"The Galaxy is massive, luxurious, and better value than a 4x4. It also gets the mix of driving enjoyment and ride comfort spot-on."
Ford's practical and luxurious MPV is massive, with enough space to comfortably seat seven adults. And its size doesn’t mean it drives like a van either – the Galaxy is responsive and comfortable to drive, with very little body roll for a big car. The base-level Zetec model comes equipped with electric windows and air-conditioning, and Titanium-spec Galaxies come very well equipped. It's wide range of economical diesel engines run from a weak 113bhp up to a strong-but-efficient 161bhp. A recent 1.6-litre EcoBoost petrol turbo that returns 39mpg is a welcome addition. Price-wise, it's on par with the Renault Espace and Chrysler Voyager, which does make the boxy Galaxy vulnerable to its own slightly smaller sibling, the cheaper Ford S-MAX.
Like most modern Fords, the Galaxy gets the mix of ride comfort and driving enjoyment just right. Once you’re behind the wheel of the big, boxy Galaxy, Ford's flagship MPV suddenly feels more compact thanks to accurate steering, effective suspension and a good driving position. It's surprisingly easy to wind it around country roads and nip down narrow city streets, plus it absorbs pretty much any lumps and bumps it comes across. It doesn’t roll around very much in the corners like many of its rivals – which makes it stand out from its peers. However, it's 5m length does make it quite hard to park. You can get a sportier, more powerful 2.0-litre EcoBoost turbo petrol engine for that little extra burst of speed (at the cost of fuel economy), or opt for the more fuel efficient 1.6-litre petrol turbo. However, all the 2.0-litre TDCi diesels are more economical and quiet so will suit most drivers, with the Zetec 138bhp version the stand out model. You can add Ford's smooth and effective Powershift automatic gearbox, but it comes at a cost of £1,500.
The Galaxy is so quiet and spacious that it really does feel like a luxury car on the inside. The seats are supportive and comfortable as it glides across all kinds of road surfaces, glossing over many of the UK's worst potholes. Only wind and road noise on the motorway is a bit of a negative, which can compete with the audio from the optional extra TV screens you can add for back seat passengers. Otherwise, it's a calm, enjoyable place to be on short or long drives.
Since it launched in 2006, Ford's first people carrier has had a few recalls, but no more than many of its rivals. Since then, it's been updated to look and perform even better, while sister car the S-MAX has performed quite badly in owner satisfaction surveys, especially because of its high running costs. In terms of safety, the Galaxy is packed with airbags, including front and side bags in the front, side airbags for the rear seats and a knee airbag for the driver. Other safety features include stability and traction control as standard. It's no wonder the Galaxy scored the maximum five stars at the Euro NCAP crash safety tests.
Developed as the same time as the smaller S-MAX MPV, the Galaxy was always intended to be the more practical, luxurious choice of the two. In reality, the two people carriers are very similar, with the Galaxy just pipping the S-MAX on boot space and passenger headroom. Even given the extra storage capacity, if you hope to carry the full seven passengers (yes, even adults can fit in the sixth and seventh seats) and their luggage too, you had better look into the cost of extra roof boxes, as there's only 308 litres of space when all the seats are in place. That's about the same as a supermini – hardly headline news for such a big car. Even so, the Galaxy's practicality still impresses, with a large hatch boot lid making loading access a doddle. All rear seats can be folded into the floor to create a total load space of 2,325 litres, which is undeniably bigger than any estate car the market has to offer and even rivals some vans. And when the seats are up, access to all of them is good. Lastly, the driving position is very good indeed, being neither so high that you feel distanced from the road, nor so low that visibility is adversely affected – the view out is excellent thanks to narrow A-pillars in the front of the car.
Value for money
There's no denying that the Galaxy is pricey compared to many of its rivals – including Ford's own S-MAX, which costs almost £2,500 less but doesn’t seem that much smaller. However, it does feels like a quality car, with all models being well equipped. The Zetec spec offers all-around electric windows, dual-zone climate control, parking sensors and Bluetooth connectivity; Titanium models adds automatic lights and wipers, cruise control, rear air-conditioning, DAB radio and USB connectivity; and top-of-the-range Titanium X includes leather seats and a panoramic glass roof. Fords historically perform well in the used market, so you can expect the Galaxy to hold its value well when you do decide to sell.
While the EcoBoost petrol engines are Ford's big economy flourish of the moment, they still can’t compete with the efficiency of the range of diesel engines in the Galaxy. The 138bhp 2.0-litre TDCi returns 47.1mpg and emits 152 g/km of CO2, keeping running costs, road tax and insurance premiums reasonable. The entry-level 113bhp model is more tax friendly, returning more than 50mpg and emitting 139g/km, but it struggles a bit if you load the MPV to full capacity. You should also factor in heavy tyre wear and regular diesel servicing given the Galaxy's size, and if you drive at speed you’ll have trouble matching the official fuel consumption figures.