1995 MERCURY VILLAGER GS
Used Truck - 1995 Mercury Villager GS in Houston, Tx
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1995 Mercury Villager ReviewThis car review is specific to this model, not the actual vehicle for sale.
Looks and luxury in an all-around superb van.
Most people associate the Mercury nameplate with large and luxurious sedans such as the opulent Grand Marquis, or with rebadged Ford economobiles such as the Tracer. Canadians may recall seeing that name on the tailgates of pickup trucks until a few years ago, but that particular aberration never made it to America.
Mercury product planners are as aware as anyone of what goes on outside their own domain, and the healthy sales of minivans led them to ask Ford for a van of their own.
Which is exactly what they almost got. As it happened, Nissan was looking to move deeper into minivan territory with something more mainstream than its existing vans, none of which were doing big box-office at the time. To make a long story shorter, Nissan and Ford joined forces to produce the Nissan Quest and Mercury Villager, near-identical twins assembled in a Ford facility in Ohio using components from Nissan parts bins.
One result of this venture is that the Villager started life with the Quest as a close competitor. Beyond that, all the Villager has to do is entice buyers away from such stalwarts as the Chrysler minis, Ford Windstar, Mazda MPV and others. A tall order.
Nonetheless, the Villager enters the arena with some definite points on its side. It may not be the best minivan of all (though it would be difficult, if not impossible, to pick an absolute best buy), but it's certainly good enough to deserve careful consideration from most minivan customers.
From a distance, the Villager looks petite. Your eyes deceive you; in reality it's less than an inch shorter than the extended Ford Aerostar, and just over 3 in. shorter than the Oldsmobile/Chevrolet/Pontiac vans. The illusion of smallness is created by careful proportioning of the sleek exterior and heightened by the two-tone paint applied to upper-level Villagers. With its long, sloping nose and raked windshield, the Villager looks like a cross between a van and a station wagon. Mercury's trademark light bar runs across the nose over a plain air intake, differentiating Mercury from Nissan. A full-width reflector panel in the rear is also exclusive to the Villager.
Not all body design details are just for show. The 'limousine' doors that wrap into the top make entry and exit easier, and the tailgate has a low liftover thanks to a neatly shaped rear bumper. The low-drag body shape also plays a part in keeping wind noise to a minimum.
The Villager is offered in two models: The base GS is a price leader that most buyers will want to dress up with an option or two, while the fancier LS is quite satisfactory as is. The Nautica appearance package is essentially an LS with leather seats, as well as special paint schemes (blue over white or white over blue) and trim.
All Villagers are the same mechanically. A 151-hp V6 engine sits transversely under the hood, driving the front wheels through a 4-speed automatic transmission. The only chassis option is a handling package that firms up the Villager's ride.
The moment you climb into a Villager, you're hit in the face - literally - by its single major flaw. Despite the presence of a driver's airbag, the Villager is equipped with electrically operated passive seat belts. These days, such belts are unnecessary (almost everyone else has figured out how to install dual airbags), uncomfortable and, when they freeze in their tracks (it happens), an real nuisance.
Only the distance from carpet to headliner tells you that you're in a van and not a sedan. The dashboard is stylish and modern, and it holds a good supply of easy-to-read instruments (either analog or optional digital). The driving position and seats are comfortable, visibility is excellent, and the whole cabin is finished to a high standard.
One major plus for the Villager is the flexibility of its seating arrangements. Though rated a 7-passenger van, the Mercury offers greater comfort for six or fewer. Depending on the number of occupants, the center and rear seats can be removed, slid forward or backward on their runners, folded, and/or tipped to increase cargo space. Tray tables are molded into each center and rear seatback with the Nautica package, so folding them creates a snug indoor picnic space.
Another Villager attribute is silence. Wind, road and engine noises are all muted to a degree that's especially unusual in a minivan. The perception of quality that a quiet interior creates is further enhanced by the solid feel of the hardware and materials used. The Villager's substance is more than skin-deep, however; it meets all current passenger-car safety standards.
Nice as the Villager's interior is, some of the available options can make it even nicer. Amenities such as power windows and door locks are obvious, but calling for the Light Group also adds electric operation of the rear vent windows. These improve airflow considerably, and the convenience of being able to open and close the vents from the driver's seat can't be overstated.
A van offers a fine acoustic environment for upgraded sound systems, which Mercury is happy to supply - all the way up to a 92-watt audio unit with a CD player and subwoofer speakers.
In addition, all of the Villager's premium sound packages come with a second set of controls and headphone jacks for center-seat passengers.
There are no surprises lurking ahead for the first-time Villager driver. Anyone with experience in a sedan or station wagon will feel right at home, because the Villager sounds and feels like the vehicles van novices are used to.
Actually, the Mercury minivan feels better than many passenger cars. Its steering is precise, performance is brisk, and standard anti-lock brakes add an extra measure of security to an already good braking system. The only possible negative factor in the Villager driving experience - and it won't bother the majority of owners - is an excess of body lean during brisk cornering. That can be addressed with the addition of the optional handling suspension package, which cures roll without any noticeable increase in ride harshness. The firm suspension also helps out when heavy loads are carried, so it probably should be given serious consideration by anyone who plans to fill the rear seats (or cargo area) regularly.
It would be nice if the sporty chassis option were joined by a sportier engine, but such is not the case. Although the existing unit is fine for most use, it is a little understrength for dealing with either a full load inside or a heavy trailer. Don't be fooled by that 3500-lb. rating with the optional towing package: Any-one who chooses to pull that much weight had better be prepared for a slow trip.
Even so, it should be stressed that the Villager has enough power for normal operation. That, plus the well-developed suspension and quiet cabin, makes the Villager a genuine pleasure to drive.
By any standard, the Villager is a serious contender in the minivan market. It looks right, it's built right, and it has the right features to be a comfortable everyday transportation device. And the seating plan has been designed with enough flexibility to deal with a long trip's worth of luggage or a substantial load of cargo. All in all, the Villager returns plenty of value for your money.
Though not quite perfect - elimination of the motorized belts and a little more power would bring it much closer - the Villager should be considered one of the best buys among minivans today.