Ford at last gets a properly competitive citycar contender in the form of this five-door KA+. Jonathan Crouch takes an early look at what's on offer.
Ten Second Review
Ford's KA+ seems to over a very complete citycar proposition, with five doors, an efficient little 1.2-litre petrol engine and some clever interior features. Yes, it's late to the citycar party, but Ford has clearly thought carefully before introducing this contender and the result is a very complete package.
It's odd that Ford has, for so long, been absent from the list of strong sellers in the citycar segment. Its Fiesta model dominates the supermini sales charts, but the KA range that slots in below that car lags significantly behind its Blue Oval brand stablemate. Which is surprising when you think that the Fiat 500 (the car the three-door Ka is based upon) sells here like hot cakes. One of the reasons why Ford hasn't done better in the market's smallest segment is down to the fact that it can't offer buyers in this sector a five-door bodystyle. All the strongest sellers in this class - cars like Hyundai's i10, Vauxhall's Viva and Kia's Picanto - sell mostly in five-door form. With the arrival of the KA+, Ford now at last has a strong contender to go up against rivals like these. Let's check it out.
We haven't yet had a chance to try this KA+ on the road but it sounds like the driving dynamics will certainly be competitive. Under the bonnet, all Ford KA+ models get a 1.2-litre petrol engine available with a choice of 70PS and 85PS power outputs. This Duratec unit is derived from the same family as the 1.25-litre engine in the Fiesta, and features twin-independent variable camshaft timing technology to enhance performance and fuel efficiency and reduce emissions. As for driving dynamics, well small Ford's have always been fun to drive and to try and make sure that this one continues that tradition, it features a unique chassis specification with specially developed features including the steering system, springs and dampers, front anti-roll bar, rear torsion beam axle and tyres, along with re-engineered front sub-frame and engine mounts. All this combines with a standard five-speed manual transmission (there's no automatic option). The 1.2-litre powerplant has, says Ford, been tuned to deliver smooth and responsive performance, with a broad spread of torque that should make the car easy and fun to drive in both city motoring and on longer journeys. At present, there are no plans for a diesel option.
Design and Build
The KA+ is, as it should be, Ford's smallest car - but only just. Get out the tape measure and you'll find it to be a fraction shorter than a Fiesta, but a little taller. Taking inspiration from Ford's latest design language, the well-proportioned exterior features a distinctive high-mounted trapezoidal grille with large, swept-back headlamps. All KA+ models offer chrome detailing for the front grille, together with body-coloured bumpers, door handles and door mirrors. That extra height we mentioned is important as it means that two six foot adults can comfortably sit one behind the other, something not really possible in a Fiesta. There's best-in-segment rear legroom too, plus front headroom is also best-in-class. There's a decent 270-litre boot too. There are 21 stowage areas dotted around the cabin. Stowage areas include the 'MyFord Dock' in the centre of the instrument panel that enables occupants to store, mount and charge mobile devices such as phones and navigation systems. Plus there are front door bins that can each hold a 1.0-litre bottle, a 0.6-litre bottle and a small umbrella. A hidden stowage bin within the end of the instrument panel is only accessible when the driver's door is open, allowing valuables to be hidden out of sight.
Market and Model
The KA+ range is pretty simple; there's just one five-door bodystyle and one 5-speed manual gearbox. You don't get a diesel option either but there are two variants of the single 1.2-litre Ti-VCT petrol engine on offer. With base 'Studio' trim (priced from around £9,000), you have to have it in base 70PS form. Go for the plusher 'Zetec' version though (priced from around £10,000) and, if you can find a £300 premium, there's the opton of a slightly pokier 85PS variant. As for equipment, well the standard 'Studio' variant gives you only really the basics, though these do include things like power mrrors, body-coloured bumpers, a speed limiter, a trip computer, front foglamps, a four-speaker stereo and Bluetooth 'phone compatibility. Upgrading to 'Zetec' trim gets you a few more niceties - things like 15-inch alloy wheels, air conditioning, cruise control, a leather-wrapped steering wheel and a DAB radio with SYNC media compatibility and Emergency Assistance. There's also the clever Ford 'MyKey' system that allows ou to program certain keys to restrict certain vehicle functions; that'll give you a little extra peace of mind should you, say, lend your KA+ to your son or daughter.
Cost of Ownership
A citycar like this has to be both cheap to run and kind to the environment and of course, Ford loudly proclaims this KA+ to be both. Fuel efficiency has been enhanced using optimised calibration, low-friction engine oil and regenerative charging, which saves fuel by maintaining efficient charge levels in the vehicle battery by capturing 'free' electrical energy when drivers coast or brake. Low rolling resistance tyres and enhanced aerodynamic details, such as an optimised front lower spoiler lip and grille openings, also contribute to improved efficiency. Both engine options achieve CO2emissions of 114g/km, with combined fuel consumption of 56.5mpg. The KA+ comes with the usual Ford three year / 60,000 mile warranty, and you'll have the option to extend that package for up to two more years and up to 100,000 miles at additional cost. Breakdown cover is included as standard for the first year. To help you budget ahead for maintenance, Ford offers its 'Protect Premium Plan' for pre-paid routine servicing, ranging from one year up to three years in duration: this package gets you included Europe-wide roadside assistance too.
This KA+ looks a strong proposition that will have the citycar segment leaders worried. Ford's absence from this segment in a meaningful way has given brands like Hyundai and Kia a clear run at buyers in this sector in recent times but that stops here and now. Like other five-door citycar models, it's big enough inside to make you wonder why you'd pay more for a conventional supermini. And there are some nice interior touches we really like - the 'MyFordDock' for your smartphone for instance. In summary, if you're buying something smaller than a supermini, you simply now have to look at a KA+: it's as simple as that.