Expert Review: 2003 Ford Windstar Wheelchair Vans

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The 2003 Windstar wheelchair van doesn’t offer many improvements or changes from last year’s edition. Ford has added a new trim level, the side mirrors have been re-shaped and stability control is now standard. Otherwise, this year’s Windstar is just like last year’s–a somewhat uninspired, middle of the road minivan..

Notable Strengths

The 2003 Windstar may very well be the safest handicap minivan on the market.

Notable Weaknesses

Frequent reports of powertrain issues and a sub-par driving experience keep the Ford Windstar from earning high marks.

2002 Ford Windstar Overview

It’s time for Ford to re-think the Windstar. While credit is due for producing an extremely safe family hauler, the negatives associated with the Ford wheelchair minivan greatly outweigh that one strength. The Windstar doesn’t keep up with the competition in terms of look or performance.

Trim Levels and Options

The Windstar handicap van 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.

The base level LX will probably be more pared down than most drivers would prefer, but the other trim levels take the Windstar from simple to well-appointed. Ford makes a variety of options available at all trim levels–unlike some manufacturers who reserve some upgrades only for those who initially purchase the more expensive trim packages.

Appearance

Ford isn’t trying to make anyone forget that they’re driving a wheelchair minivan. The Windstar features traditional minivan styling. The sloping front end is slightly more pronounced than that of some other vehicles in the class, but the overall design isn’t remarkably distinctive.

Unless one purchases a high-end Windstar with leather upholstery, they’ll probably find the interior unimpressive. There’s nothing deficient about the Windstar’s cabin, but it isn’t exciting either. It has instrumentation and overall styling consistent with other Ford vehicles.

Powertrain

Once again, the Windstar relies upon a 3.8-liter V6 engine that provides 200 horsepower. The Windstar also uses Ford’s four-speed automatic transmission. While initial performance seemed adequate, it is worth noting that many buyers of the 2002 version experienced significant problems with both elements of the drive train, bringing the reliability of the 2003 model into question.

Driving the 2003 Windstar Wheelchair Van

The Windstar performs adequately during highway driving. Road feel could be better, but the engine is up to the task and the wheelchair minivan is a fairly smooth runner.

In non-highway situations, the Windstar suffers from unresponsive steering. Many drivers have also reported that the vehicle seems to bob in and out of third gear quite quickly.

The 2003 Ford Windstar Wheelchair Van

We’re sure to see many Windstars converted to use as wheelchair vans. The Ford has frequently been converted to this purpose, thanks to its rather spacious interior.

Windstar minivans are usually configured for side entry using a wheelchair ramp. You will find some modified for rear entry that use either an external lift or a ramp.

VMI, a leading conversion manufacturer, performs side-entry conversions (which are the most popular, overall). Their Northstar package includes dual sliding power doors, an automatic powered side ramp, dropped floor (providing ten additional inches of clearance) and an auto kneel system.

The Windstar is amenable to all common wheelchair adaptations. If the vehicle itself were a slightly better option, it would be a strong choice for those in need of a mobility van.

Safety

Front and side airbags are standard on many trim levels and side curtain airbags are available as an option on the others. The 2003 Windstar provides stability control and antilock brakes at all levels. The Windstar continues its tradition of safety in 2003, posting the highest possible marks in government and insurance industry crash testing. Some 2003 Windstars have been recalled due to concerns that third row, bench seat latches could release two early during collisions. However, the Windstar earns high marks for safety, overall.

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