What's New for 2002
The biggest news is the availability of the AdvanceTrac stability control system. All Windstars have sliding doors on both sides for 2002. Entry-level LX models get upgraded appearance items, and buyers of this trim can opt for the Autovision entertainment system and 16-inch alloy wheels for the first time. The short-lived SE Sport model is dropped, and SE buyers can no longer have leather seats. Four new colors freshen the outside of the Windstar.
Ford Windstar is marketed on the back of a strong reputation for safety. And in the highly contested minivan market, where keeping family safe is of utmost importance, that's a pretty good piece of turf upon which to stake a claim.
In the many years it has been tested, the Windstar has earned the highest frontal crash-test rating for both the driver and front passenger. Additionally, it can be equipped with side airbags that help it achieve top marks for side-impact crash safety. Dual-stage airbags that deploy based on information provided by crash severity sensors, seatbelt usage sensors, and a driver seat position sensor maximize protection. Windstar is also equipped with a low tire-pressure warning system and safety-belt pre-tensioners. Self-sealing tires, power adjustable pedals, heated signal mirrors and a reverse sensing sonar system are optional.
This year, Ford has gone even further onto the safety horizon, equipping its minivan with AdvanceTrac stability control. Optional as part of the Family Security package, AdvanceTrac monitors the Windstar's path of travel and compares it to steering inputs by the driver. If the system's software finds something amiss that indicates the van is out of control, it will selectively brake the wheels to bring the Windstar back into line.
The Windstar is offered in four different trim levels for 2002 -- LX, SE, SEL and Limited. All Windstars have sliding doors on both sides. Power-sliding doors are available on all but the LX. To give the LX model, the best-selling version, a more upscale appearance, it gets painted bumpers and driving lights for 2002, and 16-inch aluminum wheels are available. Last year's SE Sport has been discontinued. Evidently, nobody wants a sporty minivan.
A strong 3.8-liter V6 powers Windstar's front wheels through a four-speed automatic transmission. Though acceleration is better than acceptable, the V6 makes lots of racket as it generates its 200 horsepower. Still, it's rated to get 24 mpg on the highway and 18 in the city, which isn't bad for a portly van like this.
The Windstar's interior is fairly agreeable, with comfortable front seats and decent ergonomics keeping Mom and Dad happy. Ford pioneered the "conversation mirror," a parabolic reflector that lets front seat occupants view the goings-on in each seat of the van; perfect for use in the court of family road trip law. The "shut-'em-up" Autovision entertainment system can now be ordered on LX models, but to get leather upholstery, you've gotta pop for a Windstar SEL or Limited. Our main complaint about the interior of the Windstar is a lack of legroom for second- and third-row passengers and overall poor space utilization. This is a big van, but it feels small inside.
On the road, the Windstar comes up a bit short in terms of ride quality. But overall, it provides a decent blend of everyday practicality, useable performance and innovative features. It is also wrapped in a shell that will protect your loved ones from all but the most serious crashes, when properly restrained. As long as you don't need to haul adults in back on a regular basis, or find it necessary to lift the extremely heavy third-row bench seat out of the van, it should serve any family's needs well.