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I liked our last Ford Galaxy. It had a lovely 2.8 litre V6 petrol engine which was smooth, powerful and sounded great, although the average fuel consumption of about 24mpg wasnít a plus point. Unfortunately, once it had covered 80,000 miles it seemed to embark on a programme of self-destruction. It never ground to a complete halt but developed several faults in fairly quick succession, culminating in the death of the air conditioning part of the climate control system. The Galaxy is like a mobile greenhouse and really needs air conditioning, so as a new unit would have cost almost as much as the car was worth my wife and I reluctantly felt the time had come to change it.
Being the owners of three fast-growing daughters, two dogs and a Big Luggage habit whenever we go away, we decided to get another people carrier. We narrowed the choice down to a Renault Espace, a Citroen Grand Picasso, a Citroen C8 or another Galaxy. The Picasso was out fairly quickly, as although theyíre supposed to be good there was an intangible something about it that we didnít like and it felt a bit poky compared to a full-sized people carrier. We had a test drive in an Espace, which was great for half a mile or so until the demonstration car died a sudden and thorough death. I had already been wary of the Espace from what Iíd heard about its reliability record and having seen it so effectively demonstrated we werenít going to risk our money by buying one.
That left the Galaxy and the Citroen C8. You can probably guess which one we went for even though Mrs B. and I both liked the C8, particularly as we found it very comfortable. Weíd also spoken to someone whoíd owned one for a couple of years and was really pleased with it. We even test-drove one from a local garage and still liked it. However, all the many reviews I read in magazines and on car websites said that the Galaxy was a much better vehicle so we duly headed off to our local Ford dealer to try one.
Although I hate the sound of diesel engines I was resigned to getting a car that had one, as again all the information Iíd read said that the 2 litre TDCi was the best engine in the Galaxy range. Like all diesels, the one we tried sounded like an angry bag of spanners but I was prepared to get used to it. The Galaxy didnít seem quite as comfortable as the C8 but I was sure weíd get used to that too. On the basis of a 15 minute test drive it seemed OK, but mainly because of the reviews Iíd read we decided to buy it.
The salesman included a Packard Bell satellite navigation unit in the deal, which seemed nice of him except that weíve never managed to make it show any country except Germany. He also gave Mrs B. a rather shop-soiled bunch of flowers which lasted about a day when we got them home. I wonder if the Citroen salesman would have come up with anything better.
The Galaxy is a seven-seat people carrier or MPV (multi-purpose vehicle), but Iíll stick to calling it a car, with a row of three seats in the middle. The model we bought was a 2007 2.0 TDCi Zetec, which is the middle of the three available trim levels, LX (now called Edge) being the base model and Ghia the posh one.
We bought the car over a year ago and I still havenít quite comes to terms with the sound of the engine, but am at least used to the mild turbo lag. One of the best things about our last Galaxy was the consistent power delivery, but in our early days of owning the new one Mrs B. and I were both caught out by the delay between putting your foot down and anything much happening, especially when pulling out of junctions into tight gaps in traffic. We would therefore overcompensate with the throttle, at which point the car would suddenly come to life and almost shoot off into the traffic on the other side of the road.
As well making the usual horrible diesel sound the engine is quite noisy and not very smooth, but on the positive side itís powerful enough to cope even when all seven seats are occupied by adults. Itís also fairly economical for the size of vehicle and averages in the early 40s mpg. The fuel tank is big enough to give it a useful range of between 500 and 600 miles, depending on the type of journeys youíre doing. When we first got the car I was worried that from force of habit I would fill it with unleaded petrol rather than diesel, but the Galaxy is fitted with a cunning anti-idiot device in the form of a large sticker on the fuel filler cap marked ďDIESEL.Ē Itís worked so far.
The handling is perfectly adequate but nothing to get excited about. Then again, the car isnít designed to drive like a Ferrari. The brakes are good and fitted with an anti-lock system as standard. The Galaxy also has traction control, but never having flung it around Iíve never been aware of the system working. One interesting point is that thereís a button on the dash to switch it off. Why? Do some owners overlook the fact that theyíre essentially driving a mini-bus and head off on manic track days, trying for Top Gear-style power slides? Good luck to them if they do.
