Ford Galaxy is First Produced

The Ford Galaxy is a five-door large multi-purpose vehicle (MPV). It was first introduced in 1995, and is available in three generations.

The first Galaxy was designed as a joint venture product between Ford and the Volkswagen Group, in order to catch up with the original MPV Renault Espace. Produced at the joint-venture AutoEuropa plant in Palmela, Portugal, the vehicle was badge-engineered to create three vehicles: the Ford Galaxy; by Volkswagen Passenger Cars as the Volkswagen Sharan; and by SEAT as the Alhambra.
The Galaxy used predominantly Volkswagen Group mechanicals, most notably the 2.8 litre VR6 petrol engine from the top versions of the Volkswagen Golf, as well as Volkswagen Group's 1.9 litre Turbocharged Direct Injection (TDI) turbodiesel unit. Initially only the 2.0 litre inline-four petrol version used a Ford powerplant - this derived from the Ford I4 DOHC engine. In later years this unit was supplemented by a 2.3 litre 16-valve version first seen in the facelifted Ford Scorpio. This engine was transversially mounted (as with the MKV Escort RS2000) as opposed to longitudinal mounting like in the Ford Scorpio.
All of the VW Group-sourced engines were supplied with "Ford" badges on the rocker covers, despite being VW Group designs. All automatic transmissions were VW Group AG4 boxes, but manual gearboxes on all engines were VXT75 five-speed (modified versions of the trusted Ford MT75 five-speed set-up to suit the transverse engine layout).
The original interior used a mix of both Ford and VW Group components, using a Golf-derived instrument pack, and most of the switchgear, while the curved fascia moulding was of Ford design, heavily reminiscent of that used in the Ford Mondeo.

You're a parent. You've two or three children - maybe more. Probably a dog. Certainly a stack of paraphernalia to carry on almost every journey. For years, you've managed quite happily with a family-sized estate car. But then you noticed the growing popularity of People Carriers and wondered whether you could live with one. Your preconceptions suggested a van-like vehicle, heavy to drive, difficult to park and expensive to buy and run. Your preconceptions were wrong.

The latest generation of People Carriers handle just like your average family saloon probably better in fact. Sales have taken off, with one model standing head and shoulders above the rest in terms of volume Fords Galaxy.

Though at first glance every inch an MPV, the Galaxy, say Ford, is something quite different. Sure enough, though it seats between five and seven people depending on the model you choose, it's easy to drive, simple to park and no more expensive to run than the car you have at the moment. This, say Ford, is the future; car-like qualities in what, until pre-Galaxy times, was a van-like sector of the market. Prior to the original launch, one of the most comprehensive customer surveys ever undertaken by the company established that though wealthy families would continue to buy large, cumbersome van-based MPVs, everyone else would probably ignore them until they became cheaper and more user-friendly. Hence the demand for what the blue oval calls "the Galaxy class" vehicle. In the showroom, the car costs about the same as a mid-range Ford Mondeo estate, measures in at about the same length and takes up no more space on the road. Behind the wheel, it's exactly like a medium range estate - only better, thanks to that high-seated driving position and the glassy cabin. Whichever version you choose, you'll be looking for flexibility - and you shouldn't be disappointed. Whatever configuration of seats you choose, you'll find that all of them can be folded down or unclipped and removed completely. Above Aspen specification, the front seats also swivel round to face the rear passengers, facilitating picnics or on-the-spot conferences.

Prices start from around £1,400 for the first of the M-plated 2.0-litre Aspen entry-level models. The GLX and Ghia models are worth up to £400 more. The 2.

3s start at about £2,300 for a 97P GLX with the Si about £300 more and another £300 for a Ghia. Youll also find LX and Zetec versions on 99S and later plates starting from about £3,200. The turbo diesels are a good option and there are 90bhp and 110bhp versions about but they tend to be thin on the ground. Prices start from just about £2,100 for a 90bhp Aspen and around £2,300 for a GLX.

The six-seater Ghia starts at around £1,80, and the seven-seater at around £2,900. The 110bhp cars arrived on 97R plates in Ghia and Ghia X form and prices start around £3,600. Prices for the V6 start from around £1,700 for a Ghia, interestingly around the same as the more spartan GLX (mainly due to the fact that the Ghia has six, rather than seven, seats). Later versions (which received seven seats) start at £2,800 on 96P plates while the plush Ghia X 7-seater starts at about £3, 00 as a 96P.

Check for faulty trim and excessive transmission noise caused by the specially lengthened gear linkages. On the popular 2.0-litre, listen for clattery camshafts and make sure that the drive-belt has been replaced on schedule. If youre buying a baseline model, make sure youre getting seven, rather than five seats (some basic cars miss out the back two).

Also, all Aspens and early GLX models do without air conditioning (well worth having in a car with this glass area) so think carefully before you do without, remembering that a car with air will be easier to sell on later. Bear in mind too that most Galaxys will have been used by people unused to cars of this size. Its worth checking therefore for body scrapes and scuffed mirrors.

(Estimated prices, based on a 2.0 GLX (inc VAT) A clutch assembly is around £110, an exhaust system around £800 (incl. catalytic converter) and an exchange alternator around £320. Front brake pads are around £50 and a headlamp unit will set you back just over £100.

Front shock absorbers are about £45 and rears just under £35.

This car (along with its Sharan and Alhambra stablemates) is the best handling people carrier you can buy. 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, as you would, for example, with a fashionable four-wheel drive.

The Galaxy is deservedly leading the way in the expansion of the People Carrying sector to what Ford reckons will soon be nearly half a million vehicles in Europe and at least 7% of the UK market. That means a growing second-hand market for MPVs. Right now, the Galaxy looks the best bet if youre shopping for one.