If you buy a Ford Windstar be sure to keep a spare set of keys, especially if you've got young kids. My five year old son Joshua has been in many a car, and he styles himself something of an automotive afficionado, but it was all I could do to keep him from playing in and with Ford's signature family mini-van.
The minivan design has been refined over the years to meet the demanding requirements of families with young children. A dedicated mirror allows the driver to peer into the rear seats — two captain-like chairs in the passenger row [far enough apart to keep feuding siblings at bay] and a third bench-like seat for two or three in the rear. There are two rear doors, and you don't have to be a heavyweight wrestler to open or shut them – the simple push of a button will do. These can even be opened from "hundreds of feet away," according to Joshua, who never permitted me do this neat trick myself. A media system, comprising both a VHS VCR and a radio with headphones allow families to travel together without interacting with each other – an admittedly mixed blessing, but one with advantages that any traveling parent will recognize.
The vehicle acquits itself quite well – on the highway and in errands around town. It is a no brainer to operate. Horn, parking brake, assorted switches and signals are more or less where one would expect. We operated the VCR without reference to the manual – my personal litmus test for consumer friendliness. Gas mileage, at 16.5 mpg is the price to be paid for keeping assorted spouses and children happy and at a safe distance from each other on family outings. The back seat folds over and up, adding space to the smallish cargo area. Air conditioning, so important in some climates, is more than adequate, with separate front and rear controls controlled by the driver.
My one complaint is about the Windstar's bells and whistles. Some are shrill and bothersome. Others, like the one that comes on after it decides that a turn signal has been on too long, had me searching frantically for an open door or blown head gasket. There are so many I mistook my cell phone chirping for another mysterious automotive complaint. That said, the Windstar will spoil you, especially if your family likes the open road.
The new Ford Windstar is GREAT. The seats are real comfortable with plenty of leg room. There's so much space, at one point my parents in the front were listening to music, my brother was watching a video on the wonderful tv that was so thoughtfully put into this van, and I was reading a book -- all at the same time comfortably and without noise interference. The controls in the back are also real helpful to adults since they don't have to constantly change the radio stations for their kids. The monotonous beeping when one doesn't fasten the seatbelt right away or when the turning signal is on too long gets annoying though. But this problem is extremely minimal if you weigh it against all the advantages and luxuries that this van offers. It should definitely be a strong consideration for families in need of space, entertainment, and a great ride.
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