From £9,1657

Although it may be called a Ka, the new Ford Ka+ is a very different proposition from the models that preceded it.

Instead of a funky-looking and diminutive three-door, you now get a larger, dumpy five-door that prioritises practicality and a cheap purchase price over fashionable looks.

In other words, it is a rival for the likes of the Vauxhall VivaDacia Sandero and Skoda Citigo.

Underneath the skin is a version of the Fiesta platform that’s been massaged to prioritise passenger space to the detriment of boot space. Outwardly, it looks virtually identical to the Indian-market Ford Figo, but there are significant changes to make it more suitable for European markets, with the suspension, springs, dampers and tyres all being changed or tweaked.

It would seem Ford has learned from the criticism levelled at the initial run of Ecosport SUVs.

Under the bonnet is a 1.2-litre four-cylinder motor that puts out either 69 or 84bhp. To keep costs down and put some space between the Ka+ and Fiesta, there are no Ecoboost or diesel options. Even so, it showed plenty of promise when we drove it in Europe. Can it do the same on British roads?

Jump inside the Ka+ and there’s no escaping the bargain basement feel. It doesn’t matter if you opt for entry-level Studio or plusher Zetec trim. The interior is a sea of hard, scratchy black plastic. While most of the controls are logically placed and feel solid enough, the heater dials are a little low and the electric mirror switch is a long stretch once you’re belted in.

There is no arguing with the space on offer, though. The Ka+ may be shorter than the Fiesta, but an increase in height and the reduction in boot space means that a six-footer can sit behind another six-footer without any issues. You wouldn’t want to spend hours back there, but generous head room and reasonable leg room for those in the back mean it shouldn't be too arduous in the rear.

Boot capacity may be down to 270 litres, but this should prove big enough for a weekly shop or a couple of small suitcases. The rear seatbacks fold down with a 60/40 split, revealing a decent load area that’s marred by a high step up from the boot floor. A variable boot floor would help, but it isn’t even an option.

On the equipment front, the entry-level Studio models get 15in steel wheels, electrically adjustable wing mirrors, front foglights, a smartphone dock, Bluetooth and USB connectivity as standard.

Opt for the range-topping Zetec model and you’ll find luxuries such as alloy wheels, day-running-lights, air conditioning, cruise control, a trip computer and Ford’s SYNC infotainment system complete with DAB radio and a 4.2in display.

Where the Ka+ really surprises is in the way it drives. Compared with the Indian-market Figo, the Ka+ gets shorter springs, beefier dampers, uprated bushes and stiffer crossmembers. While that would suggest it’s a stiff and uncomfortable thing, it proves anything but over a British B-road.

The first thing you notice is the ride. It’s no luxury saloon, but it smoothes over bumps better than many a more expensive car. The springs may be shorter, but they have a softness that’s lacking in many modern cars. This does allow significant amounts of body roll, but the dampers are well calibrated to prevent any float and wallow over large crests and compressions, even at speed.

The steering also pleases in the amount of weight it possesses. Unlike some rivals, there’s a meatiness to it that makes it far less prone to wandering at motorway speeds and even a bit of feel filtering up from the front tyres.

As good as the chassis is, it does highlight the shortcomings of the 1.2-litre engine. Even in top-spec guise, it’s a motor that needs thrashing mercilessly to make brisk progress - not an overly pleasant task due to the tortured screams it produces when you treat it that way.

To be fair, at more sedate speeds the engine is more than adequate. It’s smooth and quiet when pottering and has enough poke to make it feel sprightly away from the lights. We do wish there was a sixth gear, though; the engine is forced to spin surprisingly hard at motorway speeds.

While the Ka+ appeals to a very different portion of the market compared with the old car, it is, in many respects, far better. Equipment levels are reasonable, passenger space is very good considering the size of the car, and then there’s its sweet ride and handling - for this class at least.

Given that the Ka+ is one of the cheapest cars out there, the supple ride and entertaining handling proved to be a real surprise. 

Save money on your car insurance

Compare quotesCompare insurance quotes

Top 5 Superminis

First drives

Find an Autocar car review

Driven this week

  • Jaguar XF Sportbrake TDV6
    First Drive
    19 October 2017
    The handsome Jaguar XF Sportbrake exhibits all the hallmarks that makes the saloon great, and with the silky smooth diesel V6 makes it a compelling choice
  • Volkswagen T-Roc TDI
    First Drive
    19 October 2017
    Volkswagen's new compact crossover has the looks, the engineering and the build quality to be a resounding success, but not with this diesel engine
  • BMW M550i
    First Drive
    19 October 2017
    The all-paw M550i is a fast, effortless mile-muncher, but there's a reason why it won't be sold in the UK
  • Volvo V90
    First Drive
    19 October 2017
    The Volvo V90 is a big estate ploughing its own furrow. We’re about to see if it is refreshing or misguided
  • Kia Stonic
    First Drive
    18 October 2017
    Handsome entrant into the bulging small crossover market has a strong engine and agile handling, but isn’t as comfortable or complete as rivals