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Mercury's Villager is small, unrefined and lacking in ultimate Swiss Army knife minivan utility. You can do better.
Plenty of features and gadgets, car-like ride and handling.
Too small for some uses, marginal overall value.
Available Villager Minivan Models
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Numerous exterior and interior revisions are on tap for 2001. Also new are optional 16-inch wheels and tires, drivetrain changes for better engine smoothness, new seatbelt pre-tensioners to improve safety, and the addition of an anchorage point for attaching a child seat.
Mercury's entry into the crowded minivan market is the Villager, a twin of the Nissan Quest. Both are designed by Nissan and make use of a Nissan engine, but they're built at a Ford manufacturing plant and sold under two nameplates. The Villager differs from the Nissan Quest only in name, a few interior pieces and some exterior styling cues. The Villager comes in a base trim level, a mid-level Sport or a top-level Estate.
All Villagers ride on a relatively short 112.2-inch wheelbase. Second-generation airbags for driver and front passenger are standard and antilock brakes are optional. Villager scores poorly in offset crash testing.
The interior is functional, but the vehicle's shorter wheelbase means that the Villager doesn't have as big an interior as other minivans. The Villager has dual sliding doors (non-power operated) to make removing the Villager Sport's second-row chairs (a bench unit on the base model) easy. Once the second row is removed, the third-row bench seat can be pulled toward the front seats. The Villager's available cargo space is adequate for most duties, but it's not able to swallow really big items like 4x8 sheets of plywood.
Several exterior and interior revisions are featured on the Villager for 2001. Fog lights are integrated into the front fascia of the Sport and Estate, the fascia is restyled and has a satin aluminum-plated grille, and there's new bodyside molding for the Estate with a Soft Gold insert. Inside, you'll find new cloth seat fabric, a new gauge cluster, and updated instrument-panel cupholders with retention improvements. There's also a vinyl two-sided cargo mat and HomeLink added to Sport models. HomeLink remains standard on the Estate. Also worth noting is a new Autovision entertainment system that offers a roof-mounted video screen.
The Villager comes standard with a 3.3-liter V6, which provides 170 horsepower and 200 foot-pounds of torque. This is the same engine you'll find under the hoods of Nissan Xterra sport-utes and Frontier pickups, and it's adequate in the performance department when mated to a four-speed automatic transmission.
The Villager's suspension has single-leaf springs in the rear and provides a comfortable, balanced ride. Steering is stable, and the van tracks straight on highways. The turning diameter is 39.9 feet, which is 2 feet wider than the larger Honda Odyssey. Speaking of other minivans, the Villager is notably smaller than the Odyssey, the Ford Windstar and the Dodge Grand Caravan. As minivans go, that would seem to be a detriment. But if something a little easier to maneuver is what you're looking for, then the Villager might be your cup of tea.
While the Villager is a decent minivan, it would be wise to check out the Honda Odyssey, Ford Windstar or one of the Chrysler minivans. All offer more substance for a very similar price.
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