Ford has decided that the latest version of the Galaxy needs a bit more than mere practicality. Andy Enright reports
Ten Second Review
Ford brings us a fourth-generation version of its Galaxy seven-seater and this model boosts safety, is more efficient and brings an innovative third seat folding system. With a wide range of engines and improved interior quality, this one's going to be at the top of quite a few family shortlists.
On the face of it, building a large MPV ought to be easy. After all, isn't something like this just a big box on wheels? It always used to be. Not so long ago, all you really needed with a car like this was a set of fancy flippy-folding seats and a few clever interior storage solutions. That and the ability for the model in question not to fall over when presented with a corner. These days, things are a lot tougher for those brands looking to create a design of this kind. Buyers are more demanding. They want the interior build quality of a luxury saloon. They want exciting styling. And the last thing they're looking for is the kind of handling you'd expect from a big box on wheels. The game has changed.
These objectives are inevitably difficult to achieve. It's hard to give an MPV sharp handling and even more difficult to make such a car grab your attention from a visual perspective. Still, Ford managed to do both of these things with the first generation version of their sporty S-MAX People Carrier. Buoyed by the success of that vehicle, the Blue Oval brand has carried forward what it learnt from that project into the S-MAX's squarer showroom stablemate, this fourth generation Galaxy.
We've yet to try this MK4 model Galaxy but it's a safe bet that it'll be very good to drive by MPV class standards. Its predecessor certainly was. From launch, Ford is offering this car with a 2.0-litre TDCi diesel engine in various forms. At the top of the range, there's twin-turbo 210PS putting out a lusty 450Nm of torque, but most versions of this car will be sold in single-turbo form where there are more modest outputs of 120, 150 and 180PS on offer. There's also the option of the brand's 'Intelligent All-Wheel Drive' system - which will be a welcome boon for towers who in this form can pull up to 2,000kgs.
Petrol options include Ford's 160PS 1.5-litre EcoBoost engine and a 2.0-litre EcoBoost petrol unit offering 240PS. Self-levelling rear suspension is also available, while the optional 'Continuous Control Damping System' delivers a choice between Comfort, Normal or Sport driving modes. Adaptive electronic steering is also a standard fitment and includes the intriguingly-named 'Active Nibble Compensation' system that cancels out unwanted feedback, forces and vibration at the helm. The rear suspension is the same integral link set-up as seen on the latest Mondeo. It's good, in other words.
Design and Build
Ford has endowed the Galaxy with a very S-MAX-style front end, so you get that car's Aston Martin-style front grille, along with plenty of shape in the flanks to avoid that slab-sided look that makes so many large MPVs look like panel vans with windows. The old MK3 model wasn't a bad looking thing, but Ford has clearly decided to give the shape a little extra edge. As with previous Galaxy models, you don't get sliding side doors, but then that helps keep the side profile clean.
The interior takes a step up in terms of perceived quality, with Ford offering a big 10-inch digital display and the excellent Sync2 infotainment system. There's certainly no shortage of space inside, with 40mm more headroom in the third row. A lot of thought has clearly gone into making the third row of seats something other than the most obvious short straw and they now get their own armrest storage and cup holders. You won't have to wrestle the seats up and down either. They can be raised from the boot floor at the touch of a button and both second and third rows can also be dropped flat from the front by using a console-mounted button. There's an additional 20-litres of stowage beneath the flat boot floor and the door bins are significantly bigger too.
Market and Model
Prices start at around £26,500, with around £1,000 more if you want the least expensive diesel. There are three main trim levels - Zetec, Titanium and Titanium X. AWD is an option with the 150 and 180PS 2.0 TDCi engines. Those kinds of figures continue to pitch this car directly against two key rivals, SEAT's Alhambra and Volkswagen's Sharan. It's interesting that the styling of this fourth generation Galaxy borrows so much from the Blue Oval brand's S-MAX large MPV (which costs slightly less). Previously, Ford had tried to position these two People carriers quite differently, giving the Galaxy a more practically-orientated family feel.
All Galaxy models now get second-row seat side airbags, in addition to twin front, driver knee, and full-length curtain airbags. Second-row seatbelt pre-tensioners with load limiters enhance rear passenger safety. There are also seatbelt minders for all three rows. The MyKey technology you also get included helps with safety, allowing owners to programme a key that can inhibit incoming phone calls, restrict top speed, prevent deactivation of driver assistance and safety features, reduce audio system maximum volume and disable the audio system altogether if occupants are not using safety belts. Vehicle stability is enhanced with Curve Control and Roll Stability Control systems that adjust engine torque and braking to help drivers maintain control. Pedestrian safety is further enhanced with concealed wipers designed to limit injuries from head impacts.
Cost of Ownership
The entire of the Galaxy range meets stringent Euo6 emissions regulations and Ford claims to have improved the fuel economy of every version across the range. Expect mainstream models to give you well over 50 miles from a gallon of diesel and dip well under the 150g/km of CO2 barrier. In addition, buyers should get healthier residual values that they might expect from a Ford. Low-ish depreciation has long been a Galaxy staple, used buyers recognising its safety, durability and low ongoing running costs.
We're looking forward to trying this latest Galaxy. This model's always been one of the very strongest contenders in the large MPV segment and early signs here suggest that this MK4 version still is. All of the key areas for improvement that were identified with the previous version seem to have been given a good ticking, with a sharper look, better interior quality, slicker technological integration and a richer array of high-tech safety features. All of these things are present and correct.
Under the skin too, this fourth generation model seems to have been made from the good stuff, its extended platform and clever rear suspension teaming with a broad range of engines to offer drivers something a bit different to usual dull MPV driving experience. Building a big MPV is all about managing compromises without taking your eye off the prime consideration, that of safe and spacious family transportation. Ford has, down the years, been a bit cleverer at figuring out those compromises than most of its rivals. In short, the Galaxy looks as if it's setting a very high bar.