Slightly restyled at both the front and rear for 2001, with a revised liftgate area, the Mercury Villager is similar to the Nissan Quest. Both are built at the same plant in Ohio as a joint venture between Nissan and Ford. Each make was redesigned two years ago, and both are expected to be dropped early in the 2002 model year. But the styling for this year was done at Nissans design studio in California. Nissan also supplied the engine and most of the engineering development. The Quest and Villager differ mainly in their front-end appearance.
Three models are available: the Base, Sport and luxurious Estate. Gauges are new, and instruments have been redesigned. The available entertainment system, which was introduced last year, now has an overhead-mounted video screen. New 16-inch wheels have been installed on the Sport and Estate models, and the second-row bench option has been removed from the Sport.
All Villagers are identical in size, with a 112.2-inch wheelbase and an overall length of 194.9 inches. Each minivan is 70.1 inches high. Dual sliding side doors are installed, but power operation is not available. All models now have remote keyless entry.
Seating for seven is standard. The base model has a two-person bench seat in the second row, while the Sport and Estate have two bucket seats. All models have a three-passenger bench in the third row, which slides back and forth on tracks in the floor. Sport and Estate models have an adjustable-height rear parcel shelf behind the third-row seat, which keeps grocery bags and other items from rolling around.
The optional rear-seat entertainment system includes a VCR, flip-down video screen and headphones. Leather upholstery is standard in the Estate edition. With its middle seats removed and the rear bench pushed all the way forward, the Villager holds 127.6 cubic feet of cargo.
Under the Hood
Villagers and Quests use the same 170-horsepower, 3.3-liter V-6 engine, which mates with a four-speed-automatic transmission.
Antilock brakes are optional, but side-impact airbags are not available. New LATCH anchorage points for child-safety seats have been installed.
When on the move, both the Villager and Nissans Quest give the impression of being smaller than many of their competitors. The Villagers dimensions put it between the typical regular-length and extended-wheelbase minivan. Performance and handling are at least adequate, though not exceptional. The available rear cargo shelf is a handy accessory for stowing grocery bags and odd-shaped items.