I am a soccer mom. And I got this car at a discount, but if I were to do it over again, and I WON this car in a raffle, I'd throw the keys away!
First let me say I've driven this car for 18 months, so what I write, I write from experience. Some people may find the following complaints nit picky. But, I live in my car. I drive the kids to school. I pick them up. I go grocery shopping, shoe shopping, and clothing shopping -- and except for food, none of it's my own. I shop online for clothes because there are simply not enough hours in the day to shop for me. And, yes, I go to and from soccer games and soccer practices for 2 of my 4 children. I spend a LOT of time in this car. If I could afford it, I would trade this in for almost anything else, but alas, the loan is still worth more than the car.
Now you know I hate it. This is why: cup holders, automatic door tracks, storage, keypad entry, 3rd seat, gas mileage, snow, noise, and did I say cup holders?
Cup holders sounds like a trivial thing, but it's a big issue. There are two up front. They pop out with the ashtray. If you put in a heavy drink (whether a full water bottle or a coffee thermos) and you don't close the pinchers, the drink ends up on your foot. If it's heavy enough, it'll end up on your foot anyway the first time you make a turn. Also, I should note that if you want to recharge your cell phone of you have a passenger charging his laptop, he'll have to hold his drink. There is an additional port by the passenger, but it's so close to the floor that no cell phone could be used if plugged in and few laptop cords.
I own an SEL. It comes with a front console between the bucket seats. It has no additional cup holders in it. This is significant. SUVs often have a place for drinks on the console. Not the Windstar. There is no alternative place for cupholders for me, and no place to hold a drink for a kid who can't reach his/her own cupholder. The SEL comes with 2nd row captain's chairs. The cup holders are near the floor of the chairs and flip down. Kids in carseats can't reach them at all. Younger children not in carseats still have trouble reaching them. Adults sitting in those seats have to grab the drink from the top. If it's a soda (or worse, coffee) from fast food, the top can and does pop off! The rear bench thankfully has decent cupholders, but they are the only ones. The Toyota Sierra has cup holders that fold into the sliding doors. Almost everyone else does NOT have the pinchers. With as much time as we spend in the car, it is unrealistic not to have the kids or me drink something at some part of the day. We get drinks spilled alot. Then the car starts to smell. It's amazing how fast and how bad a little orange soda or the smallest drop of a vanilla shake can smell. Don't discount this! Lack of useable cupholders is a big issue to anyone who drives -- but especially those of us with children.
Automatic closing doors. The SEL has one on each side. The smallest piece of crayon. A stray nickel can keep it from closing. Sometimes these things get stuck in the track to the point where the door doesn't quite close, but can't then open easily either.
Storage. If you aren't using the third bench, the Windstar probably has plenty of room. I wouldn't know. I have 4 young children. Which means my options are either a minivan (with the 2nd and 3rd row intact)or an extra large SUV. Anyone who owns an extra large SUV (and we do) knows that they are not the car that you take to zip in and out of busy parking lots. You may be able to park it, but you might have to choose which side of the car gets to exit. The doors are large and swing open wide.
So, the third bench is stuck there (more on that later). That means there is less than 20 cu. ft of storage space behind it. That is peanuts folks. If I put an umbrella stroller back there (and that is the smallest version of stroller out there) I am hard put to fit a weeks worth of groceries in the back. If I put the stroller in the passenger compartment, then the kids trip on their way in and out. Even weekend trips tax our abilities to travel comfortably. You leave the umbrella stroller home. Add a portacrib. Give everyone a small duffle and that's it. You are out of room. Half the Windstars around here have luggage carriers permanently strapped to the roof with good reason.
Let's talk 3rd bench. It is big. It doesn't split in half, and it is heavy as hell. My oldest daughter lost her retainer in the car. I had to take out the third bench and both captain's chairs before I found it in the well of where one the chairs hooks in. I did it myself. I am a small but strong person, but I can tell you I hope I never have to do it again! Even with two people, getting the third seat out is unwieldy at best. And getting it back in is even worse. The manual sucks and the levers stick. And hope you never have to do it if you own one. Everything disgusting and vile congregates in those wells.
Keypad entry. All of Ford's SUVs have this feature. The SEL is the top of the line. It does not. If anyone is going to get locked out of their car, it's going to be a parent. Because their kid is going to close the door on them before they have removed the keys.
Gas Mileage. If I'm lucky I get 16 city and 17.5 highway. Not close to the 18/22.
I live in a place that gets a lot of snow. It's an urban area and we have pretty good snow removal. The Windstar's version of ALLTrac isn't bad. However it's ground clearance is terrible. I have gotten stuck in parking lots and driveways where snow has built up by an exit or in the center of a lane. However, I think the ground clearance thing would be true of almost any Minivan.
Most of our relatives live a couple hours away. Once this car gets on the highway, it is LOUD. No joke. I don't hear as well out of my left ear (driver's window side), and with all the driving I do, I can't tell if it's from the car or the baby (who I usually carry on my left hip).
As I said, I have four small children (as in they would be crushed by airbags if they sat up front). I don't have a lot of choices in cars. And until I've paid a little more off on my loan, I have no choices. Don't make the same mistake. The Grand Caravan has tons of room behind the third seat! I think almost twice as much as the Windstar. But if I was to get another Minivan, I think the Honda would be my car. That way, if I wanted to go to BJs, I could easily make the 3rd seat disappear!!! But, once this lemon is paid down, I'm giving serious look at the Buick Rendevous. With the snow around here (Central Mass.) I need something that can fit 4 kids easily (and please, NOT with a 2nd row seat that you have to pop up to get to the back bench!) with more ground clearance that is still easy to park at the Soccer Field or the local Shop n Stop.
Amount Paid (US$):
2000Model and Options: