Before the current Mondeo arrived, its styling, its cabin technology and its chassis were previewed in the latest version of Ford’s biggest MPV, the Galaxy. And if you think the supersized Mondeo is big, the Galaxy will have you searching for a new adjective.
It looks like the S-Max, and everyone loves the S-Max, so what’s the point of this?
Space. It’s longer, wider and heavier than the old model, creating a clear space between the full-blown seven-seat Galaxy and the five-plus-two-seat S-Max, which in turn is in a different league from the C-Max.
It’s a lot of car for your money – more car, in fact, than the neat styling may lead you to think. Be careful about what you compare it with: the Galaxy is bigger than the regular Renault Espace and wider and heavier (but shorter) than the Grand Espace, which can cost you more. The five- and seven-seat versions of the lower-priced Citroen C4 Picasso are both smaller than the Ford. Everything bigger than this is basically a van, and some things smaller than this feel like vans even if they’re not.
The Galaxy is priced from under £20k to the high-mid 20s, but it’s easy to take it to more than £30k when you go for extras such as bi-xenon cornering lights or a roof that’s glass all the way back to the middle row of seats. The car on test here, the 2.0 TDCi Ghia, has a basic on-the-road price of £23,995, but our test car came with 17 instead of 16-inch alloys, DVD sat nav, leather trim, metallic paint, sunblinds and a few other extras that took it to £30,220, which doesn’t sound like such a bargain.
Isn’t a diesel engine and a big, spacious body a recipe for loud, echoy crudeness?
Not in this case. As with the Mondeo, the Galaxy is very well insulated and feels like a more expensive car than it actually is. There’s a big choice of engines, and although we’ve not yet tested them all we have a strong suspicion that the 2.0-litre diesel is the pick of the range. With its low-down pulling power, responsive throttle and high cruising speed, it feels extremely well suited to the kind of use a big family car is going to face.
There’s a 143bhp 2.0-litre petrol, also available in a bioethanol-friendly FlexFuel version; a 159bhp 2.3 petrol; and three and a half diesels: 99 and 123bhp versions of the 1.8, our 138bhp 2.0 and a 173bhp 2.2. The 2.3 is automatic only, the 1.8 is available with five- and six-speed manuals, the 2.0 petrol is five-speed manual, the 2.0 diesel is six-speed manual or auto and the 2.2 is six-speed manual.
Basic spec is called Edge. Go up to Zetec, for an extra £2000, and you get an alarm, alloy wheels and climate control as standard. Go up to Ghia for cruise control, fancier infotainment and generally plusher trim.
How versatile is it?
It has FoldFlat, Ford’s equivalent of the Vauxhall Flex7 seating, system: two big front seats, three middle seats that can be slid forwards and backwards independently or folded into the floor, plus two smaller rear seats in the floor of the boot. This all makes it very easy to pick your ideal combination of seats and luggage space, helped by the fact that there is so very much space in there. We can’t stress this enough: the Galaxy is a whopper. Yet some clever internal work has actually reduced the overall height, while giving more passenger room and more scope for all passengers to adjust their seating position. There’s lots of mid-row legroom, even with the seats slid forward to make extra legroom for the third row.
As well as being bigger in every direction than the S-Max, it has a larger and more upright windscreen and doesn’t have the smaller car’s sloping roof, giving 30 percent more bag space than the old Galaxy, even with all seven seats in use. There are also loads of cubbyholes below, beside and above you. Particularly useful are the huge door bins: they allow you to carry a big water bottle AND a road atlas AND a stack of CDs.
And how about the driving?
This is the Ford’s trump card. Whereas the rather ordinary MkI Galaxy was a joint venture, also available as the VW Sharan and Seat Alhambra, this one is all Ford, and benefits from Ford’s mastery of the art of building everyday cars that are extraordinarily good to drive.
The active suspension is constantly adjusting itself, using information from various sensors checking out the car’s ever changing relationship with the road. You also get a choice of three settings. Sport is usually best. Normal adds wobble. Comfort adds wobble and wallow. As with Transits, a heavy load can do a lot to settle the ride.
Like the S-Max, the Galaxy’s driving position is much more car-like than you get with most MPVs. The S-Max drives very well – no ifs, no buts – whereas the Galaxy drives very well for a big MPV: stable on motorways, good turning circle in town, quiet, comfortable, but ultimately not as engaging as a proper car.
There’s no point having the Galaxy if you don’t need the space, because the S-Max is the better car to drive and won’t cast such a big shadow over your house and your neighbour’s house. But that’s not to say that all you’re getting is a big car: it’s also a very useful, practical MPV that happens to drive very well. It’s not as close to the Mondeo as the S-Max is to the Focus, although it’s not far off. But if you don’t need so much space for bags and bodies, go for the S-Max or the Mondeo estate