When the Ka was launched by Ford in 1996 it was a striking three-door city car with radical looks which pioneered the ‘New Edge’ design philosophy which would help Ford models become some of the most distinct in the market throughout the late 90s and early 00s.
But the second-generation Ford Ka is no more, replaced in the line-up by the Indian-built Ka+ as of late last year. It’s an altogether different proposition from its predecessor. It has five doors, for a start, and Ford see it as a B-segment supermini, rather than an A-segment city car.
Ford Ka+ 1.2L Ti-VCT
Engine: 1.2-litre, four-cylinder petrol
Top speed :105mph
0-62mph: 13.3 seconds
Economy: 56.6mpg combined
CO2 emissions: 114g/km
It actually launched in Brazil back in 2014, before being introduced to the Indian market a year later and, finally, with some significant tweaks to suspension, dampers, tyres and crossbeams, to Europe in 2016. The most affordable car in Ford’s refreshed line-up, prices start at £8,995 in the UK and, contrary to Ford’s general creep upmarket, the Ka+ takes aim at the likes of the Dacia Sandero, Suzuki Baleno and MG 3 at the budget end of the market.
Built on the same platform as the Fiesta, the Ka+ is slightly smaller than its more established stablemate, but just under 30mm taller, meaning class-leading headroom for driver and front passenger and, Ford say, room for five 6ft-plus passengers.
Being part of a family of fairly average height and build, I didn’t test that particular claim, but can confirm that the Ka+ felt roomier than its exterior profile might imply.
The cabin in our Zetec-trimmed test car felt very much like a stripped-back Fiesta, with the familiar Sync communications and entertainment system (more expensive cars in Ford’s line-up ship with Sync 2 or Sync 3) plopped on top of an angular center console and a dash lacking in the inserts and embellishments common in more expensive models.
If you’re looking for them, it’s possible to spot other areas in our top-spec model where money has been saved. The interior plastic feels hard; the 15-inch alloy wheels look very basic when compared with examples adorning the axles of even mid-range Fiestas; the boot lid has no handle and feels flimsy, and insulation from road noise is lacking.
Design decisions like that keep production costs down and result in a car which, visually, completely lacks pretention – and is all the better for it. In my book, a cheap car that doesn’t bother trying to look expensive almost always ages better than a cheap car packed with fake-looking trim inserts and soon-to-be-peeling leatherette.
More importantly, it’s comfortable, equipped with most of the features that matter and actually pretty good to drive.
Despite a complete lack of sporty pretension it handles every-bit as well as the outgoing mk7 Fiesta – a car critically lauded for its handling throughout its lifespan. The steering is nicely-weighted and short-but-soft springs make for a comfortable ride.
The Ka+ comes with a five-speed manual gearbox mated to a 1.2-litre engine derived from the 1.25-litre engine in the old Fiesta. Twin independent variable camshaft timing optimises performance, fuel efficiency (56.5mpg combined) and emissions (114g/km). The car also utilises hybrid-style ‘regenerative charging’ to charge the car battery using energy from the brakes
rather than the engine – resulting in a marginal improvement to fuel consumption.
Our 84bhp test car – the engine is also available in 69bhp guise – was well mated to the car for urban driving – quick off the mark at the lights and quite happy pottering around at low speed.
At higher speed, however, it laboured and if you’re determined to squeeze every last bit of performance out of it to keep up in the fast lane, the lack of sound deadening starts to tell.
In all, the built-to-a-price cabin and lack of engine options means the Ka+ is some way off B-segment stablemate the Fiesta – deliberately so. But up against the budget end of the B-segment, where value for money is everything, it’s one of the best of the bunch.