The gearbox has six speeds and is reasonably smooth but can be a bit clunky when cold. Itís also quite easy to engage third gear rather than fifth, but luckily the engine is fairly flexible and hasnít exploded so far when Iíve made that mistake. The angry spanners under the bonnet get even crosser though.
As you would expect in a car of this type the suspension is set up to cope with the weight of seven adults, so when the car is lightly loaded itís quite bouncy on bumpy roads, especially if thereís only one person in it. Logically enough, the more passengers itís carrying the smoother it becomes.
The Galaxyís interior is quite a nice place to be although I donít find the seats very comfortable. They arenít especially supportive and you kind of sit on them rather than in them. Thereís plenty of space in all directions though, except in the two rearmost seats which are a bit short of legroom for adults on a long journey.
The Zetec model has aluminium-look shiny stuff on part of the dashboard, which I doubt really is aluminium but at least looks better than the Ghia modelís artificial ďwood.Ē The controls are well laid out and the instruments are clear but if you move the very adjustable steering wheel to the wrong place it can partly obscure some of the dials.
In the middle of the main dial cluster is an LED computer readout which tells you which radio station youíre listening to and a choice of other information, including outside temperature and estimated distance until the car needs refuelling. Another option is average fuel consumption and until I changed job recently I was slightly obsessed with this on my 50 mile commute to work. Itís a useful way to improve the smoothness of your driving and also clearly shows how much difference speed makes to fuel usage. The ultimate goal was to average at least 50mpg for the journey, which I managed if the traffic was slowish but moving well but was a struggle otherwise.
One of the most jabbed buttons in our car is the one to switch off the parking sensors. These come as standard on the Zetec model and while some people probably think theyíre a boon I personally feel theyíre the devilís work. I donít like beeping things at the best of times and am perfectly capable of looking in the mirrors often enough to see when Iím going to hit something.
It also doesnít help that the parking sensor goes into panic mode in the form of a continuous note rather than a beep well before you reach an obstacle. In fact the sensor even seems to have taken a dislike to our house, not that we park especially close to it, so every time you turn on the ignition the beeping starts in earnest. The first thing I do on starting the car is switch the sensors off, but as soon as you engage reverse the blasted things automatically come back on again. Sometimes the colour of the air inside the car comes close to matching the blue paint on its outside.
The standard radio/CD player has good radio reception and reasonable sound quality, but can only take one CD at a time which seems a bit passť these days. I believe you can also connect your MP3 player to it but Iíve only recently progressed from cassettes to CDs so canít comment on that aspect. Give me about three years.
The Galaxy has climate control as standard which works well. Sadly itís lost the comedy turn from our old Galaxy, whereby when you first started the car on a hot day the air conditioning went bonkers and blew a howling gale until it had achieved the required temperature. In this Galaxy it just blows out a sensible amount of very cold air until the interior cools down. Youíre also supposed to be able to adjust the temperature on each side of the car, but it doesnít seem to work all that well to me. Mrs B. generally likes to be hotter than I do so cranks up her side of the car in comparison to mine, but I find myself getting very warm. The people in the middle and rear sets of seats have to put up with the temperature selected by those in the front, as there is no adjustment further back.
The interior has lots of storage space include a couple of underfloor compartments. There are also overhead storage compartments in the roof, but we rarely use them as anything you put in there tends to rattle around. However you could put spare jumpers and the like up there without having that problem.
One of the ways in which this Galaxy does score over the previous one is that it has proper belts for all three seats in the middle row, whereas the old car only had a lap belt for the middle one. This means we can sit all three daughters in a row and have the two rearmost seats down most of the time, giving a large luggage area.
Something that surprised me is that the upholstery on the seats stains quite easily. As the Galaxy is obviously a family car Iíd expected the material to be pretty resistant to the inevitable spillages that children inflict on it, but not so. Thereís even a mark where I spilled a bit of water on one of the seats.
