all-new Ka will be appearing
in UK dealerships towards the end
of this year. However, customers
around the world can see the new Ka
before then, thanks to its cameo role
in the new Bond movie Quantum Of
Solace in which Bond girl Olga
Kurylenko gets to grips with 007
and the new Ka...
THE 'SUB-B' SALES SECTOR, as Ford calls it (ie, smaller than
'supermini') has doubled in size since 2003 due to customers downsizing
and the introduction of many more models, and now represents 8 per cent of the
total new car market. Back in 1996, when the original Ka first hit the road,
there were just eight models competing for sales now there are twenty-one.
Small cars are costly to develop, and that means ever smaller profit margins
in a cost-conscious world, which explains why the new three-door Ford Ka has
been produced in conjunction with Fiat. The Ka uses the same platform as the
Fiat 500/Panda, the same engines and transmissions but with a suspension re-tuned
by Ford with a stiffer rear axle, 30 per cent softer springs, retuned dampers
and firmer bushes that together deliver a much more competent and comfortable
ride. Overall, Ford estimates that 20 per cent of the Ka's components are theirs;
and 80 per cent are from Fiat. The Ka, incidentally, is built by Fiat at Tychy
in Poland, and UK prices range from £7,995 up to £10,195.
Trying to replace an iconic model that has stood the test of time for 12 years
is no easy task, especially in today's hard-pressed financial world. By opting
to go into partnership with Fiat to reduce the design and development costs
and to get economies of scale in production costs, Ford had fewer options to
be radical with the overall design.
The new Ka continues the new face of Ford, with the trapezoidal front grille
and wedge side profile, with the added truncated rear-end with rounded tailgate
window. It looks cheeky and appealing but it is not as distinctive as
the original Ka, which had wide rear haunches and a steeply sloping rear tailgate
and was so different to everything else in its class.
The New Ka at 3,620mm is the same length as the old model but
the roofline is higher and longer than its predecessor's. This is good news
because it means 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, so visibility
for all occupants is improved.
The interior is bold and imaginative and with the extra-cost designer option
packs there is huge scope for buyers to end up with a design and specification
that really suits their personality or image. In addition to the standard 'trim'
options of Zetec, Style, Style+ and entry-level Studio, Ford is introducing
three 'personalisation' packs: Digital Art, Grand Prix and Tattoo. Costing from
£300 for the interior and from £500 for the exterior, they feature exterior
graphics and matching interior fabrics with bespoke steering wheel, gearlever
and floor mats.
The range-topping Zetec model comes well equipped: air conditioning, heated
windscreen, 15-inch alloy wheels, remote central locking, driver seat height
adjustment, driver seat memory function, powered and heated door mirrors, electric
front windows with driver's one-touch up/down, front fog lamps, upgraded instruments
and trip computer, theatre dimming interior lights, electric power assisted
steering, height-adjustable steering wheel, headlamp courtesy delay system,
CD/radio with six speakers and MP3 compatibility plus AUX-in connector, 50:50
split rear seat, rear headrests, driver and passenger front airbags and ABS
The interior space is better than the old Ka and the new Fiat 500. Rear seat
legroom is, of course, limited and for some Ford owners moving up to the new
Fiesta will prove to be a better option: starting at £7,995, the new Ka is only
£700 cheaper than the highly-rated new and roomier Ford Fiesta;
and the 1.2-litre Fiat 500 is only £105 more than the Ka Studio 1.2 variant.
Fortunately for Ford, the new Ka is a much better car to drive than the Fiat
500 and very much more capable in terms of handling and ride comfort.
The tuning of the suspension with the addition of a rear anti-roll bar has worked
wonders, giving the vehicle a much less bouncy ride. The Ka also has more controlled
and predictable handling and more front-end grip than the Fiat. Furthermore,
the Ka's power-saving electronic power steering is well weighted and gives good
feedback to the driver. Anti-lock braking is standard on all models.
The two Fiat-sourced engines work well with the new Ka. The 1.2-litre 68bhp
petrol unit is free-revving and, officially, returns 55.4mpg. It will doubtless
be the most popular choice with buyers. During the media test drive, pushed
pretty hard on the hilly and winding roads of Ibiza, it returned 44.2mpg. With
CO2 emissions of 119g/km, road tax is a very appealing £35 a year.
Being high-geared for fuel economy, the petrol unit lacks the torque of the
diesel engine for responsive driving in traffic or going up hills so
be prepared for lots of gearchanging. Like the diesel engine, the petrol unit
is mated to a five-speed manual gearbox. No automatic transmission is planned
at this stage.
For the first time there is a diesel engine option (it adds £700 to the price)
in the Ka range: a 1.3-litre TDCi unit, although it's only available with the
Zetec specification model.
The 74bhp turbodiesel 1.3-litre unit generates 107lb ft of torque from 1,500rpm
and, whilst it will only attract a projected four per cent of Ka customers,
is by far the better unit. It is quiet, responsive and copes better with all
driving conditions. I'd willingly pay the extra £700 and the higher diesel fuel
costs and go for this engine just because of the better quality of driving it
gives. Fuel economy over the same type of roads was 51.6mpg less than
the official 67.3mpg but still very good. With CO2 emissions at 112g/km, road
tax is also £35 a year.
The new Ka is not the styling icon the first Ka was it's more function
over fashion so do not expect this generation to be around for twelve
years. That said, it is a design for today where practicality, safety and price
are prime considerations.
On paper it seems pricey against the Fiesta, especially if you're planning to
specify the extra-cost designer option packs. Strong points include its compact
size, the versatile design and the fact that it's safe and serves up good handling
and a comfortable ride. Other plus points include the much improved equipment
levels (either as standard or optional) and a decent diesel engine. Overall,
the Ka adds to Ford's ability to produce clever, smart, affordable and safe
vehicles. David Miles
Ford Ka 1.2 Zetec | £9,495
Maximum speed: 99mph | 0-62mph: 13.1 seconds
Overall test MPG: 44.2mpg | Power: 68bhp | Torque: 75lb ft
CO2 119g/km | VED Band B £35 | Insurance group 1-3E