2003 Chrysler Voyager

Expert reviews

These reviews are written by independent automotive journalists providing an objective and reliable assessment to help you make a smart buying decision. 2003 Chrysler Voyager.

Reviewed By: Jeffrey P. Vettraino
© 2003 NewCarTestDrive.com


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.

Model Lineup

Voyager LX with Value Equipment ($19,575); Voyager LX with Popular Equipment ($23,640)

Walk Around

The Chrysler Voyager remains one of the most handsome minivans extant, regardless of trim level.

For 2003, there is little to distinguish four-cylinder models from V6 models as they all wear color-keyed trim all around. The only remaining visual distinction is the four-cylinder Value Equipment van's black, rather than body-color, license-plate brow; and tinted rather than sunscreen windows (which are a $645 option on the four-cylinder van). The standard wheel covers are attractive, and difficult to discern from alloy wheels at a distance of more than a few feet.

Both models feature sliding rear doors on both sides, and they open with minimal effort. The rear gate lifts just as easily, and features standard lamps that flood light on the pavement below.

Voyager received its last engineering overhaul in 2001, when the body shell was strengthened and tightened, and noise, vibration and harshness were significantly reduced. Nearly every interior dimension increased at least slightly, and the wheels were moved further toward the corners of the vehicle. That increased space inside, and improved balance and stability when the Voyager is on a voyage.

Interior

The Voyager driver sits in front of a simple gauge cluster with a big speedometer in the center, fuel and water temperature gauges on either side, and warning lights lurking behind. Large, dark graphics on a white background make the instruments exceptionally easy to read. Radio and climate control buttons are concentrated in a center pod between the front seats. The switches feel reasonably sturdy and can be reached with minimal distraction from the task of driving. Large dash vents move lots of air.

The finish inside this minivan is not bad at all. The door panels are unadorned hard plastic, perfect for easy clean-up when smudged with mud or chocolate. The vinyl headrests look substandard, and the material around the backs and sides of the seats is only a small step up. Yet the seating surfaces are soft and plush. All panels and trim match nicely, and the cabin is lined throughout with decent grade of carpet.

The Value Equipment Voyager has only two adjustments on the front seats: fore-and-aft and recline. And its steering column is fixed. Nonetheless, even this most basic Voyager allows an excellent driving position for a wide range of body types, and the seats themselves are very good. They're wide enough to accommodate large folk, and cushy enough to be comfortable without feeling too soft.

Voyager has a shorter wheelbase than many minivans, but the third bench in back still seats average-size adults in reasonable comfort. While the two-place middle bench seat may not be as fashionable as second-row buckets, it offers definite advantages. All things being equal, we prefer it. No, the middle bench won't keep squabbling siblings separated. On the other hand, it allows easier access to the third seat and more cargo options without removal.

Speaking of removal, Voyager's seats come out easily, latching and unlatching from the floor mounts with a couple of levers. It's easier if a friend or spouse helps heft them out, but a reasonably robust individual can manage in a pinch. Once the seats are on the ground they roll easily on their wheels.

Such conveniences are a critical component of a minivan's appeal, and when it comes to conveniences the Voyager's value equation gets a little tricky. The crank windows on the Value Equipment model are no problem at all. Indeed, if you've repeatedly flicked the power switch on an electric window up and down, trying to get it open just the right amount, you might actually prefer the cranks. The biggest downside is the inability to roll down a passenger window while driving.

The side mirrors are another story. They're big enough for a good range of vision, and they fold inward to fit tight spaces or prevent damage at the bank machine. Yet they must be adjusted manually, and that can be a cumbersome process, particularly when a driver is alone. (Power locks, windows, and heated mirrors can be ordered on the Value Equipment model for $755.) There is, on the other hand, a standard rear wiper.

There are no pockets or bins on Voyager's doors or seatbacks, just a cargo net between the front seats and an open space in the center portion of the dashboard. There are four hooks for clothes hangers in the headliner, and four hooks on the front seats to secure the handles of plastic grocery bags. The glove box is small, but that's balanced by a locking drawer under the front passenger seat. There are decent cup holders at every seating position; two power points in the dash (one switched with ignition) and a third near the hatch; map lights in front, a dome light for both the second and third seats, and those handy floodlights in the rear hatch.

In overall cargo capacity, the Voyager doesn't give up much to long-wheelbase vans such as the Town & Country. With the seats removed, the Voyager will handle most jobs the typical household demands, be it hauling sheets of building material or a 35-inch TV still in the carton, all fully protected from the elements. It's when all se

Driving Impressions

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.

While we don't currently have any Chrysler Voyager vehicles in stock, we do have 47,692 other cars to choose from. at carmax.com

While we don't currently have any Chrysler Voyager vehicles in stock, we do have 47,692 other cars to choose from.