available full-time AWD, had more passenger and cargo space, and its exterior looked nicer (at least in my opinion).