Expert Review: 2002 Ford Windstar Wheelchair Vans

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The Ford Windstar handicap van covers all of the bases, but is destined to be a runner-up to the Dodge Caravan and Grand Caravan wheelchair vans. Ford has successfully built a solid minivan free of glaring weaknesses. It just doesn’t quite measure up–either as a regular passenger vehicle or as a wheelchair van.

Notable Strengths

The 2002 Windstar has a nice array of safety features and is a solid head-to-toe wheelchair minivan.

Notable Weaknesses

Ford’s latest effort to unseat Dodge lacks top-level driving characteristics.

2002 Ford Windstar Overview

The eighth addition of the Ford Windstar doesn’t fall flat in any department. Unfortunately, it doesn’t excel, either. Ford has put together a wheelchair minivan that looks competitive with the best in its class at face value. Closer inspection reveals that it just isn’t quite catching up with the leader.

Trim Levels and Options

The Windstar is available in five different trim levels. There’s a cargo version for commercial applications, the LX, the SE, the SEL and the Luxury Limited.

Ford offers a nice array of features running from must-haves like air conditioning and power doors to more exotic offerings like heated mirrors, a reverse sensing system and VCR-based rear seat entertainment system. The Windstar earns more impressive combinations of base features as one climbs the trim ladder and a variety of a la carte options are also readily available.

Appearance

The Ford Windstar maintains the look of the last few years. It’s has an elongated rectangular body with a somewhat pointy front end. There’s no question about its designer’s priorities. They were definitely more interested in maximizing function than appearance. Other wheelchair minivans, including the top-selling Grand Caravan look more modern and appealing. The Windstar isn’t offensive–it just seems a year or two behind the competition in design.

That holds true when one examines the bland, matte interior, as well. If you’re family with the general interior appearance of Ford and Mercury passenger cars, you’ll know exactly what the Windstar offers. Colors are muted, instruments are dull and the dark plastic creates an almost gloomy feel. The upholstery does stand out for its overall quality and those who upgrade to a leather interior will notice a significant positive effect.

Powertrain

All Windstars use the same four-speed automatic transmission and a 3.8-liter V6 that delivers 200 horsepower. The engine has been extensively road-tested and provides more than adequate power to the Windstar.

Driving the 2002 Windstar Handicap Van

The Windstar offers a rather predictable handicap minivan experience. To its credit, the Ford is firmer and more responsive than some handicap minivans, but it does so at the expense of comfort. The Windstar isn’t difficult to drive and it won’t cause a sense of insecurity at any time, but it doesn’t measure up to best-in-class standards for performance or cruising comfort.

The 200-horsepower V6 is a middle-of-the-road option that gives the Ford just enough power to do what it needs to do, but leaves little in reserve. Passing and acceleration are both acceptable, but not outstanding.

The 2002 Ford Windstar Wheelchair Van

The Windstar has a few marks in its favor as a wheelchair conversion option. The 2002 edition has a spacious interior and a track record of success as a mobility vehicle.

You’ll find Windstars arranged for wheelchair use in a variety of ways. One popular configuration involves the use of a rear lift capable of handling even heavy power scooters and other motorized mobility aids. The other is a conversion package that turns the Windstar into a capable side-entry wheelchair van.

That arrangement is the most popular due, in large measure, to the fact that conversion manufacturing leader VMI uses it. They call it a Northstar conversion and it includes the use of dual sliding power doors with an auto wheelchair ramp, an auto kneel system and full ten-inch floor drop. Additional conversions include floor tracks for securing the wheelchair and easily removable driver and front passenger seats.

Safety

Unlike many vehicles in its class, the Windstar comes with front and side airbags standard on some models. It also offers traction control at higher trim levels. Antilock brakes are common to all Windstars. The minivan received exceptional marks for crash-test performance from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and did just as well in insurance industry testing.

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