Ka+ offer engagement for keen drivers
Practical, no-frills city car charmed keen drivers despite flaws
When I first skimmed through the spec sheet of our new Ford Ka+ at the start of its time with us, one question was uppermost in my mind: “Is this car really going to be up to the cut and thrust of daily British motoring?”.
After all, it was equipped with a naturally aspirated 1.2-litre engine that emits a modest 83bhp – and our car was the more powerful of the two outputs on offer.
What I have since learnt is not to judge a book by its cover. Almost immediately, the Ka+ destroyed the idea that it wouldn’t be up to the task of dealing with my daily commute, shopping trips and frequent visits to friends and relatives.
I’ll come to the (very few) negatives in a moment, but for now let’s look at all of the ways the Ka+ impressed me. For starters, its interior uses numerous bits from the Fiesta‘s parts bin, so it’s logically laid out and well assembled. A tall roof line means there is space aplenty inside, too.
Ford claims that adults won’t feel cramped in the back because there is ample rear leg room and enough space to easily fit three across the rear bench. However, when I carried a trio of passengers in the back, they described the experience as snug. Nevertheless, two adults were able travel long distances in the back in comfort; a 200-mile round trip with four adults on board left none of us suffering from any aches or pains at the end of the journey.
The coup de grace is the Ka+’s chassis. This little car rides really well when you potter around town but it’s also good when you want to drive in a more spirited fashion, thanks to weighty steering and its keen turn-in.
That’s not to say it was perfect. The weakest link was the engine, which ran out of grunt in the mid-range. It also wasn’t that gutsy when climbing steep inclines, which required you to work the gearbox hard to maintain progress. Higher up the rev range, though, the Ka+ seemed more urgent.
Pity it was just a five-speed ‘box, too. The shift action was slick and positive, but a sixth ratio would have eased the burden on the engine. And it would have been better still if Ford had fitted its brilliant three-cylinder Ecoboost engine instead the 1.2.
Another issue with the Ka+ was the lack of an external boot release on the rear hatch. It meant that you had to fish for your keys or press the button inside the car to open the boot. It was inconvenient, certainly, and became grating when the key didn’t always fully release the boot catch. Despite those flaws, the Ka+’s ride, handling and all-round capability more than make up for the flaws. Were you shopping for a new car at this price point, I would recommend it. This is a tough market, especially given that, at an entry-level price of £9545, the Ka+ looks expensive. Entry-level versions of small city cars from Volkswagen, Skoda, Vauxhall, MG, Suzuki, Kia and Hyundai all cost less. Then there is the turbocharged 0.9-litre Dacia Sandero in range- topping Laureate trim, which is cheaper than a base-spec Ka+.
But the Ka+ can cope with everything a small family would ask of a car, from shopping trips to loading it up with the rear seats flattened, plus longer journeys. The fact that it also puts a smile on your face means that I’d bypass the cheaper options and dig a little deeper into my pocket.
INTERIOR SPACE – The Ford Ka+ can seat four adults in comfort and five people at a squeeze. CABIN QUALITY – The use of Fiesta parts brings a solid and familiar feel to the cabin. KEEN HANDLING – Fun to drive with gusto. Its ability to cling on in bends defies its tall stance.
LACKLUSTRE ENGINE – Good enough, but a three- pot Ecoboost would be better and more fun. BOOT ACCESSIBILITY – Why did Ford not include a boot release button on the outside of the rear hatch?
Price £10,545 Price as tested £11,590 Options Ingot Silver paint £495, City Pack (rear parking sensors, power folding heated door mirrors, electric rear windows) £300, heated front seats £150, 14in spare steel wheel £100 Economy 39.7mpg Faults None Expenses None
I’m a big fan of keeping things simple and the Ka+ is a nice example of a likeable, no-fuss runaround. But its lack of an external boot release takes simplifying a bit too far for me. After using the dash-mounted release button on leaving the car, the act of closing the driver’s door creates pressure inside the cabin, forcing the boot to pop open momentarily and then close itself. Very frustrating.
Price £10,545 Price as tested £11,590 Options Ingot Silver paint £495, City Pack (rear parking sensors, power folding heated door mirrors, electric rear windows) £300, heated front seats £150, 14in spare steel wheel £100 Economy 39.7mpg Faults None Expenses None Mileage 10,546
Our Ka+’s one area of weakness is its old nail of an engine. Coming to it from more modern turbocharged units, often of smaller capacity, even our more powerful 84bhp version feels a little asthmatic, with a flat spot so large you could drive a horse and carriage through it. That’s a pity, because everything else about the Ka+’s dynamics feels so modern.
Price £10,545 Price as tested £11,590 Options Ingot Silver paint £495, City Pack (rear parking sensors, power folding heated door mirrors, electric rear windows) £300, heated front seats £150, 14in spare steel wheel £100 Economy 39.7mpg Faults None Expenses None Mileage 9107
I recently had to drive more than 100 miles through the night, after a long day at work, from Silverstone to Monmouthshire in the Ka+. …read more