First drive: Ford Galaxy

Ford Galaxy

British car buyers may have fallen in love with crossovers and other high-riding 'lifestyle' vehicles, but Ford is hoping that its all-new third generation Galaxy people carrier will appeal to those who put function over form. AOL Cars headed to the leafy surrounds of the South Downs to check it out.
What is it?

The Galaxy is Ford's largest people carrier, which has been restyled with the brand's new 'face', including a new grille and slimmer headlamps. The Blue Oval has focused its changes on the Galaxy's key attributes of functionality and practicality, so there's a little more space, a third row of seats with room for adults, and a cabin chock-full of clever storage cubbies. The interior is also a step up on the previous model in terms of quality, with bang-up-to-date styling and an upmarket ambience.

What's under the bonnet?

Nearly all Galaxys will be sold with a 2.0-litre turbo diesel under the bonnet, which is available in 118bhp, 148bhp, 178bhp and 207bhp states of tune. Petrol power is provided courtesy of Ford's latest 1.5-litre and 2.0-litre (from the Focus ST) Ecoboost motors, rated at 158bhp and 237bhp respectively.

The 178bhp diesel tested here offers reasonable performance, getting from 0-62mph in 9.8 seconds, and while it's no fireball, it's more than adequate at getting this big people carrier up to speed. It comes mated to a six-speed manual gearbox as standard, but Ford's 'Powershift' automatic is worth consideration, being both smooth and responsive.

What's the spec like?

The Galaxy is offered in three trim levels: Zetec, Titanium and Titanium X, with even entry level models being equipped with convenient kit like all-round parking sensors, dual-zone air conditioning and Ford's latest SYNC 2 touchscreen media system. Buyers will also get the brand's new MyKey technology, which allows owners to program a second key that will not allow the car to exceed a pre-set speed limit, amongst other parameters – ideal if you've got teenage children who may be taking the keys.

Step up to mid range Titanium spec and you'll get sat nav with full European mapping, tinted rear windows, automatic headlights, keyless entry, cruise control and chrome exterior trim. Titanium X models, meanwhile, offer a plethora of luxury gadgets, including heated front seats, a full-length panoramic sunroof and a reversing camera.

Buyers will also have the chance to specify their Galaxy with a raft of electronic safety kit, including blind spot monitoring and Active City Stop, which automatically applies the brakes to mitigate low speed collisions.

First drive: Ford Galaxy
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First drive: Ford Galaxy

Any rivals?

Despite the rise of seven-seater SUVs, there are still plenty of MPVs to choose from. High up on anyone's shopping list should be the Seat Alhambra, for its solid build quality, cavernous interior and practical, sliding rear doors. Those looking to make a style statement should consider the Citroen C4 Grand Picasso, which offers similar levels of practicality, wrapped up in a more overtly stylish package. The French car is packed with tech and in its cleanest form, beats the Ford on emissions and fuel economy.

What's it like to drive?

Ford's knack of creating family cars that engage keen drivers is legendary, and this magic has not been lost on the new Galaxy. For a car that will mostly be used as an airport taxi or school run shuttle, it is remarkably wieldy on a country road, with positive, accurate steering. However, being so large and tall, there is some body roll in the bends, and those looking for a more involving people carrier should opt for the smaller Ford S-Max.

On a cruise, though, the cabin is incredibly refined, with engine and wind noise well subdued. The pliant ride aids this sense of tranquility, soaking up the bumps nicely and keeping check of the car's mass. We had no complaints of the traction and grip served up by the standard front-wheel-drive car, but for ultimate sure-footedness four-wheel-drive is available on selected models.

The AOL Cars verdict

The new Ford Galaxy is as practical as you could ask for from a family car, and has received a welcome dose of style both inside and out. That it serves up at least a degree of driver enjoyment means it's easily recommended in this class, though you'll really needed the extra space over the smaller S-Max, which is ultimately more fun to drive, as well as being cheaper to buy.

The knowledge

Model: Ford Galaxy 180PS 2.0 TDCi Titanium
Price: £30,795
Engine: 2.0-litre, four-cylinder, turbocharged, diesel
Power: 178bhp 400Nm
Max speed: 129mph
0-62mph: 9.8 seconds
MPG: 56.5mpg (combined)
Emissions: 129g/km CO2
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