People carriers like the Ford S-Max and Galaxy may have lost some of their limelight as buyers increasingly eye up SUVs, but these practical, seven-seat cars still have a huge amount to offer buyers. With both cars coming from the same manufacturer and representing a similar proposition, it’s likely that anyone considering a Ford S-Max would also be thinking about a Ford Galaxy, and vice versa; with that in mind, we’ve put the two cars head to head against each other to help you pick the right.
The the Galaxy and S-Max share the same mechanical platform as the Ford Mondeo, but while both are seven-seat MPVs they have markedly different looks. The S-Max is lower and shorter than the Galaxy, for example, contributing to a look that is sleeker overall. The Galaxy’s greater height and length make it perhaps less stylish than its S-Max sibling, but also mean it’s a slightly more practical choice.
|Car||Length||Width (including mirrors)||Height|
Titanium trim is the starting point for both cars in the UK (it’s actually now the only trim option for the Galaxy), so from an aesthetic point of view they’re both fitted with at least 17-inch alloy wheels, LED daytime running lights, tinted rear windows, silver roof rails, and chrome trim around the windows. They also wear a similar radiator grille, meaning from the front at least they cut a similar dash.
There’s very little to tell the S-Max and Galaxy apart from the driver’s seat on initial inspection. Both come with Ford’s rotary gear selector which frees up a little interior space, for example, while you’ll find Ford’s eight-inch SYNC 3 infotainment system in the centre of both cars’ dashboards. This setup comes as standard with sat-nav, Bluetooth, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, a CD player and DAB/FM/AM radio, plus two USB sockets.
Behind the steering wheel on both the S-Max and Galaxy sits what Ford calls a 10.1-inch “semi-digital colour cluster”; this blends analogue and digital dials (with more of an emphasis on the digital) to good effect, and while the system is not as sophisticated as Audi’s Virtual Cockpit, for example, it’s a modern enough setup in general.
Space and practicality
Whether you end up going for the S-Max or Galaxy, you’ll be getting a hugely practical car. The S-Max’s third-row seats are slightly tighter than the Galaxy’s though, while boot space is a touch more generous in the Galaxy as well:
|Configuration||Galaxy boot space (litres)||S-Max (litres)|
|Seven seats in place||300||285|
|Third-row seats folded||1,206||965|
|Second and third row folded||2,339||2,020|
Both the S-Max and Galaxy have practical touches such as seatback tray tables and an overhead console with a sunglasses holder, plus a mirror especially designed to let you keep an eye on kids in the back. The middle and third row of seats fold flat in both cars, too, meaning as well as having plenty of cargo capacity, sliding long items into their cabins is a simple affair.
Access to the third row of seats in the Galaxy and S-Max is gained by a handle that slides forward and tilts the outer middle-row seats, although the aperture through which you must climb to reach the back row is slightly more generous in the Galaxy. As well as having a slightly larger boot, headroom and overall space is also better in the rearmost seats of the Galaxy, making it the car to go for if ultimate practicality is your goal.
Trim levels and options
If you’re erring towards the Galaxy, you only have one trim option: Titanium. In addition to the items already listed, this brings keyless entry, dual-zone air-conditioning, seat-back tray tables for the middle row of seats, cruise control and an alarm. Options include 19-inch wheels (£900- all prices correct as of May 2022), a panoramic sunroof (£1,100), the ‘Lux’ pack, which for £2,500 brings adaptive LED headlights, full leather seats (heated and power operated in the front), plus a power-operated boot. A heated steering wheel and seats can be added independently with the £400 Winter pack, while you can also choose to upgrade the stereo from eight to 12 speakers.
The S-Max range starts with Titanium, which effectively mirrors the Galaxy for equipment, but you then have two further trim options: sporty ST-Line, or luxurious Vignale; the former adds roughly £1,500 to the car’s starting price, while the latter is a little over £5,000 more than Titanium.
ST-Line trim on the S-Max brings 18-inch alloys, an ST-Line bodykit that emphasises the S-Max’s purposeful styling, part-leather sports seats (heated and power operated up front), plus a heated steering wheel and aluminium pedals. Vignale upgrades the wheels to 19-inch items and also brings adaptive LED headlights, metallic paint, upgraded seats upholstered in premium leather with massage, heat and cooling functions up front, the 12-speaker stereo upgrade, power-fold mirrors, a reversing camera, a powered bootlid and a leather-wrapped instrument binnacle.
