|Manufacturer||Ford Motor Company|
|Also called||Nissan Quest|
|Assembly||Avon Lake, Ohio|
|Platform||Ford VX54 platform|
|Wheelbase||112.2 in (2850 mm)|
|Body style(s)||4-door minivan|
|Engine(s)||3.3L 180 hp (134 kW) VG33E V6|
|Length||194.7 in (1999-2000)|
194.9 in (2001-02)
|Width||74.9 in (1902 mm)|
|Height||70.1 in (1781 mm)|
|Curb weight||3,944 lb (1,789 kg)|
The Mercury Villager and Nissan Quest were the products of a joint venture between Ford Motor Company and Nissan. The goal was to produce a smaller and more stylish minivan to compete in the traditional minivan market. The vans debuted at the 1992 North American International Auto Show in Detroit. The two minivans differed only cosmetically(such as a lightbar between the headlights on the Villager which was common on Mercury vehicles in the early 90s) and shared a Nissan engine. They were built in a Ford plant in Avon Lake, Ohio.
The first-generation Villager was available in three trim levels: GS, LS, and the luxury Nautica Special Edition. All Nautica models came with a two-toned blue and white, or red and white paint scheme, an elegant yellow pinstripe, second row captain's chairs, and blue and white, or grey leather upholstery. The second-generation Villager was also available in three trim levels: base, Sport, and the luxury Estate.
The joint venture for this vehicle was a marriage of convenience between Ford and Nissan. The Ford Aerostar minivan was aging and lagging in sales, and its replacement, the Windstar, was not yet ready for market. Ford had money to build an assembly plant, but lacked vehicle design engineering resources due to other vehicles. Nissan was lacking cash but could contribute vehicle engineering and an engine built at its Smyrna, Tennessee facility. The initial project was code named "VX54" within Ford.
The vehicle was initially very successful, but competitive offerings began to overshadow it in the late 1990s. There was a minor freshening in 1996 which included a new front fascia, head & tail lights (the lightbar was gone) and a major one in 1999, but nothing more could be done and Ford pulled the plug after a brief run of 2002 models were produced, ending the Ford and Nissan joint venture. Nissan pursued the development of the 2004 Nissan Quest while Mercury received a version of the Ford Freestar called the Monterey.
The Villager's main innovation was in its seating configurations. At the time, minivans had bulky seats that folded over and usually could be removed. The GM minivans offered the first modular removable seats which were notably uncomfortable. The Villager had a folding removable middle seat (or two buckets). The rear seat folded and moved on tracks in the floor. It could be slid forward to the middle position making a 5 passenger vehicle with ample cargo space, or all the way to the back of the front seats to make a large cargo space. The seat was not removable however, and the system was not improved in the 1999 redesign (on which the model wouldn't be sold in Canada anymore), so newer fold into the floor seats and lightweight buckets quickly eclipsed the system.
The van's size slotted between the larger "grand" vans (such as Grand Caravan) and the old standard size vans (such as the Caravan) was a considerable selling point when it came out. However, as 5-passenger SUVs replaced smaller vans as family vehicles, the remaining minivan buyers placed a much higher premium on size. When Ford, Honda, and Toyota released their most recent vans, they offered only the larger "grand" size. By the late 1990s, the Villager was simply too small to be competitive.
The vans had solid rear axles, making them more stable while towing or carrying heavy loads compared to independent rear suspension vans.
Other uses of the name
Villager appears as the name of the Edsel station wagon in 1958. The Villager name resurfaced at Mercury on a woodgrained Comet station wagon from 1962 to 1967, and subsequently on similarly trimmed wagons in other Mercury series, including the Montego (1970-1976), Bobcat (1975-1980), Cougar (1977 and 1982), Zephyr (1978-1981) and Lynx (1981-1984). On Mercuries, the Villager name almost always denotes a top trim, wood grained wagon. Villager was the equal of the Ford designation 'Squire'. The more well know Country Squire's Mercury equivalent was the Colony Park.
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