Practical, no-frills city car charmed keen drivers despite flaws
23 October 2017

When I first skimmed through the spec sheet of our new Ford Ka+ at the start of its time with us, one question was uppermost in my mind: “Is this car really going to be up to the cut and thrust of daily British motoring?”.

After all, it was equipped with a naturally aspirated 1.2-litre engine that emits a modest 83bhp – and our car was the more powerful of the two outputs on offer. 

What I have since learnt is not to judge a book by its cover. Almost immediately, the Ka+ destroyed the idea that it wouldn’t be up to the task of dealing with my daily commute, shopping trips and frequent visits to friends and relatives. 

I’ll come to the (very few) negatives in a moment, but for now let’s look at all of the ways the Ka+ impressed me. For starters, its interior uses numerous bits from the Fiesta’s parts bin, so it’s logically laid out and well assembled. A tall roof line means there is space aplenty inside, too. 

Ford claims that adults won’t feel cramped in the back because there is ample rear leg room and enough space to easily fit three across the rear bench. However, when I carried a trio of passengers in the back, they described the experience as snug. Nevertheless, two adults were able travel long distances in the back in comfort; a 200-mile round trip with four adults on board left none of us suffering from any aches or pains at the end of the journey. 

The coup de grace is the Ka+’s chassis. This little car rides really well when you potter around town but it’s also good when you want to drive in a more spirited fashion, thanks to weighty steering and its keen turn-in. 

That’s not to say it was perfect. The weakest link was the engine, which ran out of grunt in the mid-range. It also wasn’t that gutsy when climbing steep inclines, which required you to work the gearbox hard to maintain progress. Higher up the rev range, though, the Ka+ seemed more urgent. 

Pity it was just a five-speed ’box, too. The shift action was slick and positive, but a sixth ratio would have eased the burden on the engine. And it would have been better still if Ford had fitted its brilliant three-cylinder Ecoboost engine instead the 1.2. 

Another issue with the Ka+ was the lack of an external boot release on the rear hatch. It meant that you had to fish for your keys or press the button inside the car to open the boot. It was inconvenient, certainly, and became grating when the key didn’t always fully release the boot catch. Despite those flaws, the Ka+’s ride, handling and all-round capability more than make up for the flaws. Were you shopping for a new car at this price point, I would recommend it. This is a tough market, especially given that, at an entry-level price of £9545, the Ka+ looks expensive. Entry-level versions of small city cars from Volkswagen, Skoda, Vauxhall, MG, Suzuki, Kia and Hyundai all cost less. Then there is the turbocharged 0.9-litre Dacia Sandero in range- topping Laureate trim, which is cheaper than a base-spec Ka+. 

But the Ka+ can cope with everything a small family would ask of a car, from shopping trips to loading it up with the rear seats flattened, plus longer journeys. The fact that it also puts a smile on your face means that I’d bypass the cheaper options and dig a little deeper into my pocket.

Like it:

INTERIOR SPACE - The Ford Ka+ can seat four adults in comfort and five people at a squeeze. CABIN QUALITY - The use of Fiesta parts brings a solid and familiar feel to the cabin. KEEN HANDLING - Fun to drive with gusto. Its ability to cling on in bends defies its tall stance.

Loathe it:

LACKLUSTRE ENGINE - Good enough, but a three- pot Ecoboost would be better and more fun. BOOT ACCESSIBILITY - Why did Ford not include a boot release button on the outside of the rear hatch? 

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

PREVIOUS REPORTS:

I’m a big fan of keeping things simple and the Ka+ is a nice example of a likeable, no-fuss runaround. But its lack of an external boot release takes simplifying a bit too far for me. After using the dash-mounted release button on leaving the car, the act of closing the driver’s door creates pressure inside the cabin, forcing the boot to pop open momentarily and then close itself. Very frustrating. 

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 Mileage 10,546

 

PREVIOUS REPORTS:

Our Ka+’s one area of weakness is its old nail of an engine. Coming to it from more modern turbocharged units, often of smaller capacity, even our more powerful 84bhp version feels a little asthmatic, with a flat spot so large you could drive a horse and carriage through it. That’s a pity, because everything else about the Ka+’s dynamics feels so modern. 

