MERCURY Villager

LOOKS . Seaworthy
AMBIANCE . Star Station
COMFORT . Very Cush
QUALITY . Stem to Stern
STEREO . Passably Potent
FUN TO DRIVE . Remote Control
EMOTION . Techno-Lust
CACHET . Planet Krypton


Sticker . $25,610.
Power . 151 horsepower
0 to 60 . 13 to 14 sec.
Test Mileage .19.1 mpg
Seating . 7
Cargo . 12 + 68 cubic feet
Parking . Promising

Super Shuttle

I've got to admit that I'm not much of a van fan. What I want from my wheels is speed and cornering prowess, and the attraction of dragging along a whole circus and its cargo doesn't get my motor running. Nonetheless, the Villager (jointly developed and built by Ford & Nissan who market it as the Quest) is a cool ride. Its future flow features drew more slack jawed stares than most sports cars. For a van it's a looker.

The Villager's stylists took every opportunity to make a progressive statement. Its sweeping curves would be quite at home shuttling space invaders around moon base alpha. The dash is an electro tech panel that glows an eerie blue at night. Trim and tone are all tomorrowland. Up front and in the captain's chairs aft there was plenty of room and enough cup holders for a small cocktail party. Puzzlingly enough there wasn't much room for luggage behind the back seat, so I suppose you travel light if you have a full complement of peopleoids. The seats will come out if you want to stuff it full of yard sale collectibles, but they are heavy and unwieldy. I keep thinking that there are some better design solutions to the minivan interior, but no-one else does much different. I mean, like a '59 Rambler could be converted to a comfortable sleeper, but I had a hard time finding a cozy spot for heavy petting in this huge van! One relatively unique feature is that the aftmost seat slides on tracks for a quick space adjustment if need be, but really all this accomplishes is providing more luggage space behind the tailgate, which isn't hidden, so you may as well just toss it in the middle.

Today's vans are all touted as "carlike" and in this case the Villager is the cream of the crop. Ride, handling and general running character could not be more pleasant and "unvanlike". The high viewpoint was a boon in traffic and the Villager was a pleasure too drive. As long as you were in no hurry, since the acceleration was bog slow and the handling mediocre at best. Gas mileage was not bad and the highway ride decidedly luxurious. Fittings and materials were truly first rate and again at the head of the class in vanland.

At $27 K one can do a lot of shopping and bring home some exciting machinery, but if your mission profile is family oriented and you gotta get a van, check the Villager for refinement, style and quality - the three aces in its hand.