REVIEW DATE: 30 Jan 2007
A long term test has revealed the true colours of Ford's Galaxy MPV. Steve Walker reports.
In recent times, Ford has become a byword for fun driver's cars. The Fiesta, Focus and Mondeo have each headed their respective classes when judged on criteria like chassis balance and handling agility but when it comes to large MPVs like the Galaxy, the capacity to slay a set of high-speed corners features less highly in the thinking of prospective buyers. That's not to say it isn't desirable to some, and that's why Ford cleverly split its seven-seater offering between the exuberant S-MAX and the more homely Galaxy. In the presence of the S-MAX, the Galaxy is left free to do the traditional MPV thing, a task not easily reconciled with the need for thrilling dynamics.
We've been taking an extended gander at the Galaxy over the course of a long term test, the perfect way to get a feel for a car with the primary function of being easy for families to live with. Ford offers the S-MAX for people who see the big people carrier their family needs as an albatross around the neck of their motoring enjoyment. The Galaxy just stoically gets on with the job of excelling in the big people carrier role.
Our Galaxy is equipped with the 2.0-litre TDCi common-rail diesel engine in 138bhp form. Diesel is the obvious choice in a full size MPV, the fuel economy helping to keep running costs manageable, the surging torque helping to keep progress reasonably peppy in what is a particularly hefty vehicle. The Galaxy is available with 1.8-litre diesel engines of similar architecture but with only 99 and 123bhp in each case, these don't offer the same verve as our 138bhp car.
Anyone who's tried a spell at the wheel of the firmly sprung S-MAX will find the Galaxy less sharp in feel but what you lose on the turn-in to corners and in body-control at the apex, you gain in smoothness and comfort on the flat. That said, putting the S-MAX to one side, large MPVs that handle better than the Galaxy are a rare breed, if indeed there are any. Considering its height and size, it's highly accomplished on the road and in no way tarnishes Ford's reputation in this area.
"Buyers who need seven seats will find it hard to look beyond their local Ford dealership"
We've tested the Galaxy on trips long and short, laden and unladen, packed with kids and loaded with luggage. It comes across as a very refined and the ride quality is particularly useful when it comes to avoiding car sickness in small passengers. The glass area is huge and when viewed externally, the flanks appear to be split 50/50 between metal and glass. This throws an abundance of light into the cabin and the low waistline means that everyone gets a clear view out. Even as an adult cooped up in the in the back row, there's little feeling of claustrophobia, with the Galaxy's designers having made good use of the space available. The cabin floor even slopes up slightly towards the rear so that people in the back can see what's going on up front.
The thought that went into the Galaxy's interior design has been evident from the word go. It's the little touches that make all the difference in a car like this and amongst the Galaxy's highlights are the rear sun blinds that still allow the windows to be operated while they're down and the clever towing hitch that folds down from under the rear valance when required. Also extremely handy are the flush sills on the rear doors and the tailgate that allow the crumbs and dirt your kids deposit on the floor to be easily swept out.
Any large MPV is only as good as its seating system with the folding, sliding, removable seat having evolved into something of an art form over recent years. The Galaxy's interior is capable of all the usual accommodation acrobatics and it's relatively straightforward to access the configuration you want without recourse to the owner's manual. The seats don't lift out in the manor favoured by some of the Galaxy's more aged rivals. Instead the rearmost two rows simply drop down flush with the floor to present a vast flat load area that's almost commercial vehicle in its dimensions. Of course, various combinations of seating and luggage space can be achieved by folding different seats but the main one that most owners will employ, that of both of the seats in the third row folded down to create a big boot behind the middle row, is very handy indeed. There's very little luggage capacity with all the Galaxy's seating occupied but the car can easily take five people and a whole lot of luggage when configured in this five-seat manner, the cargo area being easily accessible and uniformly shaped.
When you consider the kinds of buyers who actually go out and purchase seven-seat MPVs, their requirements and the requirements of their families, you could easily make a case for the Ford Galaxy being a better car than its S-MAX sister vehicle. Where the S-MAX majors on offering an engaging driving experience and sporty styling coupled with MPV practicality, the Galaxy gets on with the job in hand, that of fulfilling the traditional MPV role. The S-MAX is an MPV for people who don't really want one and by offering superior practicality along with a driving experience that's less sporty but will be preferable to many buyers in this sector, the Galaxy could have its measure. One thing's for certain: buyers who need seven seats will find it hard to look beyond their local Ford dealership.
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|For GALAXY TDCI 140 LONG TERM|
|OVERALL||7.9 OUT OF 10|
|Space / Versatility||8|
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