We’ve always known that the all-new Ford Ka would share most of its underbits with the Fiat 500 (and Fiat Panda), as they share the same Polish production line. The Fiat and Ford models will have very similar major dimensions, engines, chassis, suspension and basic cabin architecture.
Yet the Ford remains a fascinating car, for at least three important reasons. For one, Ford needs its smallest model to embody all modern design values, not to pick up on a lot of retro cues like the Fiat. One big question will be to see how well it succeeds. And how well will Ford be able to disguise the relationship between its fascia furniture and that of the two Fiats (the 500 and Panda are satisfactorily different, but can Ford provide yet more design freshness?).
Ford’s freedom to do its own thing with the suspension will be of great interest. The company has amassed a great reputation for providing some of the best-handling mainstream cars on the road, but it has never been required to use someone else’s suspension before.
Ford’s insiders have confirmed that they thoroughly examined the Fiat hardware (while it was in the very last design stages) and satisfied themselves that it could work under a Ford. But road tests have consistently classed the Panda/500 as “pretty good”, rather than “brilliant”, and it’s unlikely Ford will be satisfied with that. It will be fascinating to see what Ford can do with a fairly restricted regime of rerating and rebushing.
Most interesting of all will be the price. Ford’s Ka will be, in effect, a modern-looking and better-handling Fiat 500, perhaps without the nostalgia and the sheer cuteness. It’s likely to be priced in Panda territory, so below Fiat 500. Will its sales blow holes in the 500? Will it bomb, because people believe it is not a real Ford? Will the Panda suffer at the hands of the other two? And how much better — if better at all — will the Ka drive than its Fiat progenitors? As we said, many fascinating questions to be answered…