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Ford has played a clever hand in the large MPV sector. The mainstream family car market migrated toward smaller, more lifestyle-oriented cars such as Vauxhall Zafira and Renault Scenic. These are due for replacement later in the year — indeed, we got a first look at the new Shazza at Geneva last month see page But Ford has meanwhile moved on to a mid-life facelift for its Galaxy, with significant changes both inside the car and under the bonnet.
Ford has facelifted the Galaxy and S-Max simultaneously — and the changes are designed to give greater separation between the two models. Galaxy, on the other hand, is moving upscale, with chrome surrounds to the grille and headlamps and subtle horizontal chrome bars across the grille to denote the Titanium spec.
Inside, both rows of rear seats now fold flat and there are new interior colour trim options. This is combined with dark wood and piano black inserts and woven headliner to give a luxury interior vibe. Leather trim is standard on Titanium X trim level, and optional on Titanium. Satnav is state-of-the-art, with touch-screen widescreen display and high-resolution 3D views. Anything not to like inside the Galaxy?
Not a lot, really. The A pillar is intrusive, but you get used to it. The biggest changes are under the bonnet, where new Euro 5 2. On test in the manual version, the onboard trip computer reckoned we were doing Automatic transmission shaves a bit off the green figures — Ford claims The 6-speed manual transmission is nice and easy, but the auto is an immensely impressive set-up.
The suspension is a delight too, giving almost no pitching of the body under gearchange. It just underlines the importance of a really good, purpose-designed auto box at a time when some manufacturers are opting for the cheaper — and jerkier - alternative of an automated manual transmission.
The dual-clutch transmission gives seamless changes as it basically consists of two transmissions working in parallel, each with its own wet-clutch unit. Factor in nicely weighted steering, bags of mid-range engine torque and a very comfortable elevated seating position and the Galaxy is not a car that will leave your drivers complaining at the end of the day. Our test route took in some hilly terrain, and the Galaxy simply lugged its way up without need for frantic gear changing, the engine rarely needing to rev much above 2, rpm.
Safety enhancements include a radar-controlled Blind Spot warning system that spots a vehicle entering the defined blind spot zone and illuminates an LED indicator light on the corresponding side view mirror, providing the driver. The defined blind spot ranges from the side mirror to around 3m behind the vehicle, with a side range of about 3m. The system will automatically operate from speeds as low as 6mph - a much broader operational range than other comparable systems currently available on the market.
Using enhanced Cruise Control switches on the steering wheel, a driver can freely adjust his personal top speed limit, and when the Galaxy reaches this limit the engine management system intervenes to prevent further acceleration. This system specifically works without brake intervention, so it may be possible for the vehicle to exceed the chosen speed limit on a downhill road. In this case, the driver receives an immediate flashing speed indicator warning light in the centre display, combined with an audio warning.
And it is still possible for the driver to override a chosen speed limit for overtaking, by pressing the accelerator. Once the vehicle speed drops back under the chosen speed limit, the ASLD automatically re-activates. Flexibility in use has been improved by standard fold-flat seats, which means the second and third-row seats do not have to be removed from the car to free up additional luggage space.
The seats fold away individually to form a flat floor, giving up to 32 possible seating combinations. As a result three rows of seats come as standard. Indeed, Ford sees its main rival as the soon-come VW Sharan, which will offer sliding doors for the first time. Galaxy remains refined and practical, and all the improvements on this facelift are worthwhile, from subtle upgrades to exterior trim, better satnav, more flexible interior and, especially, cleaner, greener engines.
As a people-mover, we know how much legroom you get in the back, and now all the rear seats can fold into the floor, enabling swift changes from daytime work taking business execs to the airport, or evening jobs taking a group of six up to town for a night out.
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