Model/Engine size: 1.3 TDCi Zetec 3dr
Fuel economy combined: 67.3 mpg
The new Ford Ka has a lot to live up to. The old model was great to drive, but the new one is based on a Fiat 500 – which in turn is based on a Fiat Panda – so has Ford been able to work its magic to make the new Ka drive like a modern day Ford?
Ford has indeed tweaked as much as possible of the new Ka, from the engine to the suspension, to make it more Ford-like. And this exercise has generally been successful. However if you drive a Fiat 500, a new Fiesta, and the new Ka, you will come away with the feeling that the Fiesta has excellent, sharp driving dynamics, whereas the Ka definitely feels more related to the Fiat than the Fiesta; although the suspension adjustments mean the Ka both rides better and doesn’t roll as much as the 500. Ultimately this means it has good levels of grip – especially in relation to the relatively low-powered engines.
One area where Ford has made a successful intervention is with the looks. The Fiat 500 has intentionally retro styling, which looks great, but is not for everyone; whereas Ford has taken the Fiat base and created a cute modern city car with echoes of the old iconic Ka, yet overall it fits well in the new Ford design style. The interior design is modern and attractive, but nothing particularly special.
So this is a good-looking city car and it’s accomplished to drive, being much more refined and supple than the old Ka, however the mini-rally car handling of the old model has been lost, and it doesn’t have the sharp dynamics of the new Fiesta.
What about life on the economy front? Most Ka models that are sold will be petrol. The petrol engine is more fun than the diesel, and results in the car being lighter meaning slightly better steering and handling, however it’s not the strongest of engines. In our view the diesel works very well, offering better torque, and delivering 67.3mpg with emissions of 112g/km CO2, compared to the petrol 1.2 which averages 55.4mpg and emits 119g/km. The diesel engine costs £700 more than the petrol, and with diesel fuel having a price premium over petrol, most people who drive city cars in the city and just cover low mileages will probably want to go for the petrol.
Both the 74bhp 1.3 Multijet diesel and the 68bhp 1.2 petrol are both Fiat-sourced. Both engine options can be mated to four trim levels, ranging from the base Studio model, through Style, Style+ and up to Zetec. For £1,500 more than the base model, the top-of-the-range Zetec is the only one to get 15″ alloys, front fog lights, remote locking and trip computer.
The Ka is priced very slightly cheaper than the 500 – only around £100 – but to achieve this some equipment and even safety items have been ditched. Side and curtain airbags are on the options list, costing £150 and £200 respectively, meaning it only has two airbags as standard, and ESP is a £400 option. All models come with a six-speaker CD and MP3 player, but even the 500’s remote central locking and electric windows have gone on the base Studio trim model. So it has to be said that the 500 offers better value for money.
Options are a key way to personalise small cars these days, and Ford allows you to specify lots of goodies for the Ka ranging from big alloys for £650 to a two-tone leather interior for £1,000. There are also lots of exterior graphic options.
Being a small city car, the basic laws of packaging mean that there just won’t be limousine levels of space in the rear. The Ka is a four seater only, with just two rear seat belts, and is cramped for two large adults over long journeys. Space up front is OK, but the driver’s seat doesn’t have great levels of adjustment.
So the Ka is essentially a Fiat 500, without the distinctive Fiat 500 retro looks. The styling and driving experience have been made more Ford-like, and you end up with a thoroughly modern, economical city car that will be cheap to run – although it’s relatively expensive to buy, bearing in mind the sparse equipment. If all that isn’t good enough, and you want even more economy, then there is talk of a Ka ECOnetic being on the cards. However it will be interesting to see how far Ford can go down the ECOnetic route when they are still tied to the Fiat base. Watch this space…
Fuel economy extra urban: 76.4 mpg
Fuel economy urban: 54.3 mpg
CO2 emissions: 112 g/km
Green rating: VED band B – £35
Weight: 1055 Kg
Company car tax liability (2008/09): 13%
Price: £10,145 (From £7,395 to £10,145)
Insurance group: 2
Safety: NCAP 4 stars
Max speed: 100 mph
0-62mph: 13.1 seconds