‘It’s ‘car’ now, not ‘kay-aye’ or ‘ka’,’ said one dealer to us, as he took delivery of his very first new baby Ford. ‘However it’s pronounced, though, I’m delighted to see it. This couldn’t have been better timed.’
Such is the excitement in the Ford dealer network over the brand-new, second-generation Ka. The old one lasted 12 years – too long, said our dealer friend, even though it still shifted incredibly well right up until the end. ‘It’s the style that it sold on.’
This model aims to replicate that, but bring the recipe bang up-to-date. It’s got lots of airbags, advanced electric gadgets, a brand-new petrol engine and, for the first time, a turbo diesel. ‘The premium here is only £700, too’, said our man. ‘On the Fiat 500, it’s £1,500! A real, real opportunity for us.’
Why does he reference the Fiat? Because it’s actually Fiat that builds the new Ka for Ford, on a platform also used by the 500 and Panda. Fear not, no external panels are shared, and it remains unmistakably ‘Ka’. Sure, fans of the old one may already be aghast at the slightly generalised looks – this is more modern Ford than second gen Ka – but it’s sharp, sophisticated, and decidedly premium in appearance. It is the exact same 3.62m length as the old Ka, but it’s 10cm taller.
Inside, the links with the Fiat are clearer. Basic dash architecture and layout is very similar. However, the Ford has totally bespoke switchgear and, for enhanced showroom appeal, far better quality of materials than before.
The gearlever is high-set and the driving position, atop lofty seats, commanding. It feels like a much more mature, grown up car, rather than a miniaturised city runabout. It’s also spacious – four adults should fit relatively contently, for short periods at least. At 224 litres, the boot is 20 per cent bigger – and, for the first time, it even has a proper glovebox!
There are four trim levels: Studio, Style, Style+ (which adds air con and Quickclear front windscreen), and Zetec. Standard kit is youth orientated – six-speaker stereo, USB port – and fair rather than generous. But the quality of materials and the switchgear is so much better than before.
Dealers will also have three ‘Individual’ branded styling packages to up-sell – Grand Prix, Digital Art, and Tattoo – with coloured grill surrounds, mirror caps, decals, and matching interior features. All are rather unique.
Under the bonnet, there’s either a 68bhp 1.2-litre petrol, or a 74bhp 1.3-litre turbo diesel. These are both superb units, each returning sub-120g/km CO2 and notable economy.
The diesel is especially stunning from a planet-saving perspective. But unless customers’ daily commute contains a lot of heavy uphill gradients, where its extra torque comes in handy, we’d take the petrol. It’s much zingier-sounding and enthusiastic. While the diesel has welcome extra shove, it is also rather noisy.
On the road, Ford has done a fantastic job of redressing the Fiat 500’s chassis shortcomings. The Ka has much better bump absorption, particularly at speed, and fitting a rear anti-roll bar has enabled Ford’s engineers to soften the springs by 30 per cent and retune the dampers accordingly. Comfort levels, grip, and sheer involvement all benefit.
Changes to the steering geometry also give the Ka more linear responses than the 500. It isn’t as communicative as its own predecessor, but for a city car it’s brilliantly entertaining.
Shame the safety kit isn’t better. Only two airbags are fitted as standard, which looks incredibly poor next to the Fiat 500. That car includes seven – somewhat negating the Ka’s slim price advantage.
But it’s very economical – just the thing our dealer man wanted. An ECOnetic version is coming, but in the meantime the diesel returns 67.3mpg and emits just 112g/km CO2, the petrol 55.4mpg and 119g/km – completely thrashing the old Ka.
Right car, right time? You bet. No, it’s not cheap – at £8,995 without air con, the Ka has been moved upmarket – but the package delivers on the road and further enhances Ford’s green car portfolio. So a winner, then? The answer is, it simply has to be. Whichever way you say the name.
by RICHARD AUCOCK