But put the new Ford Galaxy and its smaller sibling the S-MAX side-by-side and all becomes clear. The Galaxy looks like a bona fide MPV, albeit a handsome one, and the S-MAX looks like its trendier brother with its sloping rear roof and sportier appearance.
Ford claims the S-MAX is the perfect answer to a rapidly diversifying MPV market where people require a roomy vehicle but not at the expense of a sporty drive.
However, those choosing a Galaxy need to carry seven adults in comfort with adequate boot space remaining for luggage.
The S-MAX, which can also carry seven people but is less roomy with a lower rear roofline, is likely to appeal to growing young families but may even prove a popular draw for childless couples, the company believes.
Manufacturer research has found that S-MAX buyers require ample space to ‘carry out their lifestyles’ but still want a vehicle with decent performance and a more dynamic look. In a nutshell, despite the sprouting of a grey hair or two they simply aren’t quite ready to make that quantum leap to a full-sized MPV.
Ideally, Ford bosses want to see the S-MAX parked outside homes in fashionable London boroughs like Islington and Notting Hill, taking the place currently occupied by, perhaps, an Audi A4.
In terms of sales, the manufacturer expects to sell 9,000 new Galaxys in a full year, with 80% finding their way on to fleets. Half of those fleet sales will be to user-choosers with Zetec and Ghia trim taking the lion’s share of the sales, with the entry-level LX accounting for the remainder.
Sales of the S-MAX are expected to be between 7,000 and 8,000 units in a full year, with fleets accounting for 70%. Again, user-choosers are expected to make up more than half of fleet sales.
A spokesman said: ‘The S-MAX has a clean, technological feel. Buyers want versatility and they want a larger vehicle so they can carry out their lifestyles.’
Both vehicles share Ford’s FoldFlatSystem (FFS) which enables any seat in the middle and rear row to be folded flat to create a flat floor for luggage. This is done by pulling a couple of straps and makes having to take seats out and store them somewhere a thing of the past.
The front and middle-row seats can also slide forward and backwards to create extra space or legroom and the middle row seats can also recline for added comfort.
In the S-MAX, boot space is 285 litres with the rearmost seats in place and increases to 2,000 litres with them folded down. So plenty of room then, for all those lifestyle items that Ford thinks its customers will have, such as surfboards and the like.
There’s much more boot space in the Galaxy, as you’d expect from its more family-focused role. Standard luggage capacity is 435 litres, increasing to 2,325 litres with the two rear rows of seats folded flat.
It also leads its smaller sibling on cubby holes and storage areas, with 31 available in the Galaxy compared to 26 in the S-MAX.
The S-MAX comes with the 2.5-litre turbocharged five-cylinder engine as used in the Focus ST although it’s slightly downtuned to 220bhp from 225. There is also a 143bhp 2.0-litre petrol unit and a choice of 1.8-litre (125bhp) and 2.0-litre (140bhp) TDCi diesels.
The Galaxy, which is now a sole Ford product rather than the previous version which also appeared under the guise of the Volkswagen Sharan and SEAT Alhambra, gets a choice of a 2.0-litre 145bhp petrol engine or the 1.8-litre TDCi in either 100bhp or 125bhp form, and the 2.0-litre TDCi 140.
Behind the wheel
DESPITE its sporty credentials, it would be misleading to suggest that the S-MAX offers anywhere near the drive of your life.
But Ford has done a great job on the chassis and suspension, as demonstrated on the country roads around Shropshire where the UK launch was staged. The S-MAX corners neatly, there’s a lack of body roll and the ride is comfortable.
The S-MAX and Galaxy offer a decent amount of interior space but the S-MAX seating layout is described as 5+2, meaning the rear two seats are fine for adults on short journeys but a lack of headroom may grate on longer trips.
Both have light and airy interiors, good levels of comfort and a neat dashboard.
The engine range is the same for both vehicles, although the S-MAX also comes with the choice of a 2.5-litre petrol unit and the Galaxy gets a lowered-powered 1.8-litre 100bhp diesel variant.
The 1.8-litre 123bhp diesel variant crys out for a sixth gear at cruising speed and was quite noisy at start-up but its on-the-road characteristics weren’t vastly different to those of the bigger 2.0-litre diesel, which was refined and well-matched to its standard six-speed gearbox.
BOTH the Galaxy and S-MAX are well priced, offer acres of space and look great. While the S-MAX has the better driving experience, the Galaxy offers more room and comfort. It seems the choice will come down to what lifestyle you’ve got.
|Model:||1.8 TDCi 100||1.8 TDCi 125||2.0 TDCi||2.0||2.5|
|Max power (bhp/rpm):||100/3,850||125/3,850||140/4,000||145/6,000||220/5,000|
|Max torque (lb-ft/rpm):||206/1,800||236/1,750||236/1,750||140/4,500||236/1,500|
|Max speed (mph):||106||116||122||122||143|
|Fuel consumption (mpg):||44.8||45.5||44.1||34.8||30.0|
|CO2 emissions (g/km):||166||164||169||194||224|