BY ANDY ENRIGHT
As the big cheese amongst full-sized MPVs, the Ford Galaxy could have rested on its laurels. After all, with sales far in excess of any other big people carrier, the Galaxy didn't need a major revision. It got one nevertheless, and the post 2000 model year Galaxy was a vast improvement in almost every respect. Track down a decent used model and you'll be treated to the most car-like drive of all the full sized MPVs from this era as well as some very neat styling and a proven range of engines. No wonder they're so valued in the trade.
Models Covered: GALAXY- 2000- to date ( 5dr MPV, 1.9 TD 90, 115, 130, 150, 2.3 petrol, 2.8 V6 petrol [LX,Zetec,Ghia] )
The Galaxy sprang from the joint development between Ford and Volkswagen ultimately responsible for the Galaxy, VW Sharan and SEAT Alhambra. Together, Ford and VW jointly funded the design programme and built a new factory in Portugal to handle production. Basically, Ford's Galaxy and VW's Sharan share the same 2.8-litre V6 engine (the VR6 unit used in the top mkIII VW Golf and the Corrado coupe) and the 90bhp and 115bhp 1.9-litre turbo diesels (also VW-sourced). Ford also added a 2.3-litre-engined option from the Scorpio saloon. The range was substantially revised in the summer of 2000, with new styling, interior trim and dashboard. An old 2.0-litre engine was deleted as was the slow-selling 4x4 V6. Ford's 2.3 now powered the entry-level models plus there was a revised 201bhp 2.8-litre V6. In Spring 2003 the Galaxy range was revised again, with the addition of a TDI130 version. Then, in the spring of 2005, a 150bhp derivative of that TDI powerplant was introduced. An all-new Galaxy arrived in mid 2006, accompanied by its sportier sister vehicle the S-Max, to replace this model.
What You Get
Inside the heavily reworked post 2000 cabin, it's all much more luxurious - and very different to the utilitarian feel of the previous generation model. Beautifully textured soft plastics, subtle wood strips and flashes of silver trim combine to create one of the nicest Ford interiors seen at that stage - and certainly the most practical. To complement larger door pockets, two substantial stowage boxes were built into the dashboard in response to customers who wanted to be able to hide away the clutter after a weekend and reclaim their car as a business vehicle for the working week. Once you were behind the wheel there was never much wrong with the first model but, as we've suggested, this later version marched resolutely upmarket. The plusher feel was in keeping with Ford's stated aim at the time to steal customers from the executive saloon sector - although this never really materialised. The first thing you notice is the neat four-spoke steering wheel and the aluminium-look instrument surround. A 'Ka-style' analogue clock sits in the centre of the dash in traditional contrast to the gadgetry in the centre console that was redesigned to accommodate an optional satellite navigation system. Those used to VW and Audi products of a similar period will recognise most of the stalks and switchgear - which is no bad thing since nobody made them better. Ford's strengths lie in packaging (hence high equipment levels including air-conditioning, ABS and dual airbags) and tight pricing which has helped make the Galaxy a popular and good value used buy. The options list was vast, including everything from a fridge to a multi-media system capable of entertaining rear passengers with DVD video or computer games via colour screens mounted in the back of the front seat headrests, so you're likely to encounter some extremely well-equipped examples. The Galaxy seats seven people in good comfort (though a more spacious six-seater version was offered). The seats are supportive, although the rearmost row will prove a bit of a squeeze for larger adults, and the vehicle is easy to drive. Parking isn't as tricky as the Galaxy's size might lead you to believe with decent visibility and light steering while this MPV should prove no more expensive to run than an average large family hatch or estate.
What You Pay
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What to Look For
The Galaxy has a clean record so far as serious problems are concerned so you can buy with relative confidence. Although Galaxy interiors are well constructed, check for the usual damage wrought by children and negotiate hard.
(Estimated prices, based on a 2.3 LX (inc VAT) A clutch assembly is around £130, an exhaust system around £800 (incl. catalytic converter) and an exchange alternator around £320. Front brake pads are around £50, front shock absorbers are about £45 and rears just under £35.
On the Road
Those the have never driven a Galaxy before will be pleasantly surprised by its car-like qualities, the driving dynamics of this version were further refined by more responsive steering and slight suspension tweaks. Handling is exemplary, and the Galaxy doesn't roll, pitch or wallow like many of its MPV counterparts from the turn of the century. Nor do you need a period of acclimatisation before you can drive it quickly. There are three trim levels in the line-up: LX, Zetec and Ghia, the latter two including side airbags and a radar parking system that should avoid many a supermarket scrape. Opt for the 201bhp V6 flagship and you also get ESP (Electronic Stability Programme), a system that will over-ride both brake and throttle to keep you on the tarmac should you enter a corner too fast. Which is maybe just as well, given that this glorious light alloy powerplant is fast enough to make the Galaxy something of a wolf in sheep's clothing, with progress to 60mph in 9.9s seconds accompanied by a satisfying yet muted roar on the way to a maximum of around 135mph. On paper, the 115bhp turbo diesel version appears a lot slower (13.1s and 113mph) but in practice, due to its lighter weight and impressive through-the-gears pulling power, it should feel just as fast in real road terms. Plus here, you've can expect to travel almost twice as far on a tank of fuel (with an average consumption figure of well over 40mpg). The later 130 and 150 TDI engines are the ones to seek out if you can afford to, these feel genuinely quick and virtually rendered the V6 redundant towards the end of the Galaxy's life. 6-speed manual gearboxes were standard on the diesels and the V6 but not on the Ford 2.3. The 'SelectShift' Tiptronic auto (with the option of 'manual' up-and-down changes) was offered on this 2.3 and the V6.
The Galaxy was a deserved market leader. It fills a niche for somebody looking to transport a family in comfort but still wants a vehicle that can generate a little driving satisfaction. Newer MPVs my be bigger and cleverer, but none of the models from the Galaxy's day eclipsed its blend of all-round talents. Buyers should remember, however, that the same applies to the Galaxy's VW Sharan and the SEAT Alhambra sister vehicles so don't limit your search to Ford dealerships.