1995 Dodge Grand Caravan Review
Still No. 1 as a new model looms
The Dodge Caravan looks fine standing by itself. Park it next to a Windstar or Mercury Villager, however, and it shows its age. Its angular edges have been gradually rounded off over the years, but it still appears boxy by comparison.
However, no minivan manufacturer offers the array of choices that Chrysler does: short- and long-wheelbase versions with four different engines plus a compressed natural gas option. There are also two different automatics and the traction-enhancing option of all-wheel drive on certain models.
The Caravan is available in a variety of trim levels: base, SE, LE and top-of-the-line ES. Our test Caravan was an LE model with Chrysler's 3.3-liter V6.
Pending arrival of the redesigned models, Chrysler plans to keep its minivan momentum rolling in 1995 with more standard equipment and affordable option packages. Some packages include exterior trim items designed to dress up the minivans and update their appearance.
An example: The Caravan SE is available with a Sport group that includes white 5-spoke cast aluminum wheels, a luggage rack, sunscreen glass and black accent trim around the windows.
All '95 Chrysler minivans offer a Family Value package that allows buyers to add air conditioning, power locks, and map and cargo lamps at a special discount price.
With lots of owners providing insight on what works for them - and what doesn't - Chrysler has been able to keep the interior functionality of its minivans on the leading edge, and functionality is key for most minivan buyers.
The base Caravan seats five, with front bucket seats and a 3-passenger rear fixed bench seat. The more upscale models feature seating for seven, with front bucket seats, a middle bench for two and a rear bench for three. Our test van had the Quad Command seating option, which substitutes bucket seats in the center row and comes with a higher grade of cloth upholstery.
The rear seat in our test vehicle folded forward to slide against the middle seat to increase cargo capacity. All the rear seats were removable, though not as easily as some other minivans, for even more cargo room.
Leg- and headroom are adequate throughout the Caravan. We found the front seats reasonably comfortable, though they're close to the front doors, creating a closed-in feeling and not offering much elbow room. The clearances also required Chrysler to place the power-seat adjustment switches on the inboard edge of the lower seat cushion, making them a little awkward to get to. Ford's wider Wind-star allows a few extra inches between the seats and the doors for a more spacious feel.
We found the rear seatbacks to be too upright for comfort on long trips, at least for adults. But their elevated position does give rear-seat passengers a good view, enhanced by big windows.
Built-in child safety seats are available, though they're useful only for short rides - from home to day care, for example. If the trip is much longer, toddlers are likely to be uncomfortable. Our 2-year-old assistant tester squirmed and complained of the tight-fitting straps and rigid, upright position until we removed him and placed him in his Fisher Price car seat.
The Caravan's controls are straightforward and well-located, and the instrument panel is adequately detailed. The dashboard is high, yet the forward view is clear.
Top-of-the-line models are equipped with standard power door locks, with controls set into the upward slant of the door panel armrest. With the door so close to the driver's elbow, they're easy to reach and operate.
For '95, Chrysler has modified the automatic door locks so that they don't lock at 15 mph unless you want them to.
Audio controls are placed high in the center of the dashboard, and there's a recessed area on top that provides a convenient place to store toll-booth change.
Dual cupholders pull out from the center console, as do an ashtray and auxiliary power plug-in. There's also a storage drawer under the front passenger's seat.
Storage is abundant in the Caravan, and the cupholders are designed to fit anything from coffee cups to juice boxes. Map pockets are located in the door panels, and there's a large lockable glove box.
Passive safety features include dual airbags, side-impact door beams on all doors, adjustable upper seat-belt anchors and a child-protection lock on the sliding door. All Chrysler minivans meet 1998 U.S. passenger-car safety standards.
• For more information such as specs, prices, and photos of the 1995 Dodge Grand Caravan, click here: 1995 Dodge Grand Caravan.