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The Grove Mumsnet Day

(33 Posts)
MNHubbie Sat 08-May-10 22:11:51

Firstly thank you so much to Mumsnet for picking my wife (MrsGokWan) and our family to go on the Ford day today.

The day was fantastic with wonderful friendly hosts and incredible food. Thank you to Ford for such generosity.

We were lucky enough to be able to test drive 3 cars today: The Ford Galaxy Titanium Diesel with the new automatic powershift; The Ford S-Max Zetec Diesel manual; and the Ford Titanium X S-Max Petrol with automatic powershift.

All the cars were brand new and had only been driven by the likes of Jeremy Clarkson the day before before our brood were set loose on them.

Our current car is a Renault Grand Espace which we absolutely adore. Whilst very long-term Ford fans we have always felt the Espace of the generation ours is to be the best people carrier on the market (far superior to the God-awful newer Espace). We have tried Galaxies before and frankly I've been utter unimpressed and felt that Ford really messed up for years... so despite being blown away by the day it was going to take a lot to impress us.

We were impressed.

Our first was our all-round favourite the Galaxy. Straight away the build quality was obvious and it made us think of the Volkswagen advert (the doors shutting sounded just like a Golf). We were a little precious about the kids jumping around in a brand new car and scuppering our day from the start but Ford didn't bat an eyelid and positively encouraged it. The seats brushed clean, the trim was solid and despite our kids best effort the car still looked brand new when we were finished (and we feel it still would even after a years driving).

Being a big kid my first question was about the toys. My iPod was plugged in and I selected a track from the steering wheel, my phone was Bluetooth bonded to the car and the Converse+ screen in front of me was giving me all the information I needed to set off.

In the middle section of dash we had the incredible DVD Navigation system. This gave both of us all the information we needed about the car, the radio, navigation, the iPod and so on.

So we were almost ready to set off I headed off to get our car seats but were told we could borrow theirs if we wanted. I wasn't fussed until they introduced us to the excellent Isofix system. Instead of the usual 5 to ten minute struggle to get the youngest one's seat in with the 5 point harness I managed to get it done in less than 10 seconds (before Dan the Ford guy, not that I was racing him or anything wink) despite never having seen the system before. I wish I'd noted the make of the car seats as they were brilliant, the youngest were very comfortable and we loved them. These things were hugely padded, had their own iPod hook ups (with speakers built into the headrest) and a really quick and easy way to whack the seat belt in (for our middle son). Our eldest used his booster seat and was stunned to see he had a normal seat belt rather than a lap belt.

The one thing we told each other in advance we'd be critical about despite how lovely everyone might be would be the space in the car. DW headed to the back of the car immediately whilst I played with the toys and the boys tried to destroy it in the middle. We're used to adjustable seats with multiple configurations that are all removable. What we found was something quite different but comparable. All the seats folded completely flat really quickly and easily negating the need to remove and store them.

The boot wasn't huge with the rear seats in place. We did have to remind ourselves though that we currently have the Grand Espace with the extended wheel base and that in comparison to any other people carrier what we were being greeted with was actually pretty darn big. The only other issue with the overall size was the height. DW is used to pretty much being able to stand in the car but had to hunch... for those of us who have to hunch all the time the difference wasn't so noticeable. With 7 people in the car you will have enough room in storage compartments and the boot to take all you need with you for a day out, to go shopping or to have a short break. With the seats down (and how easily they went down) we were pleasantly surprised just how big it was. The space wasn't just large but it was also sensible and regularly shaped so I do wonder if what we might lose in overall volume we might actually gain back in our increased ability to pack things in more sensibly. This is something we'd have to test whilst camping or similar.

The front seats were glorious. They were comfortable but firm, perfect for long journeys yet sporty enough to enjoy driving. The rear seats were spacious and equally comfortable and all were far more adjustable than we were used to. DW especially loved the height adjustment on the drivers seat. The rear seats weren't quite so nice for an adult but would be ideal for children in car seats.

I hit the Powerstart button and we headed off. I played with the toys a little more on the way out. I know Clarkson moans about the computer on many-a car but I doubt he'll have anything bad to say about the Ford system it is intuitive, intelligent and very user friendly. I picked up the use of it in seconds. As well as the big screen the Convers+ screen gives the driver a great scaled down version of all the features you need with an easy thumb control on the steering wheel.

The ride is incredibly smooth and reminded me more of the Mondeo that the Galaxy is based on. In standard automatic mode with normal pressure on the accelerator the gear-shifts are smooth and the car drives excellently however it isn't going to get you into trouble with the police. The drive is economical and the car almost seems to force you to conform to smooth acceleration and braking...