In the same vein, not long after we got the car I took several bags of grass cuttings to the local tip. Some of them had been sitting in the garden for several weeks and the contents had started to decompose, but although I thought Iíd covered the boot thoroughly with plastic sheets one of the bags leaked, so a bit of foul-smelling grass ďjuiceĒ somehow worked its way through the plastic and onto the floor. Despite my spending most of a morning using everything I could think of to try and clean the carpet it retained a faint but unpleasant smell for months. Again, in a car like this Iíd expect the floor covering to be highly resistant to spillages and easy to clean.
Something I didnít pay as much attention to as I should have when we first looked at the car was the way in which the five rear seats fold down. Iíd assumed they would lie completely flat to give an uninterrupted load surface and didnít look very closely when the salesman demonstrated them. In fact there are lots of gaps round the edges of the seats when theyíre folded down, which things can easily fall through. The Citroen C8 has the same system as the old Galaxy, where the seats donít fold flat but can be removed altogether to turn the car into a van with a large, properly flat load area. Although getting the seats in and out and storing them was a pain, on balance I preferred that system.
Outside the Galaxy itís fairly obvious that the body was designed to take larger wheels than the standard ones fitted to our car. Presumably they use the same mould to make the bodyshell for all the model variants, but the result is that the wheels on ours look too small.
Despite the large boot area, due to the aforementioned Big Luggage habit of the B. family and the fact we now have the two dogs I had to invest in a roof box. Iím not great friends with anything approximating to DIY so setting the thing up and putting it on for the first time was not a pleasant experience, as it involved far too many confusing diagrams and fiddly things to tighten. At one point I had to steal a mirror from one of my daughtersí Polly Pocket doll sets so I could see which screw to adjust. Itís a long story.
Getting the roof box on and off the Galaxy is a two person and stepladder job, as the box itself is quite heavy and the car is high. We also have to cover the roof with old blankets to avoid scratching it.
So far the Galaxy has been completely reliable from a mechanical point of view, although with remarkable timing one of the front sidelight bulbs blew just after its guarantee had run out. I went to Halfords to buy a new one and, in view of their adverts stating that they can also fit the things they sell, asked them to install it. However, as soon as he saw the car the nominated mechanic went into stereotypical pursed lips and ďdunno-about-that-guvnorĒ mode, quickly deciding that he couldnít do it as these Ďere new fangled Galaxies donít make that kind of thing easy.
Having read how to fit a new bulb in the instruction manual I couldnít disagree with him, but then again I donít pretend to be a mechanic. It seems he was right though, as I took the car into my local garage who are usually very good and it took them a long time to replace the bulb, as the whole front bumper unit has to be removed. The eventual cost was £60, all of which was labour as I gave them the bulb Iíd bought from Halfords. At least they had the grace to be very apologetic for having to charge so much. That problem aside, the cost of the one service the car has had so far was reasonable at just over £200 at a main dealer.
I donít have any major complaints about the Galaxy but somehow Iíve never warmed to it. Itís better than our last one in nearly every way and certainly much cheaper to run, but as youíve probably gathered I still preferred the old car.
The main tangible reasons that I donít like the new one are the engine, particularly the quality and quantity of noise it makes and the turbo lag, plus the fact that I donít find the seats very comfortable. Overall though I just donít like the feel of the car, whereas I did like the feel of the C8 so with hindsight I think we should have gone for one of those instead. Mrs B. thinks the same way, so perhaps the moral of the story for next time is to go for what feels right to us and ignore what we read anywhere else. Personally Iíve always felt that I would suit a Maserati and Iím sure we could work round any minor issues of practicality. I wonder how easy it is to fit a roof box onto a Maserati GranTurismo?
Excellent, well balanced review. All I would need to know and good to know about the turbo lag x
GodfatherOfSoul 17.10.2012 20:50
Brilliantly reviewed. I'm a bit OCD when it comes to car noises so I doubt I could tolerate an angry bag of spanners under the bonnet. I had to replace a windscreen wiper once because it was 'too squeaky' but I couldn't for the life of me manage to fit it myself. I managed to get it 'pretty much' fitted after about 30 minutes but it annoyingly (although rather comically) flew off immediately when I tested the wipers. I swallowed my pride and took it to Halford's where the bloke was quite the opposite to the one you encountered - he fitted in about 3 seconds with a concerned look on his face at why I couldn't manage it myself. Not that I cared, my pride was already severely dented.