Used 2003 Ford Windstar Minivan Review

Though safe and powerful, the Windstar suffers from poor packaging and floppy handling.




what's new

AdvanceTrac stability control system was supposed to be available for 2002, but it was postponed. It makes its appearance for the 2003 model year. The LX base trim level is rechristened to Windstar.

vehicle overview

Introduction: Introduced in 1994 as a 1995 model, the 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. 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 a family's needs well.

Body Styles, Trim Levels and Options: The Windstar is offered in four different trim levels -- LX, SE, SEL and Limited. All Windstars have sliding doors on both sides. Power-sliding doors are available on all but the LX. The "shut-'em-up" Autovision entertainment system can be ordered on LX models, but to get leather upholstery, you've gotta pop for a Windstar SEL or Limited. Powertrains and Performance: 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 and 240 pound-feet of torque. 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. Safety: Safety is typically a major consideration for the minivan shopper. In the many years it has been tested, the Windstar has earned excellent crash test scores. The NHTSA has given the van a five-star rating for both driver and front-passenger frontal impacts. 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.

The Windstar is also equipped with a low tire-pressure warning system and seatbelt pre-tensioners. Self-sealing tires, heated signal mirrors and a reverse sensing sonar system are optional. Another nice feature is the Windstar's adjustable accelerator and brake pedals. These allow shorter-stature drivers to sit a proper distance from the steering-wheel airbag.

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 input from 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. Interior Design and Special Features: 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. Driving Impressions: On the road, the Windstar comes up a bit short in terms of ride quality. 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. But overall, it provides a decent blend of everyday practicality, useable performance and innovative features.

edmunds expert review process

This review was written by a member of Edmunds' editorial team of expert car reviewers. Our team drives every car you can buy. We put the vehicles through rigorous testing, evaluating how they drive and comparing them in detail to their competitors.

We're also regular people like you, so we pay attention to all the different ways people use their cars every day. We want to know if there's enough room for our families and our weekend gear and whether or not our favorite drink fits in the cupholder. Our editors want to help you make the best decision on a car that fits your life.