...until you put your foot down. The typical Ford automatic kickdown is still there with all the grin-inducing glee it has always brought but without the thump in the chest and surge you used to get...

...which is fine...

...and then you hear a little voice in your head say "if it does that with a little extra pressure what will it do if I shift the gearstick to the right and click into sport?" I did.


Now in standard mode you get trapped in the middle lane and have to pull out in a small gap and get up to speed without causing grief to the car behind and it does it brilliantly.

In the Sports mode you do the same and... it was a BMW coming up fast in the lane that we pulled out in front of and it was a mere black dot before we knew it. It was quick, REALLY quick. This is an automatic 2ltr diesel hauling 3 adults, 3 kids and quite a bit of bodywork and a rather large body and it performed like... well it was like a luxury car. The smoothness and power I've only ever felt in BMWs, SAABs or Mercs before.

One other lovely little thing it has is that the side mirrors have blind-spot indicators. A little orange dot appears in the corner of the mirror to indicate a car is along-side. It is brilliant. Not a replacement for a life-saver glance but a great extra.

Handling was fantastic. We've always loved the fact that the Espace handles like a car much smaller than it with only a tiny hint of the wallowing that we've felt hugely in other people carriers but this was another level. Once again I could have been fooled into thinking I was in a Mondeo.

I could go on and on about all the little features and I may in a future message but needless to say I didn't find them all until later.

We returned the car to Ford and I decided to test how easy it is to reverse. All I can say is I WANT A REAR CAMERA ON MY CAR NOW!!! Automatically the view behind appeared on the DVD Navigation screen along with projected images of the size of the car to tell me if I'd fit and sensors for any objects both off and on camera. It was fab!

All in all I've driven a fair few people carriers in my time and have tried several of the newer ones on the market and frankly none of them compare to this. The Galaxy is the people carrier to beat now.

I will review the 2 S-Maxs later.

cece Sat 08-May-10 22:23:26

Blimey you've been busy!

Thanks to everyone at Ford. Had a lovely day and a great time trying out all of the cars.

I agree about the camera showing the rear view when you reverse. How will I ever reverse without it now?! My current car seemed so clunky and uncomfortable on the way home!

MNHubbie Sat 08-May-10 23:10:28

Next we took out the S-Max Zetec Petrol to try something quite different (I made one cock-up earlier in that I said the Titanium X sport was diesel, it was the ecoboost SCTi petrol). The car is smaller but has the same sort of set up as the Galaxy. This is a car for folks who want a people carrier but don't want people to know it is one.

The rear most seats are almost identical to the Galaxy's with the exception that they don't adjust forward/back. Size-wise you are quite limited with the rear seats up but still more than enough to go shopping or even have a short break... the size that there was did make us reflect upon just how big the Galaxy actually is. With the seats down this is easily as big as a good old-fashioned estate car.

We didn't have the DVD Navigator screen this time but the Sony DAB audio system with USB hook-up and Bluetooth. I missed the big screen, sat nav and rear camera but this was another great system all the same. We also lacked the Convers+ system but the little screen we did have was great for phone calls, iPod navigation and so on. This was a system that was really easy to use again and made me really feel how clunky our system is.

What I didn't mention before was the climate control system on the Fords. The Espace has a brilliant system that allows you to set different conditions for either side of the cabin. All the Fords have a similar system that blows the Renault away. I loved this.

I wanted to see what a petrol engine felt like and how good the manual gearbox was for this range. I was impressed on both counts.

The clutch was light and smooth with no problems at all. The gearbox was glorious and so forgiving. After being in the automatic I wasn't as quick to remember to shift down all the time or to return to first when stopping and it let me get away with it every time. Six wonderful gears, smooth (that word again) changes and plenty of power. The petrol engine was great but to be honest it just made me realise how good the diesel was. That is not to fault the petrol engine at all just a testament to how good the diesel actually is.

We had the upgraded sound system in this car so on the open road with a clear run we selected track 1 and turned it up. AC/DC blasted out with Back in Black clear as a bell. Fantastic!

In terms of handling and ride this was a little tighter but again it is a testament to the Galaxy rather than an insult to the S-Max to say it wasn't that different.

The kids had plenty of room in the back. They missed their little tables but aside from that loved the ride and would be comfortable for long journeys.

This is a car that would suit parents of 2 - 3 children and is fine for days out with another couple of kids or adults. We adore the Galaxy but to be honest unless you are loading up your car for a huge camping trip like we do this is more than big enough for any 5 person family.

This is a wonderful car that will suit almost everyone. Whilst not the Galaxy it features virtually all the toys (including things like the blind-spot indicator) at the entry level.

