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While the French car maker Renault can lay some claim to establishing the contemporary large MPV class with its original Espace, it is Ford that has gone on to define it with the Ford Galaxy.

Such is the Galaxy’s ubiquity that it has bridged the divide between commercial and domestic use better than any other seven-seat MPV, and is as likely to be seen unloading holidaymakers and suitcases at an airport terminal as it is disgorging children and lunchboxes at the school gates. 

The third-generation Galaxy was with us largely unchanged, save for evolving trim and engine options, since 2006. So there’s nothing particularly groundbreaking about fourth generations roomy cabin, but with seven seats that slide and fold individually (and without undue effort), the Galaxy’s airy interior is highly flexible. With all seats in the upright position boot space is limited to a not insignificant 308 litres, although unlike its predecessor there is 20-litres lurking under the boot floor, but this expands to a total of 2325 litres with all but the front two the seats folded, spread over what amounts to a 2.1-metre-long load area. 

The 2015 relaunch of the Galaxy saw Ford instill its design language on the large MPV as it followed the second generation S-Max, while underneath the bodywork the Galaxy remains much the same as before. It uses the same C/D global platform that underpins the Mondeo, Seat Alhambra and the Volkswagen Sharan, while it uses the same multi-link suspension set-up found on the latest gen S-Max as Ford aims to give the Galaxy new levels of comfort and refinement.  

The driving position and cockpit ergonomics are hard to fault, with the driver getting an upright seating position that allows clear all-round visibility. Ford resculpted the centre console during the most recent facelift to incorporate an integrated armrest and even more storage space than most families could find use for.

Trim levels follow Ford’s current Zetec/Titanium/Titanium X convention. The entry-level Zetec models come very well-equipped unlike the last gen Galaxy, with 17in alloys, front foglights, electrically heated and folding door mirrors, dual exhaust system and parking sensors all included as standard, while inside there is Ford's Sync 3 infotainment system complete with an 8in touchscreen display, DAB radio, Bluetooth and USB connectivity, along with keyless entry, dual-zone climate control and Ford's Quickclear windscreen.

The mid-range Titanium trim equips the Galaxy with more chrome, LED day-running-lights, adaptive headlights, automatic wipers and lights, a 10.1in touchscreen infotainment system, sat nav, cruise control and lane assist as standard. The range-topping Titanium X comes with a sliding panoramic sunroof, a powered tailgate, a rear-view camera, leather upholstery, and heated and electrically adjustable front seats.  

Engine options amount to a total of six, including a 1.5-litre and a 2.0-litre turbocharged petrol Ecoboosts, and variants of Ford's 2.0-litre TDCi, with a mildly bewildering combination of power output and gearbox options to choose from depending on your preferred trim level. 

Of note is the new 1.5-litre Ecoboost, which isn’t short of power or torque with 158bhp and 177lb ft on tap. If the Galaxy is to be used as Ford intended – as an efficient transporter of sprawling families and swallower of luggage – then wisdom suggests a smaller-capacity petrol unit isn’t best suited to the task, but for short-journey urban use it might make a convincing case for itself over a diesel that would otherwise need regular long runs to keep its particulate filter breathing freely. 

The flagship 2.0-litre diesel offers good performance, but for most the economy penalty will prove unpopular. For regular large loads and longer journeys, however, a diesel is a more sensible option, with the 178bhp 2.0-litre TDCi offering the best compromise of power and economy. Dynamically the Galaxy is terrific, with precise steering and body control that delivers a relatively involving drive that makes you forget you’re piloting a big, flat-sided box. It rides exceptionally well, too.  

The Galaxy’s biggest mainstream rivals are the Volkswagen Sharan and Seat Alhambra, with which the first and second generation Galaxy shared much of its mechanical componentry. Both the Seat and VW offer great refinement and build quality, and much the same as the Galaxy in terms of seating and practicalities, but they lag behind the Ford in terms of dynamic appeal.

But in terms of driver engagement the Galaxy’s biggest rival is the almost as large, almost as practical and even better to drive S-Max. The S-Max shares not only the Galaxy’s great interior ergonomics, equipment levels and engine range, but it also benefits from better residual values. 

However, if you can’t live without the extra seats-up luggage space and rear headroom, and you’re prepared to sacrifice a little in the way of dynamic involvement for a more relaxing ride and the ability to haul a greater all-up load, then only a Galaxy will do. 

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