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 Mileage 9107

 

PREVIOUS REPORTS:

I recently had to drive more than 100 miles through the night, after a long day at work, from Silverstone to Monmouthshire in the Ka+. A chore? No, the Ka+ was quite fun once up to speed, even if the steeper Welsh terrain caused the little engine to sweat. It was comfortable, too, my only gripe being the buzzy plastic speaker surrounds. 

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 Mileage 8327

 

PREVIOUS REPORTS:

I’m always surprised by how well our Ka+ rides, and one or two of my passengers have also commented on how unexpectedly nice this little Ford is to be in, despite it looking rather ordinary from the outside. However, the other day, the driver of an Aston Martin Cygnet waved at me, presuming our car, viewed from head on, to be another Aston. Good or bad thing? Not sure... 

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 Mileage 6979

 

PREVIOUS REPORTS:

One aspect of the Ka+ that annoys me is the parcel shelf. It isn’t clipped in but instead rests on a couple of hooks, one on either side of the boot, and is attached to elastic cord, which springs it back to its original position. It works well enough most of the time, but if you shut the boot with a bit too much force, the flimsy shelf contorts, jams itself against the bootlid and prevents the latter from latching properly. 

From the outside, it looks closed and the first inkling you get that something is amiss is a warning on the infotainment screen declaring that the bootlid is still open. 

The absence of an exterior boot release button is inconvenient, too. It means you either have to press the release button near the light control switch on the dashboard before you exit the car, or use the ‘boot open’ button on the key. 

However, when you’re using the key’s button it can be hit and miss whether the door fully unlatches. This wouldn’t be such a big deal if it was your occasional method for accessing to the boot, but because there is no other way to open it from outside of the car, the intermittent issue can grow wearisome.

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 Mileage 6186

 

PREVIOUS REPORTS:

The naturally aspirated four-cylinder engine makes the Ka+ swift enough at town speeds. But try to accelerate quickly from a standstill and there is a lag between grabbing second gear and the torque coming in. It feels like you are treading water for a couple of seconds. 

Then there is motorway driving, which makes up 65 of the 70 miles in my daily commute. Visits to family and friends also require numerous motorway miles. The Ka+ is competent enough to do those journeys without making me weary, but the 1.2-litre engine struggles to reach cruising speeds quickly, which means extra diligence is needed when joining fast-moving traffic on carriageways. At higher revs when pushing 70mph, it’s far more responsive. 

The little Ford has taken to being out of its comfort zone well, but it’s a great shame that the fun handling engineered into the Ka+ is going to waste. Is there a way to sort it? Price aside, yes: include the brilliant three- cylinder Ecoboost engine.

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 Mileage 6285

 

PREVIOUS REPORTS:

Having settled into daily life with our Ka+, I spend a lot of time surveying the dashboard and cabin fittings during my commute. 

Considering the little car’s price point, we weren’t expecting many, if any, soft-touch materials. True to form, the dashboard is dominated by hard textured plastics, but what Ford has put together can’t be sneered at. 

This is largely due to most of the fixtures and fittings being taken from the same parts bins as the more expensive Fiesta, including the leather steering wheel that came as standard on our Zetec-trim car. 

As a consequence, the Ka+ feels well screwed together, although there are also some differences in the cabin that raise the car above being merely a low-rent Fiesta. These include the instrument cluster, door mirror controls and infotainment system button layout. Thankfully, the latter isn’t as complicated to use as the system in the current Fiesta. 

Not all of Ford’s attempts to lift the cabin’s appearance are a success: the gloss black trim surrounding the stereo only serves to make the rest of the dark grey dash look dowdy and is prone to showing smudged fingerprints in all their glory. 

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 Mileage 5559

 

PREVIOUS REPORTS:

Since taking ownership of the Ford Ka+, I’ve been looking forward to finding out how capable it would be with a full complement of passengers.

So when a trip to Manchester cropped up a couple of weeks ago, I had the ideal chance to do just that, with my mum and my 6ft-plus uncle becoming unwitting test subjects for the 250-mile round trip.