MNHubbie Sat 08-May-10 23:39:36

After lunch we decided to have one more little trip but to go without the kids this time. The S-Max Titanium + was the one car that all the dads wanted to have a go with. It featured ever so subtle shapings of the bodywork to a more sporty configuration.

We had the DVD Navigator screen and Convers+ system back again and a much sportier set up all round.

The entertainment system and the general set-up of the S-Max I've discussed before and all of these were the same again.

The front seats were very different featuring programmable electronic controls with multiple set ups possible. I played for quite some time before finally finding what I was comfortable with. That isn't to say I wasn't comfortable before but having so many choices made me have to keep on checking.

The seats were sporty but not uncomfortably so in fact I would say that they are far superior to the standard seats from the S-Max in so many ways.

We had the automatic gearbox with the powershift again along with the incredible ecoboost engine.

This run was not about how the kids would fit in but how good this car would be for day to day use as a commuter car... plus I wanted some boyish fun.

^Of course^ we didn't break the speed limit as that would be illegal so I ^couldn't possibly^ know how quickly it went from 40 to 115mph on the motorway but given how fast it went to 70 it would have been very fast and taken your breath away (and gone perfectly with Song 2 from Blur blaring out).

The steering was tighter and the suspension was far firmer than before. The Powershift gearbox is brilliant and gives a fantastic compromise between automatic and manual.

This is without a doubt a superb driving experience and it left a real cheesy grin on our faces.

MNHubbie Sat 08-May-10 23:40:41

Cheers Cece. I had to blog while it was all still fresh.

poorbuthappy Sat 08-May-10 23:42:20

am hiding this thread.
Bollocking bloody ford and their inability to pick me with 3 kids and a dog to test their cars...

MNHubbie Sat 08-May-10 23:50:38

I think that was Mumsnet themself TBH but that is your right. I'm sorry it upsets you but if I hadn't been picked I would have wanted to know about the cars all the same. I'm just posting a review and saying thanks sorry if you felt otherwise.

MNHubbie Sun 09-May-10 00:21:16

OMG!! I totally forgot to mention the coolest geek thing of all... sort of...


The handbrake could have come straight out of the USS Enterprise it is superb.

I also missed out the incredibly huge sunroofs and the little flip down mirror that lets you see the kids.

Oh and the built in sun visors.

And the cruise control.

And a load more about the Convers+ system.

And... I'm going to bed, I'll remember more in the morning.

DaftApeth Sun 09-May-10 17:40:55

Blimey! Did you take notes?!!

We only drove one car. How did you manage so many?

MNHubbie Sun 09-May-10 18:22:02

We did a run with the Galaxy and when we got back asked more questions about the S-Max and got told if we were back by 1 we could go out in it. Then after lunch we were going to go for a walk and saw the Titanium X sat there looking lonely and just asked if we could go out in it.

I have to confess the brochure has helped with all the trademark names of the bits and bobs.

DaftApeth Sun 09-May-10 18:33:51

We did the short trial route hoping to get back from driving the Galaxy and have a chance to try the S-Max but they were none free.

It was you in it was it? angrygrin

Didn't find the Galaxy as responsive as my car but that might just be because I am more familiar with my own rust bucket car and so put my foot down more.

I hear the S-Max feels more sporty to drive.

MNHubbie Sun 09-May-10 19:14:59

Were you in the auto or manual? I found the auto sluggish until I wanted it to shift and thought it was a deliberate act on their part to stop you from uneco-friendly driving and having that surge-slump thing you get with a lot of autos but that when I really put my foot down...

DaftApeth Sun 09-May-10 19:38:35

We took out the automatic. That was probably the difference between it and my car - my car responds straight away, without having to push your foot down but when I do really push my foot down in mine, it really whooshes (as my dcs call it!) and then you can almost see the petrol gauge move!

It had the solid feel of an expensive car, which I liked.

The dcs liked the height and extra visibility.

MNHubbie Sun 09-May-10 21:07:19

We found it a little lower tbh as the Renault is quite tall but we liked that.

We found the whoosh great compared to the Renault but it is pretty rubbish that way compared to other cars.

It was a diesel too so if you've come from a good performing petrol car that would probably be noticeable too.

DaftApeth Sun 09-May-10 22:06:53

The Ecoboost was petrol. They checked under the bonnet because no-one was sure grin

MNHubbie Sun 09-May-10 22:53:43

Yup but the galaxy was diesel.

MNHubbie Sun 09-May-10 22:54:03

The one we were in...

