".the Ka is more comfortable and better suited to the urban journeys that most owners will use it for"
We took delivery of a 1.3-litre TDCi Ka in sporty Zetec trim and we initially thought it was a Fiesta. Ford's two smallest vehicles are very similar from some angles and a brief glimpse of the Ka sweeping into the office car park led to it being misidentified as its bigger brother. The styling is certainly generic Ford, in stark contrast to the original Ka which took a flame thrower to the rule book with its riot of curves. That said, it's still a great looking little car with the Ford 'Kinetic' design themes giving it a sporty flavour. The Zetec trim level helps here too. This supposedly sporty trim level adds front fog lights and alloy wheels to enhance the look of the car. We managed to resist the urge but it's also the Zetec trim that can be ordered with the Ka's various customisation packages. For small and not so small premiums, it's possible to select all kinds of fruity colour schemes which are applied to the inside and outside of the Ka. They won't be to everyone's taste but if you want your Ka to stand out, they'll do that for you and then some. We got ours in black. The Ford Ka is based on the same foundations as Fiat's Panda and 500 models but the Blue Oval designers have done a thorough job of putting their own influence on the car both outside and in. The interior can be as colourful as you want but all models have an engaging dashboard design with a big 'Ka' logo at its heart and clusters of reasonably intuitive control buttons. More controls on the steering wheel of our Zetec model make the systems that bit easier to interface with while on the move and the instrument cluster is similarly straightforward to use while retaining that element of Ka style.
Aspects of the car don't feel particularly Ford, a manufacturer that has been roundly praised for the involving handling and driver-focus of even its mainstream products. The Ka sits you in quite an upright position which is great for getting in and out as well as for seeing where you're going but keen drivers may want a lower, sportier set-up. The same goes for the suspension which feels softer than we've come to expect from modern Fords. Ride quality is very impressive for a small car but this Ka doesn't quite match the fun factor of the original. Ford has come up with a vehicle that seems very well judged for the mainstream city car customer but which might prove less involving for buyers expecting the marque's usual dynamic driving experience. The Ka's diesel engine is a 1.3-litre common-rail unit that's been purloined from Fiat along with the chassis. It's an impressive unit with a power output of 74bhp and a very linear power delivery that irons out any trace of turbo lag. It's perfectly possible to see how the diesel option could be preferred over the Ka's 1.2-litre petrol alternative. It's got extra muscle in the shape of 145Nm of torque that's produced from 1,500rpm which makes for a relaxed drive with decent in-gear acceleration. The diesel is noisier than the petrol but not too noisy if you forgo the upper reaches of the rev range. We've also found the Ka to be quite practical for a three-door supermini. There's an airy feel inside with an abundance of headroom for front seat occupants and space for a couple of six footers to occupy the rear without doing themselves a mischief. The array of storage options has been very well thought out with useful door pockets, numerous small cubbies and an unpromising glovebox flap that opens to reveal a prodigious area behind. The boot too is of a useful size for a citycar but 224 litres won't go that far after a major supermarket splurge. Fold the rear seats and 747 litres is opened up. All Ka models have an MP3 compatible CD stereo with an AUX input, electric power steering with a wheel that's adjustable for height, ABS brakes and twin front airbags. The Zetec adds a raft of other items including 15" alloy wheels, front fog lights, remote central locking, a trip computer, air-conditioning and a heated windscreen. In the final reckoning, the Ford Ka emerges as one of today's top city cars. It might not have the groundbreaking design of the original Ka but as an extension of Ford's car-making philosophy and design language into the city car market, it's a success. The links to the Fiat 500 are evident at times and some of the handling flair we expect from a Ford is missing but the flip side of that is that the Ka is more comfortable and better suited to the urban journeys that most owners will use it for. The diesel engine in our car is great but it does bump the cost of the Ka up quite considerably. The petrol alternative will be a perfectly viable option for many and it keeps the price at a level where the larger Fiesta is less of a temptation.
Facts at a Glance
Facts At A Glance CAR: Ford Ka 1.3 TDCi PRICE: £10,595 - on the road INSURANCE GROUP: 2 CO2 EMISSIONS: 112g/km PERFORMANCE: [1.3 TDCi Duratorq] 0-60mph 13.1s / Max Speed 100mph FUEL CONSUMPTION: [1.3 TDCi Duratorq] (combined) 67.3mpg STANDARD SAFETY FEATURES: Twin front & side airbags WILL IT FIT IN YOUR GARAGE?: length/width/heightmm 3620/1658/1505mm