I went to Ford’s top secret test track deep in the middle of Belgium recently, and the trip brought back all sorts of memories about all kinds of daft events – only some of which will I ever be able to write about.
I was at Lommel to meet the engineering team behind the new Ford Ka and to give the fruits of their labour a bit of a spin. You can read all about it in the book that comes attached to the 29th October issue of the mag if you’re interested. But I can tell you that the car itself is quite some achievement, not least before it started life as a Fiat Panda back in 2006.
Over the last two-and-a-bit years, Ford and Fiat have transformed the Panda into both the new 500 and the Ka, and although they share about 80 per cent of their mechanical make up, in reality they feel like entirely different cars.
Of the two you’d have to say that the Ka is better to drive – quite a lot better – while the Fiat probably looks more appealing to more of its target audience.
Either way, the pure brilliance of the new Ka now presents Ford with something of a double-edged sword when it comes to selling the Fiesta. Because unless you absolutely need the space (in which case buy a year-old Focus and save a few quid), I can’t see why anyone would pay more for a Fiesta when they can have the sweeter and almost equally roomy Ka for a decent saving.
True, the Ka will only ever come with three doors – and they project chief Matthias Tonn says that Ford is “never ever going to do a sporty version”, but that doesn’t prevent it from being an utterly practical little car; one in which you can transport four people in almost as much comfort as a Focus for two thirds the price.
I guess it’s quite a nice problem to have from Ford’s point of view - if the blue oval’s sales staff can’t sell its punters either a Fiesta or a Ka, they might want to think about becoming estate agents instead. Then they’d really find out how hard the sell has become of late.