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2003 GMC Safari

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30
Photos
Passenger Van
1-8 Seats
17-19 MPG
(Combined)
Key specs of the base trim
 — 
Compare 5 trims

Our Take

from the Cars.com expert editorial team

Vehicle Overview
Like the similar Chevrolet Astro, the Safari is GMC’s long-lived midsize van; it dates back to 1985. The Safari is truck-based and remains available in passenger and cargo-carrying versions with either rear-wheel drive (RWD) or all-wheel drive (AWD). Base, SLE and upscale SLT trim levels of the passenger-carrying Safari are available; the SLE and SLT trim designations are actually option groups.

For 2003, larger standard 16-inch wheels and tires are installed on all models, and aluminum wheels are standard on the SLE and SLT. The braking system has been improved. More affordable entry-level models have also been added. Passenger models seat up to eight occupants and can tow trailers up to 5,400 pounds.

Chevrolet also offers the front-wheel-drive (FWD) Venture minivan, but GMC has nothing smaller than the Safari. GMC sells far fewer Safaris than Chevrolet does with its Astro, but GMC fans tend to be loyal to the brand.

Exterior
All Safaris ride a 111.2-inch wheelbase and stretch 189.8 inches long overall, which are the same measurements for the Astro. A regular-length Dodge Caravan is nearly as long as the Safari, but the Safari is 6 inches taller.

A sliding door is installed only on the passenger side of the Safari. Side-hinged swing-open cargo doors at the rear are standard. Optional rear Dutch doors consist of a swing-up rear window on top and twin, swing-out, half-height doors on bottom. A rear defogger is included with the Dutch-door arrangement.

In...
Vehicle Overview
Like the similar Chevrolet Astro, the Safari is GMC’s long-lived midsize van; it dates back to 1985. The Safari is truck-based and remains available in passenger and cargo-carrying versions with either rear-wheel drive (RWD) or all-wheel drive (AWD). Base, SLE and upscale SLT trim levels of the passenger-carrying Safari are available; the SLE and SLT trim designations are actually option groups.

For 2003, larger standard 16-inch wheels and tires are installed on all models, and aluminum wheels are standard on the SLE and SLT. The braking system has been improved. More affordable entry-level models have also been added. Passenger models seat up to eight occupants and can tow trailers up to 5,400 pounds.

Chevrolet also offers the front-wheel-drive (FWD) Venture minivan, but GMC has nothing smaller than the Safari. GMC sells far fewer Safaris than Chevrolet does with its Astro, but GMC fans tend to be loyal to the brand.

Exterior
All Safaris ride a 111.2-inch wheelbase and stretch 189.8 inches long overall, which are the same measurements for the Astro. A regular-length Dodge Caravan is nearly as long as the Safari, but the Safari is 6 inches taller.

A sliding door is installed only on the passenger side of the Safari. Side-hinged swing-open cargo doors at the rear are standard. Optional rear Dutch doors consist of a swing-up rear window on top and twin, swing-out, half-height doors on bottom. A rear defogger is included with the Dutch-door arrangement.

Interior
Eight-passenger seating is standard. Rear occupants get a pair of three-passenger benches in the SLE version. An optional seven-passenger configuration for the SLT puts two second-row buckets (in place of the bench) and a bench seat at the rear. Cargo volume totals 170.4 cubic feet with the second- and third-row seats removed. All versions have a tilt steering wheel, cruise control, and power windows, locks and mirrors.

Under the Hood
A 190-horsepower, 4.3-liter Vortec V-6 engine mates with a four-speed-automatic transmission. A Tow/Haul mode in the transmission promises the best shift points when hauling heavy goods or towing a trailer or boat. Safaris have payload ratings between 1,495 and 1,636 pounds, and towing capacities range between 5,100 and 5,800 pounds.

Optional AWD ordinarily sends full engine power to the back wheels. When the wheels begin to slip, the system automatically delivers power to the front wheels until the Safari is able to regain traction.

