sale now is the new three-door
Ford Ka designed and built with
a little help from Fiat. Prices range
from £7,945 to £10,145. But is it the
been waiting for?
TWO NEW POPULAR SIZE MODEL RANGES Fiesta and now Ka, introduced in
four months means Ford are well placed to pick up what sales are available
in two prime sectors of a recession-hit new car market.
But having two new models, only slightly different in style, size and price,
will bring its problems. As a customer, do I buy a Ka that mainly uses Fiat
technology and is not such an iconic design as the previous one, or do I buy
the much better, class-leading but slightly more expensive all-Ford Fiesta?
The Fiesta, being thoroughbred Ford, is fantastic to drive and use. It is the
undoubted leader in the 'supermini' sector and three-door prices start from
£9,195 for the 1.25-litre petrol Studio version. On the other hand, the new
Ka looks quite sweet but drives and handles only averagely well better,
though, than the Fiat 500 and costs from £7,945.
My own view is to go for the roomier Fiesta three- or five-door models. Their
real-life performance and user-friendly size offers much better value than the
'on-paper' price differential. Interestingly, Ford is 'hiking up' the prices
of the Fiesta range to distance it from Ka, but there are still discounts to
That said, this review is about the new Ka. The latest Ka continues with the
'new face of Ford' trapezoidal front grille and wedge side profile, with the
added truncated rear-end with rounded tailgate window. It still looks cheeky
and appealing although it is not as distinctive as the original Ka, which had
wide rear haunches and a steeply sloping rear tailgate and which was so different
to everything else in its class.
At 3,620mm in length, new Ka is the same as the old model but the roof line
is higher and longer than that of its predecessor and the Fiat 500. This allows
more headroom, especially in the rear, and more boot space: 224 litres with
the rear seats in position and 747 litres with the seats folded down. The increase
in headroom means the seating positions are higher too high in the front;
and trying to get a comfortable driving position is not easy. The steering column
doesn't adjust for reach and foot space for the pedals seems much less than
for left-hand drive versions I tried last year. The rear quarter visibility
for the driver is not good either.
Inside, the cabin styling is bold and imaginative and with the extra-cost designer
option packs there is huge scope for buyers to end up with a look and specification
that really suits their personality or image. To attract younger owners and
increase the number of male buyers to Ka, Ford has introduced three personalisation
packs: Digital Art, Grand Prix and Tattoo. Costing from £300 for the interior
pack and from £200 for the exterior pack, they feature external graphics and
matching interior fabrics with bespoke steering wheel, gearlever and floor mats.
Past Ka customers have been predominately female and the average age of owners
has been around 50. Only when Ka became a used vehicle did the age of users
drop and more men became drivers.
The Ka uses the same platform as the Fiat 500/Panda and the same engines and
transmissions. The suspension has been re-tuned by Ford with a stiffer rear
axle, 30% softer springs, retuned dampers and firmer bushes, resulting in a
much more competent and comfortable ride. Overall, Ford estimate that 20% of
the Ka's components are theirs and 80% are Fiat. For the record, the new Ka
is built by Fiat at Tychy in Poland.
Thankfully for Ford, the new Ka over the Fiat 500 is a much better car to drive
and very much more capable in terms of handling and ride comfort but potholes
will be felt and the ride is fidgety over our bad urban road surfaces.
The tuning of the suspension with the addition of a rear anti-roll bar has worked
wonders, giving the Ka more controlled and predictable handling and with more
front-end grip than the Fiat 500. The electronic power steering is well weighted
and gives good feedback to the driver. Anti-lock braking is standard on all
models but, regrettably, ESP is only available as an extra cost option and that
costs a high £400 not clever marketing for what should be a standard
The two Fiat-sourced engines work well with the new Ka. The four-cylinder 1.2-litre
68bhp petrol unit is free-revving and will be by far the most popular unit.
Officially, it returns 55.4mpg but during the media test drive around the busy
M25 and surrounding urban roads it only managed 41.2mpg. With CO2 emissions
of 119g/km, road tax is an appealing £35 a year. Being high geared for fuel
economy, this unit lacks the heftier torque of the 1.3-litre diesel engine for
responsive driving in traffic or going up hills, so be prepared for lots of
gear-changing. Like the diesel engine, the petrol unit is mated to a five-speed
manual gearbox and no automatic transmission is planned at this stage.
For the first time there is a diesel engine option in the Ka range, a Fiat 1.3-litre
74bhp turbodiesel unit. While this is only expected to attract a projected 4%
of Ka customers, it is the better powerplant thanks in part to its 107lb
ft of torque from 1,500rpm. It is quiet, responsive and copes better with all
driving conditions. If I regularly covered long journeys I'd pay the extra £700
and the extra per-litre cost in fuel and go for this engine because of the better
quality of driving it gives and the potential for much better fuel economy.
Driving over the same test routes, the Ka diesel returned 48.5mpg some
way off the official 67.3mpg; but still good. With CO2 emissions of 112g/km,
road tax is also £35 a year.
Both models offer low running costs. Insurance groups range from 1E to 3E, and
the residual values forecast by industry analysts CAP say new Ka will be worth,
on average, 14% more than the previous models based on the usual three years/60,000
Overall the Ka adds to Ford's ability to produce clever, smart, affordable and
safe vehicles (even if you do have to pay extra for the ESP). The new Ka is
not the styling icon the first Ka was so do not expect this generation to be
around for 12 years. It is a design for today where practicality, safety and
price are prime considerations. Buyers should watch out for more added cost
with designer option packs. Reasons to buy a new Ka include the compact size,
price, flexible design, safety, good handling and much improved equipment levels,
either as standard or optional. David Miles
Ford Ka 1.2 Zetec | £9,445
Maximum speed: 99mph | 0-62mph: 13.1 seconds
Overall test MPG: 41.2mpg | Power: 68bhp | Torque: 76lb ft
CO2 119g/km | VED Band B £35 | Insurance group 2