Multi-Purpose Vehicles (or MPVs as they are snappily referred too in the arcane world of the automotive acronym) used to be a bit frumpy. Worthy yes, and useful of course, but almost never sexy.
There were exceptions – the first Renault Espace was breathtaking in its novelty and innovative use of lightweight plastics, for example – but people generally bought them out of need rather than desire.
Which is a shame, because few cars are more practical than a full-size MPV; even if you will rarely use all seven seats, having an extra two available can be a life-saver sometimes, and when all the seats are folded down (something that is ridiculously easy to do in the new Galaxy) you’ve got a very handy - and luxurious - van. So broadening the appeal of an MPV outside of the core demographic can be a lucrative move for a car manufacturer.
The Ford Galaxy is the larger version of the seven-seat S-Max, a car I tested recently and was hugely impressed with.
The Galaxy’s extra length gives noticeably more legroom in the rearmost seats turning them into a viable option for adults as well as children, plus a usefully bigger boot.
Fast, safe, and efficient
Given that the Galaxy shares its basic chassis architecture with the Mondeo, S-Max and Edge, you’d expect it to drive similarly well.
And you’d be right; it’s a fast, safe, and efficient way of moving large numbers of people across large distances in more comfort than you might imagine.
NVH, (another acronym for you to get your head round, in this case Noise, Vibration, and Harshness) is very low, and the express-train-on-rails feel is one that it shares with the S-Max.
Wind noise is well-suppressed and unless you are gunning it hard (which is rarely necessary, thanks to a full 295 lb ft of torque) the engine noise is no more than a muted growl.
Sit head and shoulders above the rest
You also sit high, which gives a commanding driving position and enables you to peer over hedges and into people’s gardens, which is fun, if a little voyeuristic.
More practically, it lets you see over the top of normal cars in traffic, helping you plot a course through slow-moving roads. The extra visibility also seems to help quell any tendency to queasiness among passengers who are prone to carsickness.
However, the extra length does make itself felt on the road. The Galaxy does feel a bit less wieldy and a bit more top-heavy than the smaller S-Max, so rolls a bit more and isn’t as much fun to hustle along winding roads. It’s also noticeably harder to park.
Of course, you could sit back and let Active Park Assist do it for you but you’ll still find yourself spending a bit longer hunting for a parking space that is big enough to accommodate the almost 5-metre length.
High tech gadgets to help keep you safe
Otherwise it’s all good. The Titanium X model that I drove is stuffed to the gunnels with an impressive roll-call of high-technology gadgets designed to keep you safe and to make your life a little bit easier.
That means a digital radio, sat-nav, self-parking, rain-sensing wipers, a rear-view camera, hands-free unlocking and a power tailgate that you can open by waggling a foot underneath the rear bumper.
Plus a lane keeping aid, active cruise control including traffic sign recognition and a speed limiter, and automatic headlights. Oh, and parking sensors, driver alert, LED lights, self-levelling suspension, and emergency autonomous braking.
Should you buy one? Well, the S-Max is a wee bit nicer to drive, if for no other reason than it is a bit easier to thread through city streets and into tight parking spaces, but if you need the extra legroom that the Galaxy offers then it’s a mighty fine way move people in comfort.
It’s more civilized than almost anything you could buy even ten years ago, and is as capacious as a Transit. It might just be the answer to a need you didn’t know you had, especially if you opt for the four-wheel-drive version.
Power – 178 bhp
Torque – 295 lb ft
0-62mph – 9.8 seconds
Top speed – 131mph
Kerb weight – 1,757kgs
Official average fuel consumption – 56.5mpg
CO2 emissions – 129g/km
VED class – Band D
Towing capacity (braked) – 2000kgs
Towing capacity (unbraked) – 750kgs
Warranty – 3 yrs/60,000 miles
Price – £34,245
Price as tested - £37,915
Best-in-class – The S-Max reins supreme, unless you absolutely, positively have to have the extra legroom of its larger brother.
The best of the rest – The SEAT Alhambra isn’t as nice inside or to drive, but it is just as big and just as practical.
Left-field alternative – The Citroen C4 Grand Picasso isn’t as nice to drive as either Ford, but it’s very, very cheap to buy; just don’t pay anything like showroom prices because discounts of £5,000 or more are reputed to be available.
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