Galaxy is a real star performer
Ford's latest offering is comfortable but a bit pricey, says Campbell Spray while at the opposite end of the spectrum the Mazda2 drives great and is good value
IT has been a case of little and large in the garage recently. The largest was the most useful although I didn't use it primarily as a seven-seater. The Ford Galaxy is a large, well-equipped and very comfortable vehicle. However it really looks very square and imposing and hasn't the excellent driving characteristics and nimbleness of the S-Max which is a far better buy if you need the final two seats only rarely.
But like most Fords the Galaxy has better dynamics than most of its competitors. However there is nothing cheap about the Galaxy. Diesel prices start at €40,295, which is a good €10,000 above the good-looking S-Max. It is very easy to start straying above €45k with the Ghia trim but you are really into luxury territory there.
It was far from luxurious work that the Galaxy was doing for us. Fencing panels, posts and what seemed like half a garden centre were quickly swallowed up along the flat folded two rows of back seats.
Once unloaded the Galaxy sprung back into its role as a people carrier and seven adults plus dog could go for a bit of relaxation! The only trouble with these trips is that I always end up as the driver and everyone else seems to be having much more fun.
But the driver is nicely cocooned with a great view. There's also a mirror which gives you a view of the rear passengers which will be a boon for harassed parents.
Both the S-Max and Galaxy have recently had a range of interior and exterior design changes and feature the high-efficiency 2.0 litre EcoBoost petrol engine. It's the one I was driving and the power is really excellent even when well-loaded. An improved version of the TDCi 2.0 litre diesel is also featured across the range. However the EcoBoost engine is expensive and increases the price of the Galaxy to more than €53k and puts emissions into the E band. But it will have a small audience; more than 90 per cent of Galaxies are diesels. And that diesel has plenty of power and economy. Despite its high stance, body roll is controlled and it is good to drive. But remember that price. There are some very good value competitors like the Peugeot 5008 out there. Often people who say they need a seven-seater can manage with something smaller.
But they won't go as far as the Mazda2, which also comes from the Ford stable. It is a peppy and roomy supermini which has really great driving characteristics and is now very well-priced to take advantage of the dying months of the government's scrappage offer. The car is competing in quite a crowded segment but Mazda believe it's a real challenger to the more traditional segment leaders such as Fiesta, Clio and Corsa. The version I was driving was called the Mazda2 Sensu. Well at least I have learned more Japanese as Sensu apparently describes the folding fan and its "ability to create a breeze with practicality, beauty and style".
I'm told that the model offers prospective customers over €3,000 of extra equipment for only €800 above the entry level Comfort model. Specification upgrades include: Air conditioning, 15" alloy wheels, steering wheel controls, extra roof and side airbags, and electric folding heated door mirrors.
With the scrappage the car is available at €11,435 for the three-door version and, explains Michael Howe, Sales Director, Mazda Motor Ireland. "The combination of enhanced equipment, Mazda's renowned reliability and build quality and low running costs makes the Mazda2 hard to overlook for those in the market for a small car."
This generation Mazda2 is at least 100kg lighter than its predecessor. The Sensu delivers 15 per cent more power (84hp) over the Comfort version and returns nearly 54mpg, while yearly road tax costs €156 thanks to the low Co2 output of 129g.
There's not much wrong with all that but other than the price and spec there's not a lot to really excite. It is a bit drab inside and the car is rather noisy. Yet as a nippy enough supermini it should be on the list with the more popular competition. Mazda has done well, deservedly, in the scrappage campaign.
Both the Galaxy and Mazda2 Sensu are competent performers which again show off good Ford characteristics. I probably won't remember either at the end of the year, but they won't be alone in that.