Safety
All-disc antilock brakes and daytime running lights are standard. Side-impact airbags are not available.

Driving Impressions
Evaluated by size and overall driving feel, the Safari and the similar Astro look and behave more like a scaled-down GMC Savana or Chevrolet Express full-size van than like FWD minivans. Despite recent refinements and a healthy helping of comfort and convenience features, their RWD or AWD layouts inevitably produce more of a trucklike sensation than you’d experience in a FWD minivan.

For burly hauling capacity and a spacious cargo hold, the Safari serves as a useful compromise. But for everyday driving, most people would be more at ease in a conventional, FWD minivan.

 
Reported by Jim Flammang  for cars.com
From the cars.com 2003 Buying Guide
Posted on 2/26/03

Consumer Reviews

What drivers are saying

4.2
4 reviews — Read All reviews
Exterior Styling
(3.5)
Performance
(4.2)
Interior Design
(4.0)
Comfort
(3.8)
Reliability
(4.8)
Value For The Money
(4.5)
(5.0)

Never Want Any Other Vehicle

by Wentlyana from Pittsburgh, PA on August 27, 2017

Unfortunately, it can't last forever. Now that the GMC Safari is no longer I'll have to find something else. This is the best vehicle that I've ever had. My parents had a GMC Safari years before I ... Read full review

(4.0)

great van for family or work.

by mk71396 from conroe tx on April 20, 2017

i own 2 of them in my business. good for hauling people or cargo. tows a trailer with ease. very reliable. and decent on gas. Read full review

Safety

Recalls and crash tests

Recalls

The 2003 GMC Safari currently has 0 recalls


Crash and Rollover Test Ratings

The 2003 GMC Safari has not been tested.

Latest 2003 Safari Stories

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Cars.com Car Seat Check

Certified child passenger safety technicians conduct hands-on tests of a car’s Latch system and check the vehicle’s ability to accommodate different types of car seats. The Safari received the following grades on a scale of A-F.*
* This score may not apply to all trims, especially for vehicles with multiple body styles that affect the space and design of the seating.

Warranty FAQs

What is a Bumper-to-Bumper warranty?

Often called a basic warranty or new-vehicle warranty, a bumper-to-bumper policy covers components like air conditioning, audio systems, vehicle sensors, fuel systems and major electrical components. Most policies exclude regular maintenance like fluid top offs and oil changes, but a few brands have separate free-maintenance provisions, and those that do offer them is slowly rising. Bumper-to-bumper warranties typically expire faster than powertrain warranties.

What is a Powertrain warranty?

Don't be misled a 10-year or 100,000-mile powertrain warranty doesn't promise a decade of free repairs for your car. It typically covers just the engine and transmission, along with any other moving parts that lead to the wheels, like the driveshaft and constant velocity joints. Some automakers also bundle seat belts and airbags into their powertrain warranties. With a few exceptions, powertrain warranties don't cover regular maintenance like engine tuneups and tire rotations.

What is included in Roadside Assistance?

Some automakers include roadside assistance with their bumper-to-bumper or powertrain warranties, while others have separate policies. These programs cover anything from flat-tire changes and locksmith services to jump-starts and towing. Few reimburse incidental costs like motel rooms (if you have to wait for repairs).

What other services could be included in a warranty?

Some automakers include free scheduled maintenance for items such as oil changes, air filters and tire rotations. Some include consumables including brake pads and windshield wipers; others do not. They are typically for the first couple of years of ownership of a new car.

What does CPO mean?

A certified pre-owned or CPO car has been inspected to meet minimum quality standards and typically includes some type of warranty. While dealers and third parties certify cars, the gold standard is an automaker-certified vehicle that provides a factory-backed warranty, often extending the original coverage. Vehicles must be in excellent condition and have low miles and wear to be certified, which is why off-lease vehicles feed many CPO programs.

See also the latest CPO incentives by automaker

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