What's New for 1998
No changes to the 1998 Villager as Mercury readies a replacement.
Mercury entered the minivan market in 1993 as part of a joint venture with Nissan. Designed in California and built at the same factory in Ohio, Mercury Villagers and Nissan Quests share plenty of sleek styling touches and on-the-road traits. Four Villager models grace showrooms: GS and LS wagons, a glitzy Nautica edition (attractively trimmed to remind occupants of the sea - or overpriced clothing, depending on your orientation), plus a lower-cost cargo van.
Car-like characteristics were a priority when the Villager and Quest were created, and the result is impressive. Even though you're sitting taller than in a passenger car, behind a rather high steering wheel, it's easy enough to forget that this is a minivan. The driver's seat is supportive and comfortable, and there's plenty of space up front. Standard gauges are small but easy to read (optional digital instruments are not). You get fairly nimble handling, plus a smooth, quiet ride from the absorbent suspension. Only one powertrain is available--Nissan's 151-horsepower, 3.0-liter V6 hooked to a four-speed automatic transmission--but that's a smoothie, too.
Four-wheel antilock braking is standard on the LS and Nautica models; optional on the GS. Villagers offer ample space for five, and many are fitted to seat seven, in a flexible interior configuration. The far rear seat on seven-passenger models slides forward and back on a set of tracks, and center seats lift out. Be warned, though: those "removable" seats aren't lightweights. A full load of storage bins and cubbyholes augment the Villager's practical appeal.
Villager blends comfort and convenience into one tidy package, and while we have been cheerleaders for this van in the past, it doesn't look like a smart buy when compared to what next year's Villager promises to be. If a driver's side sliding door and more refinement are on your list, you should definitely wait.