New Ka+ targets the Vauxhall Viva and Fiat 500 in the city car market, with stylish Black and White editions to follow later this year
Steve Cropley Autocar
20 September 2016

The Ford Ka+ will go on sale in the UK next month, with prices starting from £8995. The new city car, which is roughly the same size as the Fiesta hatchback, replaces the Ford Ka and is designed to satisfy the appetite for smaller, cheaper cars in the UK.

The model, built in India and sold there as the Figo, has been heavily revised for Europe, because Ford is desperate to avoid the quality difficulties it had a couple of years ago with the Ecosport crossover from the same source.

Only one five-door hatchback bodystyle will be offered, in two trim levels, Style and Zetec.

There will be just one 1.2-litre four-cylinder engine, too, closely related to the 1.25-litre engine found in the Fiesta but cheaper to make. It will come with a choice of two power outputs - 69bhp and 84bhp - although the lower-powered engine won’t be offered at launch.

Darren Palmer, Ford’s boss of B-car projects, believes the higher-output, £10,295 Zetec will be the most popular model but points out that even the entry-level car is well equipped.

Standard equipment includes six airbags, air conditioning, Ford’s Sync voice-activated phone and audio system, a smartphone docking station, a speed limiter and hill start assist.

Buyers who choose the 84bhp engine can get options including climate control, a leather-covered steering wheel with cruise control, alloy wheels, heated front seats, a DAB radio, rear parking sensors and heated/folding mirrors.

Palmer is at pains to point out that the Ka+ suspension has been fine-tuned by Ford of Europe’s experts at the Lommel proving ground in Belgium.

The result is a unique-to-Europe chassis spec with special specifications for the steering, springs and dampers, front anti-roll bar, rear torsion beam and tyres, plus a re-engineered front subframe and engine mounts.

The European Ka+ rides a little lower than the Indian and South American versions, and its ride and handling are much more in keeping with European tastes.

“I kept telling them to make it as good as the Fiesta,” said Palmer. “I reckon they’ve succeeded.”

Ford has in the past resisted associations with the budget end of the market, but this time it has named the Kia Rio and Dacia Sandero as competitors for the Ka+, mainly because they offer the same recipe of impressive accommodation for the money.

Our own tests at the Ka+’s launch in Cologne last week proved that a six-footer can fit into the car’s surprisingly generous rear cabin, behind another in the driving seat.

While citing the Kia and Dacia as competitors, Ford avoided mentioning others in the same price bracket, such as the Vauxhall Viva, Suzuki Celerio, MG 3, Peugeot 108, Citroën C1 and basic versions of the Volkswagen Group’s Up-based city car trio, possibly because they don’t have as much interior space as the Ka+.

Its £8995 starting price makes the Ka+ around £4500 cheaper than the Fiesta, and also significantly cheaper than the £11,050 Fiat 500 and the £10,945 Kia Rio. It's slightly more expensive than the Vauxhall Viva, though, which cost from £8595.

Ford claims class-leading front head room and rear leg room, aided by the fact that the Ka+ is 42mm higher than the Fiesta, sits on the same 2489mm wheelbase (because it uses Ford’s global small car platform) and, at 3929mm overall, is only 20mm shorter. The Ka+ offers 270 litres of storage space in its boot - enough for two suitcases, and only 20 litres less than is offered by the Fiesta - while split-folding seats increase that space even more.

Later this year, buyers will also be able to order stylised Black and White versions of the KA+, which receive contrasting colour options, black 15in alloy wheels and come exclusively with the more powerful 1.2-litre petrol engine.

The Ka+ is the third Ford model to carry the Ka badge, but it is quite different from the first two following a comprehensive change in Ford’s thinking about how to make money from small cars.

The original Ka started life 20 years ago as a sub-B-segment premium city car; the second was another city car, this time produced in Poland in co-operation with Fiat.

The latest-generation Ka+ is all Ford, but it achieves economies of scale because it is already a volume-selling model in India and South America.

“Obviously the sub-B sector still represents an opportunity,” said Palmer.

“But we’ve made a different choice about how and where we want to participate. We believe Ka+ offers the practicality and utility many new car buyers need, even if it lacks the sleekness of the Fiesta.

"For us, the sub-B sector is much less of a priority, although we’d never say never.”

Our Verdict

Ford Ka
The Ford Ka lacks the sparkle of the original model

The Ford Ka is the sister car to the Fiat 500, but is it more appealing than the funky Italian?

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Comments
25

A34

8 June 2016
... Whereas Ka+ will just be seen as a better value Fiesta. Who will buy the latter - except the performance and diesel/fleet versions?

8 June 2016
As the article says, this is not a new model. Ka+ has been on sale in other markets for a while. It's basic transport - the current Fiesta is more sophisticated and I'm sure the new one will be even more so.

8 June 2016
He's not kidding! It may offer value for money but it's an unlovely, dumpy thing which makes the Vauxhall Viva, Hyundai i10 and Kia Piccanto look like masterpieces in comparison. The problem is, I think, they felt they needed to use design cues from elsewhere in their range to make it recognisably a Ford. In designing utilitarian cheap cars, why don't manufacturers instead adopt a "clean sheet" approach and make a virtue of simplicity? The original Fiat Panda, with its simple body pressings, flat glass and "hammock" back seat did this very successfully.

8 June 2016
Autocar wrote:

The original Ka started life 20 years ago as a sub-B-segment premium city car.

Premium? Well, I did not know that. I thought it was just the cheapest Ford you could buy, complete with its ancient 1.3 litre engine, and wind-up front windows. A brilliant design, style-wise, though, and great fun to drive. A popular choice as a first car too, for the 17+. For me, the first generation Ka is the only one worthy of the name. Five doors is far too sensible for a trendy/cheap runabout. Time will tell if it is the right recipe to sell well in th UK.

8 June 2016
Looks like an excellent car for people who want cars for driving rather than leaving in the drive because they think they'll impress the neighbours. If you retch at the site of a boot lid that hasn't got four rings on,this is not going to be for you.

Still reckon Ford could get the price down a bit though. And how about some bigger low-priced cars? A focus sized equivalent to this would be useful.

8 June 2016
Looks like an excellent car for people who want cars for driving rather than leaving in the drive because they think they'll impress the neighbours. If you retch at the site of a boot lid that hasn't got four rings on,this is not going to be for you.

Still reckon Ford could get the price down a bit though. And how about some bigger low-priced cars? A focus sized equivalent to this would be useful.

8 June 2016
This is basically a cheaper Ford Fiesta, with much the same room. Surely this will cannibalise the Fiesta until that car gets bigger...To me these sort of cars confuse the brand image of Ford

8 June 2016
I don't consider £10k to be particularly cheap for this heap of junk (I like Fords in general before anyone comments).

8 June 2016
Correct me if I am wrong, but isn't this simply a reskinned version of the previous Fiesta that was developed for India? That would definitely put it in Dacia territory, however to compare it to the Rio is ridiculous, especially when a brand new version is due next year. Another example of Ford's "One Ford" ethos that gave us the fantastically awful EcoSport. Come on Ford, if you want to serve up sub-brand product, at least have the guts to develop a standalone brand.

Gerwyn

8 June 2016
It's main rival, the Vauxhall Viva, is £400 cheaper which is a lot at that level, has more power and a more modern engine

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