A flat cupholder pulls out and snaps down from the console side of the front passenger's seat. It wisely chose one based on the popular Nissan Quest. Our test car was also equipped with an optional power sunroof and a flip-open rear window. Visibility is good, though there is a bit of a blind spot to the driver's right rear. The Villager affords 126 cubic feet of cargo space after the second-row seats are removed and the rear-bench seat is folded upward.
It seemed as quiet as a sedan even at speeds greater than 70 mph. Despite this, Villager's powertrain is smooth and quiet, and doesn't provide much cause for concern. But these days, auto makers know better than to deliver a minivan with an old-fashioned, truck-like ride. Driving Impressions While its cargo capacity is somewhat modest compared to the big Chryslers, the Villager compensates with its velvety ride and serene comfort. It's hitched to a four-speed, electronically controlled automatic overdrive transmission. This arrangement permits comfortable seating for seven. That's a lot less than the 162.
Minimal pitching and diving, along with excellent grip in corners doesn't adhere to the minivan preconception, while precise steering from its power rack-and-pinion system seems to sweeten the whole picture. They know minivan buyers want commodious space accompanied with the smooth ride and performance of a sedan. Also, the front of the vehicle is so steeply raked that the driver cannot see the front fenders, which requires some getting used to for parallel parking. An electronically-controlled four-speed automatic transmission is the sole, logical gearbox choice, and gives velvety, almost imperceptible gear changes, but sometimes has difficulty deciding when to shift on uphill grades. Although it hardly offered more than other vans at the time, the Villager's primary selling point was its smart seat configurations with rows which could be folded and pushed against one another or fitted in floor-buckets fro increased cargo space. Villager rides smoothly and insulates those inside from road noise and bumps.
New colors were added this year, along with an optional Gold Sport appearance package that features gold accents on the wheels, grille and lift gate ornament. Granted, cargo capacity is important. Passengers can choose from 13 different seating-and-cargo combinations. Passengers can move comfortably from the front seat back to the rear, although the fold-down armrests on the second-row captain's chairs limit the center-aisle pass-through space to about eight inches. Another space-enhancing option would be to tilt the rear-bench seat cushion upward and slide the seat forward by as much as 50 inches.
Since the introduction of the 1993 model, the Villager has offered a smooth, quiet ride with the responsiveness of a sedan. Front MacPherson strut and rear beam axle suspension is quite ordinary in design, but they provide handling that is very impressive for a minivan. The seat backs on the second-row captain's chairs and third-row bench seat can be folded down for loading cargo. Now in its sixth year without a major redesign, the Villager has been a successful product. Built into the modular armrest to the left of the second-row captain's chair are switches that operate the rear-seat climate control and stereo system, which comes complete with two headphone jacks—a very nice touch, and one that was clearly designed to let the kids groove to their favorite tunes without jangling their parents' nerves. Passengers over 6 feet may be a bit cramped in the second or third rows.
A gold accent stripe also runs the length of the bodyside molding. Granted, cargo capacity is important. Most minivan buyers are parents, so the operation of the sliding door and rear tailgate is an important concern. They know minivan buyers want commodious space accompanied with the smooth ride and performance of a sedan. All of these functions can be performed with an easy flip of a lever.
Our Nautica test model was painted a handsome metallic Cabernet Red. Behind the front captain's chairs are two more captain's chairs. Among minivans, handling and ride quality are at least as important as cargo capacity. The system provides readouts in both the English and metric systems. Luxury touches in the Nautica model include separate stereo and ventilation controls for rear-seat passengers, a real feature when carrying children. Our Nautica was equipped with very comfortable power front seats, with six adjustments for the driver, four for the passenger.
But these days, auto makers know better than to deliver a minivan with an old-fashioned, truck-like ride. That powertrain easily enabled the 3,800-lb. The rack-and-pinion power steering offers precise control and the engineers have done a good job tuning the MacPherson strut front suspension and leaf-spring rear suspension with twin-tube gas charged shock absorbers. When it comes to handling, the Villager firmly plants itself while negotiating hard corners—no small feat for a tall vehicle. Opening the rear tailgate is also a one-handed operation—if you use the keyless remote control to unlock all the doors.
With all seats removed except for the front two, there is 126 cubic feet of cargo capacity. With a simple push of a button you can ascertain fuel economy—both average and instant—and the number of miles left before the fuel tank is empty. Even better are the sturdy, integrated cupholders on the backs of each of the fold-down rear seats. We also applaud the electronic information center on the smart-looking, digitized instrument panel. The seats can be arranged in a variety of configurations to haul cargo. It handles like a sedan and provides plenty of power for driving through heavy traffic.