Can Ford recapture the endearing nature of its original city car? Let’s find out
Our new Ford Ka+ is a radically different prospect from the two generations of Ka that preceded it. That much is obvious simply by looking at its five-door bodystyle.
Like the original three-door Ka, which changed Europe’s city car landscape with its cheeky demeanour and nimble handling, this new one is based on Fiesta underpinnings, but that’s pretty much where the similarities end. This new car is a good 260mm longer and also wider and taller than the Ka Mk1.
Ford’s intention with the Ka+ is for it to major on practicality and affordability, not only to buy but also to run and insure. Although it is shorter than the Fiesta in length, there’s enough interior room to carry two rear passengers in decent comfort, or three at a push.
The Ka+ is built in India but has been heavily tweaked to suit European tastes. We’re keen to use our six-month spell in the car to assess how well those tweaks have worked, because the same strategy was used with the Ecosport crossover, and that fell disappointingly short of Ford’s usual high standards when it first arrived.
Anyone buying a Ka+ won’t have to make many decisions. There’s one engine available in two states of tune, and the list of cost options is short. Ford’s decision to offer only a naturally aspirated 1.2-litre fourcylinder Duratec petrol engine has been made to keep costs low. There are no Ecoboost or diesel options.
You can buy the Ka+ in entry-level form for a touch over £9200, which is almost as expensive as the old range-topping SportKa used to be. For that money, it is sparsely equipped but does include Bluetooth and electric front windows. It is also available only with the 69bhp version of the 1.2-litre engine.
We have opted for a mid-range Zetec, which is available with the pokier and more capable 84bhp engine. Zetec trim also comes with more standard equipment, such as DAB, cruise control, alloy wheels and air conditioning, all making the Ka+ that bit more enticing.
We’ve added a handful of options. The most expensive of these is the silver paint, and we also went for Ford’s City Pack, which includes parking sensors. We’re still believers in spare wheels, so we’ve ticked the box that means our car comes equipped with one. Heated front seats were perhaps an indulgence at £150, albeit one that will get regular use in the next couple of months. But despite all that, our car’s price was still just £11,590.
The original Ka engendered warm affection from many who owned or drove one. So will living up to that legacy be a tough ask for the larger, taller and slightly heavier Ka+?
Not necessarily. As part of the car’s European overhaul, Ford has fitted shorter suspension springs and stiffer, uprated dampers and has retuned the steering set-up from that of the standard Indian-market cars rolling off the production line. Stiffer cross members and front subframes and chunkier anti-roll bars complete the changes for our car.
It’s early days, of course, but we’re happy with what we’ve found so far. The Ka+’s ride is superb, absorbing ruts and potholes with ease, while the handling is crisp and sharp, suggesting that choosing a budget car needn’t mean you can’t have fun.
The 1.2-litre petrol engine does need working quite hard to get up to any sort of speed out of town, but its shortcomings can be forgiven.
Over the next six months with the Ka+, we’ll be determining whether it retains any of the original model’s charm and deciding whether it can get the better of its Vauxhall Viva, MG 3 and Dacia Sandero rivals at the affordable end of the five-door city car market.
FORD KA+ 1.2 TI-VCT 85 ZETEC
Price £10,545 Price as tested £11,590 Options Ingot Silver paint £495, City Pack (rear parking sensors, power folding heated door mirrors, electric rear windows) £300, heated front seats £150, 14in spare steel wheel £100 Economy 39.7mpg Faults None Expenses None