As the big cheese amongst full-sized MPVs, the Ford Galaxy could have rested on its laurels. After all, with sales far in excess of any other big people carrier, the Galaxy didn’t need a major revision. It got one nevertheless, and the post 2000 model year Galaxy is a vast improvement in almost every respect. Track down a decent used model and you’ll be treated to the most car-like drive of all full sized MPVs as well as some very neat styling and a proven range of engines. No wonder they’re so valued in the used car trade.

The Galaxy sprang from the joint development between Ford and Volkswagen ultimately responsible for the Galaxy, VW Sharan and SEAT Alhambra. Together, Ford and VW jointly funded the design programme and built a new factory in Portugal to handle production. Basically, Ford’s Galaxy and VW’s Sharan share the same 2.8-litre V6 engine (the VR6 unit used in the top VW Golf) and the 90bhp and 115bhp 1.9-litre turbo diesels (also VW-sourced). Ford also has a 2.3-litre-engined option from the Scorpio. The range was substantially revised in the summer of 2000, with new styling, interior trim and dashboard. An old 2.0-litre engine was deleted as was the slow-selling 4×4 V6. Ford’s 2.3 now powered the entry-level models plus there was a revised 201bhp 2.8-litre V6. In Spring 2003 the Galaxy range was revised again, with the addition of a TDI130 version. Inside the heavily reworked post 2000 cabin, it’s all much more luxurious – and very different to the utilitarian feel of the old model. Beautifully textured soft plastics, subtle wood strips and flashes of silver trim combine to create one of the nicest Ford interiors we’ve seen – and certainly the most practical. To complement larger door pockets, two substantial stowage boxes have been built into the dashboard in response to customers who wanted to be able to hide away clutter after a weekend and reclaim their car as a business vehicle for the working week. Once you were behind the wheel there was never much wrong with the first model but, as we’ve suggested, this newest versions march resolutely upmarket, in keeping with Ford’s stated aim to steal customers from the executive saloon sector. The first thing you notice is the redesigned four-spoke steering wheel and the aluminium-look instrument surround. A ‘Ka-style’ analogue clock sits in the centre of the dash in traditional contrast to the high gadgetry in the centre console, redesigned to accommodate an optional satellite navigation system. Those used to VW and Audi products will recognise most of the stalks and switchgear – which is no bad thing since nobody makes them better. Ford’s strengths lie in packaging (hence high equipment levels including air conditioning, ABS and dual airbags) and tight pricing (pitched much as before, between £18,245 to £24,245). The options list is now vast including everything from a fridge to a multi-media system capable of entertaining rear passengers with DVD video or computer games via colour screens mounted in the back of the front seat headrests. Befitting its role as large MPV market leader, the Galaxy seats seven people in even greater comfort (though you can opt for a six-seater version). The redesigned seats are welcome and it continues to be easy to drive, simple to park and no more expensive to run than an average large family hatch or estate.

Prices start from around £10,300 for a 2000 W plate 2.3-litre LX, with a Zetec trim priced at around £10,800. A Ghia model should retail at around £11,400, again on the 2000 W plate. Trade up to a 2.8-litre V6 Ghia and you’ll need £12,000 for a 2000 W plated car. Diesel buyers get the choice of the 90 or 115bhp engines. The 90bhp LX starts at £11,300 whilst its more powerful 115bhp starts at £11,900. No significant faults have yet to emerge. Although Galaxy interiors are well constructed, check for the usual damage wrought by children and negotiate hard. The Galaxy is a deserved market leader. It fills a niche for somebody looking to transport a family in comfort but still wants a vehicle that can put generate a little driving satisfaction. Newer MPVs my be bigger, some may even be a little cleverer, but none so far has eclipsed the Galaxy for a blend of all-round talents. Still the one.

(Estimated prices, based on a 2.3 LX (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.

Those the have never driven a Galaxy before will be pleasantly surprised by its car-like qualities, further refined with more responsive steering and slight suspension tweaks. Handling is exemplary, and the Galaxy doesn’t roll, pitch or wallow like many of its MPV counterparts. Nor do you need a period of acclimatisation before you can drive it quickly. There are three trim levels in the line-up: LX, Zetec and Ghia, the latter two including side airbags and a radar parking system that should avoid many a supermarket scrape. Opt for the latest 201bhp V6 flagship and you also get ESP (Electronic Stability Programme), a system that will over-ride both brake and throttle to keep you on the tarmac should you enter a corner too fast. Which is maybe just as well, given that this glorious light alloy powerplant is fast enough to make the Ford Galaxy something of a wolf in sheep’s clothing, with progress to 60mph in 9.9s seconds accompanied by a satisfying yet muted roar on the way to a maximum of around 135mph. On paper, the 115bhp turbo diesel version appears a lot slower (13.1s and 113mph) but in practice, due to its lighter weight and impressive through-the-gears pulling power, it should feel just as fast in real road terms. Quick enough certainly to justify specifying ESP as an option. Plus here, you’ve can expect to travel almost twice as far on a tank of fuel (with an average consumption figure of well over 40mpg). New 6-speed manual gearboxes are standard on both diesels and the V6 but not on the Ford 2.3. The ‘SelectShift’ Tiptronic auto (with the option of ‘manual’ up-and-down changes) comes on this 2.3 and the V6.

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