What's New for 2002
After 2002, it's outta here. As such, it comes as no surprise that there are virtually no significant changes to the Villager this year.
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 different 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 wheelbase, which makes them more "mini" than most minivans. Second-generation airbags for driver and front passenger are standard and antilock brakes are optional. The Villager scores poorly in offset crash testing, but gets good scores for a head-on collision.
The interior is functional, but the vehicle's relatively small size means that the Villager doesn't have as big a cargo space as other minivans. Dual manually operated sliding doors make removing the Villager'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 problem with this system is that the rearmost seat cannot be removed from the van to maximize space, and to slide it forward, numerous carpeted track covers must be removed and reinstalled. Still, the Villager's available cargo space is adequate for most duties, even if it's not able to swallow really big items like 4x8-foot sheets of plywood.
Several exterior and interior revisions were made to the Villager last year, and the result was an improvement aesthetically. Integrated foglights and a satin-finish grille were added to the restyled front end, and the luxurious Estate received even more gold trim (hey, every rule has its exception). Inside, a new gauge cluster jazzed things up a bit. Also worth noting is the improved Autovision entertainment system with a roof-mounted video screen.
The Villager comes standard with a 3.3-liter V6, which provides 170 horsepower and 200 pound-feet 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. A four-speed automatic transmission is standard.
The Villager's suspension provides a comfortable, balanced ride. Steering is reasonably responsive, and the van tracks straight on highways. The turning diameter is a rather wide 39.9 feet, which is 2 feet fatter than the larger Honda Odyssey. You'd think that if something a little easier to maneuver is what you're looking for, then the Villager might be your cup of tea. But with that wide turning radius, it's not.
While the Villager is a decent minivan, it would be wise to check out the others on the market before settling for this closeout model. All offer more substance for a very similar price, which is why Mercury is giving up on the Villager.