Ford Galaxy vs Ford S-Max sibling rivalry

Ford has been building the spacious and versatile Galaxy for more than 20 years and 2015 saw the launch of the latest version. However, it’s not the only seven-seat MPV in the manufacturer’s line-up – the S-Max offers sportier looks with marginally less space for a lower price. We compare both models to see which suits your needs best…

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Ford Galaxy vs Ford S-Max – styling

Both the Galaxy and S-Max are based on the same platform as the new Ford Mondeo. The Galaxy is the more upright of the two, with a less rakish windscreen and taller roofline that marks it out as the more practical car and more traditional MPV. Having said that, there’s still the Aston Martin-inspired grille up front, while optional LED headlights give it a reasonably premium look.

The S-Max looks more noticeably different from its predecessor, pursuing an altogether more classy look as opposed to the overtly sporty original car. Gone are the extra air-intakes and lowered front spoiler, but there are still large alloy wheels and a sloping window-line to reassure you that you’ve plumped for the sportier option. Compared to the Galaxy, it looks lower and shorter making it seem sportier overall.

Ford Galaxy vs Ford S-Max – interior

In terms of the actual design and layout of the dashboard, there’s very little between the two – both feature a large eight-inch touchscreen in the centre to control the infotainment, and an optional 10-inch digital instrument cluster. Radio and ventilation controls are touch sensitive like the Ford Mondeo but, while they look good, they’re tricky to use on the move meaning neither car is quite as user friendly as some rivals including the SEAT Alhambra.

If space is of upmost importance, it’s the Galaxy that comes out on top. There’s ample room for seven adults to travel and, even with all seats in place, there’s 300 litres of boot space – nearly the same as a Ford Focus. Lower the third row and there’s an estate-baiting 1,301 litres or a van-busting 2,339 litres with the second row lowered too.

The S-Max by no means disgraces itself, but its slightly smaller size means a little less space all round. You still get seven separate seats and the middle row slides independently, but the third row is best left to children and teenagers. There’s still 285 litres of space with all three rows up, with 965 and 2,020 litres when the third and second row are folded flat respectively.

Ford Galaxy vs Ford S-Max – driving

Ford is known for making its cars good to drive and neither of these MPVs disappoint. The Galaxy’s higher centre of gravity and greater weight mean body roll is a noticeable at speed, but it doesn’t feel unwieldy and there are optional adaptive dampeners available for just £375 helping restrain body movement. The steering is well weighted and refinement is impressive regardless of engine choice.

The S-Max is more of a drivers’ car because its controls are surprisingly sharp for an MPV – some reviewers compare it favourably to smaller, nimbler hatchbacks. It’s also very comfortable, contains road noise admirably and, like the Galaxy, there’s four-wheel drive available if you need the extra grip the system adds.

Ford Galaxy vs Ford S-Max – engines

As you might expect, the engine options in the Galaxy and S-Max are very similar and feature a range of both diesel and petrol choices. Petrol lovers in the Galaxy can have either a 160hp 1.5-litre or a 240hp 2.0-litre unit – the former is adequate for those intending to use the Galaxy primarily around town and the latter is more appropriate for performance fans because it shares its engine with the Focus ST hot hatch.

Most buyers will chose a diesel engine, however. All are 2.0-litres units with varying levels of power – either 120, 150, 180 or 210hp. The least powerful is mainly aimed at private hire companies but has enough power for most journeys. Private buyers will probably prefer one of the two middle options, but the top twin-turbocharged engine offers an impressive turn of pace.

Engines in the S-Max are almost identical, bar a new entry-level petrol with 120hp rather than 160hp. A six-speed manual gearbox is standard on all but the most powerful engines, but automatic lovers can specify a dual-clutch automatic on most engines if they so desire costing £1,550.

Ford Galaxy vs Ford S-Max – value for money

Both cars have become a little more expensive compared to their forebears and tread dangerously close to some crossovers in terms of pricing. The cheapest Galaxy is £26,695 – that’s for Zetec trim with the smaller petrol engine. Choosing a diesel increases the price by £1,300 and it’s a further £800 to get the recommended mid-range unit. Mid-spec Titanium offers the best value but, if you want the most powerful engines, you’ll need a Titanium X model – before options, the most expensive Galaxy is £36,545.

The S-Max is slightly cheaper, with the lowest price being £24,795 for the least powerful petrol model. Top level trim in the S-Max is Titanium Sport, with the most expensive version actually being the four-wheel-drive diesel with 180hp – it costs £33,345.

In general, choosing an MPV will cost you less in fuel than a crossover or SUV, and the Ford duo are no exception. The most fuel efficient Galaxy returns 56.5mpg and all but the most powerful diesel can better 50mpg. Petrols models are less impressive, with the 240hp version faring the worst – 35.3mpg is on par with many petrol powered SUVs.

Surprisingly, despite its smaller size, the S-Max posts all-but identical fuel economy figures for all engines. The only figure of any real difference is with the aforementioned 240hp petrol engine, which is 0.5mpg more fuel efficient on average. Nevertheless, the S-Max will be slightly cheaper for business users thanks to its lower price, and both cars have reasonably low road tax prices.

Ford Galaxy vs Ford S-Max – verdict

Ford offers its MPVs in two distinct flavours to appeal to different buyers, so your preference will depend on which camp you fall into. The Galaxy is more sensible and more practical while the S-Max has a greater focus on driver enjoyment at the slight expense of some interior space. Both cars feel high quality, are versatile in use and great to drive, and both can get a little pricey when you specify more desirable trims and engines.

If you’re after ultimate practicality, the Galaxy is hard to argue against – its vast space for passengers and luggage make it one of the most capable vehicles on sale. If you don’t need the maximum amount of space, however, the S-Max’s more driver focused nature and sleeker styling give it the nod, and the fact it’s cheaper is the icing on the cake.

Save money on your new MPV

Whichever you prefer, check out our Ford Galaxy deals page or Ford S-Max deals page to get a great price on your new MPV. If neither of these cars is for you, our car chooser is here to help narrow down your search or visit our car deals page to see the latest offers.