BY ANDY ENRIGHT
Sometimes nothing other than a proper large MPV will do. Ford's original Galaxy used to be a large MPV and then all of a sudden it wasn't. No, it didn't shrink in a hot wash or anything like that: rather the market changed and suddenly people wanted bigger and better. Stuck in a relationship with Volkswagen and SEAT, Ford's hands were tied. With the 2006 model year Galaxy, the gloves came off and Ford showed what its considerable R&D budget was capable of when given free rein. The Galaxy has won over even the most curmudgeonly reviewers and the public have taken to it as well. Here's what to look for when buying used.
Models Covered: five-door MPV - 2006 to date (2.0, 2.5 petrol, 1.8, 2.0, 2.2 diesel [LX, Zetec, Ghia] )
In developing the S-MAX and MK3 Galaxy twins, Ford decided that it needed a greater element of control over the build of its large MPVs than it enjoyed with the previous generation Galaxy. This was built alongside Volkswagen and SEAT products in the Autoeuropa factory in Palmela, Portugal and the mix of Volkswagen and Ford parts was never a happy one, the old Galaxy being plagued by reliability issues that gradually got ironed out as it was developed. With the MK3 '06 model year Galaxy, Ford took control, moving production to the Genk plant in Belgium and build quality has tightened considerably as a result. As well as being a successful car, the Galaxy is a smart one, sharing most of its DNA with the S-MAX and riding on what is effectively a Mondeo chassis. This means that it drives not unlike a rather taller Mondeo estate which, if you've never had the chance to get behind the wheel of one, is high praise indeed. The public certainly thought so and embraced the Galaxy as the default choice among larger MPVs. In May 2007, Ford added the 130bhp TDCi 2.0-litre diesel engine to the Galaxy line up for Durashift automatic models. ESP stability control was also fitted across the range, while the Ghia model received an improved Convers+ driver control system. In mid-2008, flexifuel and 2.2-litre TDCi models were added to the range along with equipment upgrades.
What You Get
Like the S-MAX, this Galaxy's design marked a departure from Ford's previous 'New Edge' styling theme which, it appears, is now old hat. Instead, Ford's later direction was dubbed 'kinetic design' and followed the lead of their iosis concept car. Whereas New Edge was all about sharp edges, rakish planes and boldly intersecting arcs, kinetic design was more organic in its look, and featured more voluptuous, muscular curves and sporty, dynamic stances. That said, you won't need to clock the badge on the back of the Galaxy to figure out what it is. The front end of the car is immediately recognisable as a Galaxy but put the old and new cars side by side and there is, in fact, very little commonality. The face of the Galaxy also looks broadly similar to that of the S-MAX, due to the fact that the head lights and bonnet are the only body parts the two cars share. The big change with the Galaxy's styling over its predecessor comes in the glasshouse. The old car featured a low, horizontal waistline whereas the latest car wears its belt a little higher and features a far more rakish wedge shape. You'd even go as far as to say this Galaxy is a bit of a looker. Move round to the rear end and the good news continues. Big tail lamp pods nuzzle up against the black surround of the rear window glass and the low rear valance gives the Galaxy a dynamic 'sucked to the tarmac' sort of look. Were the S-MAX not to exist, it would be easy to imagine a seriously sporting version of the Galaxy. That the S-MAX is even better looking and more dynamic means that it gets the big horsepower and the sexy accessories. The Galaxy isn't without its appeal though. Let's get to the heart of any MPV style vehicle - the seats. Ford's designers appear to have become fed up with Vauxhall taking all the plaudits for clever seating solutions and have developed a system of their own. FFS (Ford FoldFlatSystem before you attribute a baser meaning to that acronym) allows 32 different seating permutations. The second and third rows of seats all fold flat to form a genuinely huge load floor which measures 2.0 by 1.15 metres - that's about as big as a double bed.
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. The silver-coated plastics can scratch easily so make sure the previous owner wasn't too big on the Jimmy Savile jingle-jangle. Mechanically, the Galaxy is tough but clutches can take a beating in lower-powered versions, especially if you can spot evidence of a tow bar being fitted. Front tyre wear is also an issue with the weighty diesel engines. Turn the engine on and leave on idle. If the engine doesn't run smoothly or won't start there is most likely a problem with the Engine Control Unit. If you find this fault, negotiate around £500 discount as you will need to replace the ECU.
(Estimated prices, based on a 2.0LX (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
Ford offers a 145PS 2.0-litre Duratec petrol engine and a quartet of diesels. The entry-level diesel is the 100PS Duratorq TDCi 1.8 and there's also a peppier 125PS version of this powerplant on offer. Those looking for the sort of torque that makes short work of hauling seven people up a motorway incline will prefer the 130 or 140PS 2.0-litre Duratorq TDCi units, engines that delivers a seamless surge of power - 340Nm in the case of the 140PS powerplant we'd choose. With a six-speed manual transmission as standard, this engine offers a decent compromise between power and economy. An interesting option available to Galaxy buyers is an active suspension system. Continuously Controlled Damping (CCD) provides damper valve control every two tenths of a second in order to guarantee the best balance between comfort and road contact. Heave, roll and pitch of the Galaxy are controlled by the system, improving body control and thus comfort. This gives the Galaxy additional agility and sure-footedness, especially when the vehicle is heavily loaded. Safety is one area in which the Galaxy excels. An ultra-rigid passenger cell is a good start point, but there's also a recently-developed Interactive Vehicle Dynamics Control (IVDC) system that controls all of the other safety systems in a cohesive manner. When those include that Continuously Controlled Damping (CDDC), Electronic Stability Program (ESP), Adaptive Cruise Control (ACC) with Forward Alert (FA) and Collision Mitigation By Braking, that's quite some integration task. Factor in the anti-lock braking system, Hill Launch Assist (HLA) and a Tyre Pressure Monitoring System and you have a wide array of available safety functions that were easily enough to net the Galaxy a coveted five-star EuroNCAP safety score.
There aren't too many big MPVs you'd look forward to driving but the Galaxy is part of a select group. Go for a diesel and negotiate hard on option packs.