Overview

Oh, there will be smart alecks out there who will make their wry exaggerations about the 1994 Chevrolet G20 Sportvan Beauville, They'll say that with all its traditional big-van styling, the Beauville looks like something that should be in the Smithsonian rather than in a yuppie's driveway.

Very funny. And very misleading.

Sure, the '94 Beauvilles a typical, high-clearance, high-center-of-gravity van that's not exactly sleek or aerodynamic in style. But remember that this van has a different mission in life. It is, fundamentally, a van designed for carrying people and cargo as effectively, comfortably and efficiently as possible. And within that broad context, this vehicle is solid and consistent.

The Sportvan Beauville owes its G20 designation to its eight-passenger capacity and 125-inch wheelbase, while the extended-body G30 model seats 12 and has a whopping 146-inch wheelbase.

A 4.3-liter V6 was standard on our Beauville, but we opted for a littlemore muscle with an optional 5.7liter V8 that meshed well with the electronically controlled four-speed automatic transmission. The engine was rated as putting out 200 hp at 4,000 rpm, as well as 310 pound-feet of torque at 2,400 rpm. For added convenience, we chose an option package that included front and rear air conditioning, reclining front seats, power windows and locks, a tilt steering wheel, speed control,tinted glass, auxiliary lighting and stainless-steel exterior mirrors. We also added the heavy-duty towing package and steel-belted tires, bringing our tally to $24,315.

Many of the G20 models that Chevrolet builds are earmarked for conversion companies, while the rest, such as the one we tested, are sold through dealerships to be used as basic passenger vans. In fact, our Beauville reminded us of a bus, albeit a nicely finished bus. Unfortunately, some of the interior was lacking, either in functional convenience or in a contemporary feel.

Walkaround

The styling of our Sportvan Beauville was not a radical departure from years past. This was a basic utility vehicle and looked like it. It was big, brawny and boxy, but not completely without ornamentation. The finish on our Beauville was a fabulous Emerald Green Metallic, confirming our belief that Chevrolet knows how to build and paint a truck.

Attractive chrome-trim strips framed the wheel openings, and a ribbed plastic-and-chrome protective strip encircled the lower part of the body. Our model was missing a strip of molding on one of its rear doors, the only real glitch in the Beauville's exterior fit-and-finish.

The large side-view mirrors stuck out rather obtrusively, but this was a cosmetic complaint against mirrors that delivered excellent rear vision. The mirrors were vital, too, because the double back doors and windows met to form a post that obscured vision through the interior rearview mirror.

Interior Features

Inside, our Beauville was equipped with the basic seating arrangement of two buckets and two benches. Wit this configuration we could carry as many as eight people and still have plenty of room for cargo. When we removed both benches, we were looking at 260 cubic feet of cargo space.

The seats were comfortable, if not exactly easy chairs. Our added reclining feature was nice, but there was little lumbar support. The seats were Scotchgard-protected, a great defense against spilled coffee and squashed jelly doghnuts.

The passenger-side armrest was fine to lean on but the driver-side armrest was angled up and seemed almost useless.

Likewise, the position of the driver's seat was fine for comfort, but the steering wheel was disappointing. Horn buttons were hard to find, and the wheel was not set for a good grip.

The instrument configuration looked 10 to 15 years old and was arranged in three round gauges: one for the speedometer, one for the fuel and another combining oil, battery and water readings. These days, that kind of design not only lacks innovation, it's just too sparse.

There were some pleasantries inside our Beauville. We did enjoy our up-to-date AM/FM stereo and cassette player. Combined with the tinted windows and power assists, it added a sense of luxury to the vehicle.

Driving Impressions

Our first impression was that visibility was good. Certainly, there was plenty of glass on this vehicle.

On the road, our Beauville's workhorse General Motors 5.7-liter VS engine was fairly quiet, with virtually no noise at highway cruising. Wind noise was noticeable, as was the distinct-but not at all bothersome - sound of the transmission gears shifting. That would be explained by the transmission'scozy presence beneath a cover between the driver and front-seat passenger.

We took an extended trip with four passengers and found that, on smooth pavement, the Beauville rode reasonably well. On wavy pavement wenoticed some rock and roll. The Beauville handled bumps acceptably, though-better than a straight-up truck. Shocks from potholes were noticeablytransferred to the interior, but the jolts weren't too disturbing.

At 65 to 70 mph and with a stiff crosswind, we found it difficult to keep our test vehicle on track. And that's a fact of life when driving a vehicle suchas the Beativille, which simply can't compare with the aerodynamics o cars and most minivans. It required some adjustments in driving style. For example, when traveling through a village with winding streets and tight turns, we had to drive deeper into turns to avoid having a rear wheel hop over curbs.

Another consideration when driving the Beauville was that it had a two-wheel drive layout and a relatively high center of gravity. As a result, heavy snow brought the risk of getting stuck, since size and weight alone would not be enough to keep a van such as the Beauville out of trouble.

Though this vehicle might get trapped in winter's fury, it shouldn't lose a step when stopping on slick surfaces, thanks to standard four-wheelanti-lock brakes. Several tests we performed delivered firm braking with no lockups.

Summary

We'd rate the '94 Chevy G20 Sportvan Beauville good, overall, for high-volume hauling - whether the load is people or cargo. Our vehicle was comfortable for as many as eight occupants, and with the seats out we had plenty of room for storage. Also, the van has a solid power plant, firm suspension and acceptable handling for a vehicle of its size.

Design-wise, the Beauville has changed very little over the years. Some holdovers from its ancient roots include the protruding---not hidden - door hinges, utilitarian mirror design and boxy overall shape. Our Beauville was a real basic vehicle, which is hardly a bad thing. However, many features were a little behind the times, and some were, worse yet, not so well-designed in comparison with the van's contemporaries.

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