► New Ford Ka+ hatchback tested
► Replaces cheaper Fiestas and old Ka
► Ford promises Fiesta-like handling
Tight budget, big style expectations? Even the cheapest city cars let you go mad with the paint pot, allowing you to specify lurid colour combos only limited by your taste – or lack of thereof. Bright blue MG3 with red alloys and a multi-coloured roof? ‘Of course,’ cheerfully responds the dealer – grimacing internally as they fill in the prerequisite boxes.
The Ford Ka+, however, is not one of these cars. Despite Ford letting unhinged buyers splash £745 on the pictured bronze paint, and the fact that a sunflower-yellow hue is standard, this machine appeals to the head – not the heart. It is, after all, replacing the uninspiring Ka and the least expensive versions of the current-gen Fiesta.
Many will be pleased to find that the options list is relatively brief. You can have a 1.2-litre petrol engine, in 69bhp or 84bhp outputs, and pick from hubcap-wearing Studio trim (69bhp engine only) or the top-spec Zetec with alloy wheels. Simplicity, value, space and comfort are the names of the Ka+’s game.
However, the Ka+ was initially devised for the South American market, like the Ford EcoSport crossover – a car initally derided for sloppy handling and a shoddy interior. Ford assures us, however, that it comprehensively reworked its latest ‘One Ford’ model, with plenty of Fiesta goodness reputedly making its way into the Ka+.
Is there any hint of Ford verve to the way it drives?
We tested a Ka+ Zetec with the 84bhp petrol. Unsurprisingly, it’s unlikely to trouble its tyres for traction – and nor is it particularly fast. That said, it packs a decent slug of mid-range torque for a city car, making it quite relaxing to drive. There is, without question, Fiesta DNA present in this package.
Disregard the clutch and the 0-62mph sprint is dispatched in a good-for-the-money claimed 13.3 seconds, though fuel economy stands at middling 56.5mpg. Having stumbled across several autobahns during our test, we can confirm that it will hit 105mph if you can find a derestricted stretch long enough – and have a few days to spare. At these speeds it felt composed, impressive for a city runabout.
The steering is direct and well weighted for an electric system, allowing the Ka+ to feel nimble around town while remaining smooth at motorway speeds. The suspension is also compliant and quiet – it absorbs bumps without fuss but keeps the car in check around corners.
Refinement is similarly impressive, but because peak power is cranked out at 6300rpm, you do have to work the little engine to its fullest to get near the claimed performance figures. The engine puts up with the punishment, though, even emitting a vaguely sporty note in the process.
So they’ve saved money on the interior, then?
It’s actually pretty decent inside, considering its price. The seats are surprisingly comfortable for a car in this class, with good back support. Four six-footers should also be able to fit in it easily, while the boot is usefully large given the compact exterior dimensions.
The interior also feels surprisingly upmarket for a £10,000 car. The material quality doesn’t disappoint, while the layout of controls is simple and intuitive. It’s even got a slather of piano black trim. Premium.
Is it completely devoid of equipment?
You might expect a kit list about as comprehensive as that of a cardboard box, but there’s a pleasing amount on offer. Even the base Ka+ includes electric front windows and door mirrors, Bluetooth and USB connectivity, a speed limiter, hill start assist, a trip computer and an alarm.
Zetec trim, meanwhile, adds a few small car luxuries – including 15in alloy wheels, air-con, a DAB radio, cruise control and the MyKey system. This, really, is the one to go for – if anything, for air-con alone.
As with larger Fords, MyKey lets owners put restrictions on a specific key. It allows parents to keep tabs on any of their children who drive the car, by limiting the maximum speed and top audio volume, and preventing the stability control systems from being switched off.
Does it stack up on the financial front?
The Ka+ is cheap to buy, but its inexpensive finance deals make it really stand out. Put down a deposit of £1000 on a three-year contract and you can drive an 84bhp Zetec for just £151. Buy the car at the end of the scheme and you’ll have paid less than the list price.
This compares favourably with rivals. The smaller Vauxhall Viva, Peugeot 108 and Skoda Citigo all cost fractionally more each month, though just £3 more could get you into an – admittedly more basic – Skoda Fabia.
It’d be easy to slate the Ka+ for being too wholesome, too boring and too conventional in a market where you get the impression that many buyers would happily emblazon their face across the roof if they could.
However, it is just quick enough, just Fiesta-like enough in the corners and excellent value for money. Throw in decent practicality, refinement, comfort and equipment levels and this is a worthy, pleasant way to spend £10k – or £150 per month.
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