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