The Ka+ is shorter overall than the Fiesta, which itself isn’t the last word in rear passenger comfort. However, despite the two cars being similar underneath, Ford says it has created more rear room in the Ka+ by making the seats more upright than the Fiesta’s and sacrificing some boot space. Another advantage the Ka+ has is its tall roofline, which aids head room and makes life easier when getting in and out of the back.

Anyway, it all seems to work. During the trip up the M40 and M6, both passengers commented positively on the knee, leg and shoulder room afforded to them. My mother was most comfortable, but my uncle managed 90 miles before cramp set in and he chose to switch to the vacant front passenger seat during a pit stop at Keele services.

After that, I was keen to try three across the rear bench. This time the journey was of only a few miles, but again the Ford didn’t disappoint, with each passenger having enough head and leg room, even the middle occupant, who can often get a raw deal in five-seat cars. The only downside was a lack of shoulder room – forgiveable when you consider the Ka+’s overall dimensions.

Despite the compromised boot space, there’s still a 270-litre load bay, which is sufficient to swallow a small weekly shop. Indeed, it has only 15 litres less than an MG 3 and 50 litres less than a Dacia Sandero, both larger cars, and is 64 litres bigger than the boot of a Vauxhall Viva.

Read our first report below

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 four-cylinder 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 

Our Verdict

Ford Ka+

The Ford Ka+ may look ungainly, but underneath it’s a spacious supermini with a well-sorted chassis

Join the debate

Comments
13

31 May 2017
This seems totally devoid of any style, and it doesn't say great things about Ford in general. What's the opposite of a halo model called? If Ford are serious about selling cars like the Ecosport and Ka in Europe then they need to design and build them for and in Europe, because tastes and needs are very different. Clearly being burned by the dismal failure of the Ecosport wasn't enough of a lesson.

31 May 2017
What do you need large wheels for on this type of car? The original KA came on 13" wheels. It's not designed to be a sports car, or a piece of exquisite quality car.

It's aimed at low running costs/price market and it seems to fit the bill well really, with space and decent driving dynamics.

May not not be the most exciting to look at, the rear capsule be mistaken for the old 1 series.

It's a an alright car, and better than the 500 based one it replaces.

31 May 2017
So maybe it's the car that's become too big for its wheels? But I'm sure that this trend towards oversize wheels has a lot to do with the poor ride quality of many modern cars. Doesn't unsprung weight matter any more, or have we just become used to cars that crash and shudder every time we go over a pothole?

31 May 2017
It's not the size of the wheel that solely affects the ride it's the profile of the tyre! A bigger wheel/tyre combination can actual go over bumps better. But you are right about unsprung weight

 

Hydrogen cars just went POP

31 May 2017
I don't see why a cheap car has to look so dull, no one's every gonna say it's cute like the Suzuki Ignis or smart like the new Swift or good value for money like a Kia Picanto.
All these cars are about the same money, as economical, as well built BUT just look more of an interesting ownership proposition. Ford are losing it IMHO

 

Hydrogen cars just went POP

6 July 2017
There you go talking about butts again - I preferred it when you were just a know-it-all.
Hydrogen cars just went PLOP

31 May 2017
They should have renamed it really, as it's competing in a different class to the old Ka. Vauxhall for example have separate Adam and Viva models, the former is more akin to the original Ka idea (small and attempting to be cheeky) while the latter is like this Ka+ (cheap, spacious transport)

4 June 2017
Mikey C wrote:

They should have renamed it really, as it's competing in a different class to the old Ka. Vauxhall for example have separate Adam and Viva models, the former is more akin to the original Ka idea (small and attempting to be cheeky) while the latter is like this Ka+ (cheap, spacious transport)

Fiat have done it with the 500/Panda as well

31 May 2017
I'v seen a few of these around now, and I think its fine for the market it is aimed at, probably more in tune than the former, second generation Ka. I certainly prefer the look of it to the narrow, upright look of such cars as the Viva, and it sounds like Ford have done a much better job of adapting it to European tastes than with the awful Ecosport. I agree a different name would have been a good idea, though

8 June 2017
I wouldn’t take a review at face value although it does look like this Ka+ could be something that might work for a lot of very different households and especially the younger generation. All the more so, people need to get out there and actually get into the car themselves and figure out whether the car matches them and their lifestyles as well as look at their finance options so that they can secure a good deal for the car if everything works out!

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