"The Ford Galaxy is massive, luxurious, and better value than a 4x4. It also gets the mix of driving enjoyment and ride comfort spot-on."
It may be big, but the Ford Galaxy MPV is also a massively practical and luxurious people carrier that has more then enough space to seat seven adults comfortably. Plus, it may be big but it never feels like you’re driving a van either. There's very little body roll in the corners and it has a wide range of economical diesel engines that go from an underpowered 113bhp engine up to a strong-but-efficient 161bhp one. A recent 1.6-litre EcoBoost petrol turbo that returns 39mpg in fuel economy is a more than welcome addition to the range. In terms of price, it's about on par with its main rivals, which does make the boxy Galaxy a bit vulnerable to its own slightly smaller sibling, the cheaper Ford S-MAX. The Ford Galaxy comes in three main specifications – the entry-level Zetec, mid-range Titanium and top-of-the-range Titanium X. The base model comes equipped with electric windows and air-conditioning, while the top Titanium spec Galaxies come very well equipped.
MPG, running costs & CO2 emissions
The headline news may still be Ford's super-frugal EcoBoost petrol engines, but they still can’t match the efficiency of the diesel engines that are on offer in the Galaxy. The 138bhp 2.0-litre TDCi diesel returns 47.1mpg and emits 152 g/km of CO2, which keeps running costs, road tax and insurance premiums all really reasonable. The entry-level 113bhp model is more tax friendly, returning more than 50mpg and emitting 139g/km, but it does struggle a bit if you load the MPV to its full capacity. You should also be aware of likely heavy tyre wear and regular diesel servicing being required, given the Galaxy's large size, and if you drive at speed you will probably have difficulty matching the official fuel consumption figures.
Interior & comfort
The Galaxy is truly spacious and quiet, and almost seems to glide across most kinds of road surface, the comfortable and supportive seats working with the soft suspension to cancel out the worst of the UK's potholes. The only real downside is the amount of wind, road and engine noise when driving on the motorway, all of which tend to fight for dominance with the sound from the TV screens available for back seat passengers as an optional extra. Suffice to say that conversation can be a bit tough. Otherwise, it's a calm, enjoyable place to be on short or long drives.
Practicality & boot space
The Galaxy was developed alongside the smaller S-MAX MPV and was always designed to be the more luxurious and practical people carrier of the pair. The truth is that they’re really pretty similar, with the Galaxy just creeping ahead thanks to extra space in the boot and more headroom for its passengers. But even with that extra boot space, if you choose to carry the maximum seven adults passengers and their luggage, you’d better to consider splashing out on a roof box, because you still only get 308 litres of luggage capacity when all the seats are in place. That's about the same as you’d expect to get in a supermini – hardly headline news for a car of such large dimensions. Luckily, you really can fit two adults in the sixth and seventh seats in the rear, which are normally too cramped in other cars for anyone other than small children. Its practicality really does impress, with a large hatchback boot lid making loading the boot a real doddle, plus all the rear seats can be folded down into the floor to create a massive total load space of 2,325 litres, which is undeniably bigger than any estate car on the market and even rivals some vans out there. And when the seats are up, access to all of them is uniformly good. Finally, the driving position is very good indeed, being neither too high, so that you feel too far away from the road, nor too low, compromising the excellent visibility. In fact, the view out is excellent thanks to narrow windscreen pillars on the front of the car.
Reliability & safety
The Ford Galaxy is no youngster, but since its launch in 2006, Ford's original entry into the people carrier market has only had a few recalls, and certainly no more than its main rivals. It has been updated since the last one to look and perform better than ever. However, like its sister car, the S-MAX, the Galaxy has performed quite badly in owner satisfaction surveys, especially because of its high running costs. In the 2013 Auto Express Driver Power customer satisfaction survey, for instance, the Galaxy only ranked 89th in the top 100 cars, with build quality and reliability cited most as problems. This reflects Ford's own surprisingly poor performance in the manufacturers rankings, coming 23rd in the poll, which is actually an improvement of two places on its 2012 position. But Ford does have a huge dealership presence in the UK, and an abundance of affordable spare parts out there to draw on. In terms of safety, the Galaxy comes fitted with a range of airbags - including front and side bags in the front, side airbags for the rear seats and a knee airbag for the driver – as well as electronic stability and traction control as standard. It's no wonder the Galaxy scored the increasingly common maximum five stars in the Euro NCAP crash safety tests.
Engines, drive & performance
Ford has really nailed the balance between driving enjoyment and ride comfort in recent years. From the outside, the Galaxy's large dimensions may look big and boxy, but Ford's flagship MPV immediately feels like a much more compact car once you’re behind the wheel. Accurate steering and effective suspension combine with a good driving position to make it surprisingly easy to zip down narrow city streets and navigate around windy country roads, absorbing pretty much all the lumps and bumps you may come across in the process. There's very little body roll when driving through the corners, which makes it stand out from its rivals. However, its substantial five-metre length does make it quite hard to park. You can get a sportier, more powerful 2.0-litre EcoBoost turbo petrol engine if you really can’t do without that little extra burst of speed (at the cost of good fuel economy, of course), 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 best, with the Zetec 138bhp model being the one that really stands out. You can also add Ford's smooth and effective Powershift automatic gearbox – but only if you’ve got a spare £1,500 lying about.
Price, value for money & options
You can’t get away from the fact that the Galaxy is fairly expensive when compared to many of its main rivals – including sister car, the S-MAX, which will save you nearly £2,500 over the Galaxy without actually feeling that much smaller in reality. But there's no denying the Galaxy's quality, with all models coming very well equipped. The entry-level Zetec model comes with all-around electric windows, dual-zone climate control, parking sensors and Bluetooth connectivity fitted as standard, while Titanium models add automatic headlights and windscreen wipers, cruise control, rear air-conditioning, DAB digital radio and USB connectivity. The top-of-the-range Titanium X also includes leather seats and a panoramic glass roof that makes the interior feel very airy. Plus, Fords historically perform well in the used market, so you can expect the Galaxy to hold its resale value well when you do decide to look for a good second-hand deal.