Head to head: Ford S-Max v Ford Galaxy
Both have seven seats, excellent cabins, clever storage and enormous space, but which is the best? Philip Hedderman looks at one of the biggest MPV conundrums
It’s one of the most frequently asked questions of motoring hacks, day in day out – which is better?
To some, it’s a first world problem, but to anyone who genuinely needs a seven-seat vehicle it can be a real headache.
That’s compounded when you’re faced with two of the best that money can buy and are separated by a smidgen of space here or a few quid there.
First up is the mighty S-MAX which Ford like to call their Sports Activity Vehicle and not an MPV. A name well deserved considering it’s the only seven-seater on the market with the drive dynamic of a hot hatch.
It looks great too with its coupe-like silhouette, sleek headlights and sharp creases up the flanks which rest above the gill vents at the tip of the more sculpted front wheel arches.
The second generation also inherits the Aston Martin-like grille to give it a more up-market feel while the rear is treated to tidier light clusters and a more rounded tailgate (electronic of course).
Inside though is where the real magic begins to unfold with a cabin worthy of a German badge. High quality soft touch surfaces at every fingertip are mixed beautifully with leather and polished aluminium.
It’s loaded with technology too including Intelligent Speed Limiter (keeps the car at legal limits), Traffic Sign Recognition and SYNC infotainment system, although the absence of the signature jumbo jet-style handbrake was a bit of a disappointment.
But space is the name of the game in this market and being slighter longer and wider than it’s predecessor, the new model has upped the stakes on versatility and practicality with no fewer than 32 seating and load-space combinations, as well as segment-first Easy-Fold second and third row seats (which all come with cup holders).
Even with all the seats in use the S-MAX still has 285 litres of space — enough for a couple of buggies and the shopping. Drop the last row and the boot expands to 965 litres and a Transit van-like 2,025 litres with all rows folded flat.
Offered in two trims Zetec and Titanium, standard kit includes 17” alloys; fog lights, day time running lights, Quickclear windscreen, SYNC, front/rear parking sensors, leather steering wheel, dual zone air con, keyless start, auto stop/start and Isofix on all second-row seats.
You can choose either a 2.0 litre TDCi 120, 150 (AWD option) and 180PS units or the new fuel efficient 1.5 litre 160PS EcoBoost petrol engine.
All options covered there but if space and comfort — especially on long journeys — is your priority then the Galaxy is the king of the people carriers.
Firstly the third row of seats are the real deal and unlike the S-MAX and all its rivals, are big enough for adults (not just small children).
Secondly all three pews in the second row tilt and slide individually giving added legroom while also flipping forward at the flick of a button for easy access to the rear.
Boot-wise you get more all round with 300/1,300 and 2,340 litres in the respective variations. More importantly is the family-friendly layout with two USB stations, three 12V sockets, picnic tables for the second row, cup holders in the third and cubby holes practically everywhere.
The panoramic roof in out test car was an absolute joy flooding the enormous cabin with natural light.
Identical engine line-up as the S-MAX with the exception of the meatier Bi-Turbo with 210bhp on the top end Titanium model. Road tax is also the same on the diesels costing €270 per year.
So, with just €3,000 between them it is a tough choice but the drive dynamic in the S-MAX gets our vote.
Price for the S-MAX starts at €35,860 while the Galaxy is €38,860.