While the Galaxy has the edge in terms of spaciousness, the S-Max is a little more enjoyable to drive. The lower centre of gravity of the S-Max means it corners with less body roll, and the overall driving experience is one of the car’s best attributes. The Galaxy isn’t quite as polished in general, but the ride is comfortable, and it’s still a more engaging car to drive than most MPVs.
And if you’re not too fussed about outright engagement and B-road handling, both the S-Max and Galaxy are refined and capable motorway cruisers, although the smaller car has a slight edge here, partly thanks to being a little bit lighter, smaller and lower.
It used to be possible to order a new Galaxy or S-Max with diesel and petrol engine choices including 1.5-litre and 2.0-litre petrol units and 2.0-litre diesels, with power outputs ranging from 150-190hp, and a choice of manual or automatic gearbox. Ford has now rationalised the ranges of both cars so you only have one powertrain for both: a 190hp petrol-electric hybrid system comprising a 2.5-litre four-cylinder petrol engine, an electric motor and a 1.1kWh battery.
The only gearbox now available is an automatic CVT (continuously variable transmission), torque is rated at 200Nm, and while the hybrid battery is under the boot floor, load capacities are unchanged in both the S-Max and Galaxy, and rear the seats still fold flat.
MPG, emissions and tax
Both cars officially return 44.1mpg and emit 148g/km of CO2, but note that because annual road tax includes a supplement for cars costing £40,000 or more, all the ST-Line and Vignale S-Max, and the Galaxy, cost £510 a year to tax; the Titanium S-Max will drop this cost to £155, as long as you don’t add options that push its price up past £40,000. Both cars attract a 34% Benefit-in-Kind rate for company car drivers, while the hybrid engine is compliant with the latest Euro 6 emission standards, so will not attract clean-air-zone charges such as those levied by London’s Ultra Low Emission Zone.
Safety and reliability
There’s good news here, as when the S-Max and Galaxy were tested by Euro NCAP in 2015, they were both awarded the full five stars for the amount of protection they offer in a collision. They scored identically in NCAP’s individual categories, getting 87% for both adult and child protection, 79% for the amount of protection they offer pedestrians, and 71% for their safety assist technologies.
Euro NCAP has since updated its crash-test regime, but even though these models are both slightly older cars, they still come with stability control, autonomous emergency braking and a speed limiter, plus the usual suite of airbags.
If you’re going for a used Galaxy or S-Max, check that the Powershift dual-clutch gearbox has been serviced in-line with recommendations as these can be a weak spot. Plus check the interior carefully for any signs of damage, as both models are natural family cars, while the Galaxy found favour among some taxi drivers; both these ownership scenarios can make for a hard life.
Value for money
Ford has long been synonymous with affordable driving, but the S-Max and Galaxy are large cars, now only available with complex hybrid powertrains and without an entry-level Zetec trim, so prices have risen accordingly. The S-Max starts at £38,540 (correct as of May 2022), rising to £40,650 for the ST-Line model, and £43,800 for the Vignale. The Galaxy, being only available from new in Titanium guise, costs £40,700 before options, making it a couple of thousand more expensive than an equivalent S-Max.
In terms of competition, the market for seven-seat MPVs has dwindled significantly over the years; Volkswagen no longer offers the Sharan and SEAT has discontinued the Alhambra, for example, while the Citroen C4 SpaceTourer is also no more, and BMW no longer offers the seven-seat 2 Series Grand Tourer – only the five-seat Active tourer.
Volkswagen will still sell you a seven-seat Touran, which starts at just under £33,000. If you’re happy with an SUV rather than a people carrier the choice is far greater, and a seven-seat Skoda Kodiaq, which is available from £32,000, would be a good place to start.
A note on lead times
As of April 2022, the Galaxy and S-Max can no longer be configured online, with prospective owners having to contact a dealer directly if they want to order one. This is partly due to the global shortage of semiconductor chips, as is the fact that the delivery time for both these cars is six months from point of ordering.
Both the Ford Galaxy and S-Max offer practical, seven-seat family motoring, with an added dash of driver involvement that’s often lacking in the people carrier class. But while the Galaxy should be your choice if you’re after the greatest amount of passenger and luggage space possible, a combination of engaging handling, stylish looks, plus the fact it’s slightly cheaper and can be had in more trim levels from new make the Ford S-Max our pick of the pair.
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While the S-Max and Galaxy can only be ordered direct from dealers at present, you can head to our used-car page to get a great deal on a second-hand Galaxy or a used S-Max. Our car chooser is here to help narrow down your search, plus you can visit our car deals page to see the latest offers, or get a great price for your current car through our sell your car service.