MrsWeasley Sun 09-May-10 23:07:47

We loved the hand brake and the "naughty mirror" as my children called it.
But the absolutely best bit for my DH who is our driver was the ...................................................... ARM REST! Ha Ha

He never uses the arm rest but found in the Galaxy it was in direct alignment with the gear stick and he now wants one just because of the arm rest but thats ok because I want one just because of the heated seats! grin

Fantastic day, Thanks MN I love you. wink

Dan and Oliver were fantasic as was Adam who knew all about the cars and didn't make me feel stupid for asking what the shiny silver thing was (the Hand brake!)wink

MNHubbie Sun 09-May-10 23:40:49

"Naughty Mirror" Love that!! Perfectly suited to our trip with the camera man! Pretty sure it was all unusable because of the kids being over excited.

DaftApeth Mon 10-May-10 08:15:40

Ha ha, yes with the 'naughty mirror', we really could have eyes in the back of our heads.

I tell my dcs that I can see everything because it is pretty easy to predict what they are up to, even if they are not in view wink and they seem to believe me grin

Was anything said about one of us having a chance to have a car for a longer trial period? Or did they change their minds after seeing our driving and our -little-- angels- children? grin

weblette Mon 10-May-10 10:12:30

We had a fab day, the kids really enjoyed the whole experience, especially dd who now has an NBF

Thanks Ford for the hospitality!

As for the car, we went for a Galaxy. Our current car is a 2006 Grand Scenic – it’s already bigger than the S-Max. With four likely-to-be-lanky kids, the priority for us is a car which will be comfortable in the very back row on long runs.

We took out the 2.0 TDCi Titanium, the 163 PS option. It was an auto with the new Powershift transmission. I'll be honest, I haven't driven an auto for years so was a little apprehensive. Initial impressions were very positive.

Our advantage was that living just 20 mins from the Grove, I was able to drive home on the test drive so could put it through its paces on the roads I know best. So we did plenty of motorway with some A road and country lanes too. And for good measure I reversed into the drive at home - MNHubbie, know exactly what you mean about the rear camera!

It coped well with everything I threw at it, I could really appreciate the dual clutch - the changes were pretty much seamless. Engine was very responsive, plenty of oomph when overtaking. Handling was excellent, especially on the narrow twisty lanes near home.

As for the cabin, the kids were in heaven! They loved the space and the array of hatches on the central roof console, although I'm not sure we would necessarily use them. Tech wise we had the DVD navigation option with the Convers+ display. I remembered my iPod so the kids could bop away to their playlist thanks to the connector in the glove box.

We also gave the audio system a bit of a blast – very good quality and the speakers at the very back were very much appreciated .

Where the Galaxy really impressed me was the flexibility of the seating. I've always had the impression that the Galaxy was a bit of a bus, certainly the old styling with removable seats always appeared that way. We don't have a garage so taking seats out just isn't an option.

I got the back when we were parked up and the rear seats did seem comfortably big enough for adults for a long journey – adequate legroom for a 5’8er like me. Also a decent bit of boot space with both seats in position.

My only reservation was the size of the blind spot - it would take some getting used to. With the sun blinds up it was slightly unnerving and a little difficult to check the driver's side. If I were to buy one, the new blind spot sensor offered by Ford would be a definite consideration.

DaftApeth Mon 10-May-10 11:30:53

Did anyone try fitting 3 car seats along the middle row of either car?

Poledra Mon 10-May-10 11:37:24

I knew it, I knew it!! I should have avoided this thread because I now want all the gadgets MrGokWan is describing in my Galaxy envy

BTW, I can fit two high-back boosters and a Group 1 child seat in the middle row of my (2007) Galaxy no problem. And did have a high-back booster, Group 1 and an infant carrier in there before (and could take the infant carrier in and out without losing all the skin on my knuckles).

DaftApeth Mon 10-May-10 11:56:07


Thankyou Pol. I'm not sure that 3 car seats would be necessary that often for us as I guess we could just pop someone in the rear seat.

Good to know that the Galaxy is knuckle friendly - my car isn't!

My two dcs were desperate to sit in the rear seats for the test drive but because dd used one of Ford's isofix seats, she had to sit in the middle row (the rear seat do not have isofix points). So I then made ds sit in the same row to try to keep the peace grin

They had the middle seat folded down between them and then wanted some refreshments so they could use it as a picnic table hmm

weblette Mon 10-May-10 13:00:33

Oh another few things I remembered...

We were really impressed with how quiet the diesel was. Tanking along the motorway we turned the iPod down and there was v little engine/road noise.

Naughty mirror - liked, handbrake - didn't like. I've an electric handbrake on my current car, I would prefer that option. Also liked the push button start, again similar to what I have now.

Didn't use the speed setting function - the licence saver as Adam called it - but could definitely see the advantages, especially given how many sets of roadworks are around at the moment.

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