Can Ford's new small car, the Ford KA+, beat the likes of Dacia in low-price war?
First look: Ford KA+ 5dr
FORD have a new 'thrifty' small car to tempt bargain basement buyers of Dacias and other low-price small motors.
The new KA+ will be here by mid-autumn and cost around €13,050, I understand, for the entry-level Studio trim.
I'm guessing but I reckon that means the main spec version (80pc of projected sales) will be €14,000+.
Is that 'cheap' enough to shift owners of Dacias and others to Ford? Time will tell.
Another consequence of the KA+ arrival is that the existing Ford occupant of the supermini sector, the best-selling Fiesta, has to (I hate this phrase but it's all I've got) move upmarket, add spec and, consequently, cost more.
Will the Fiesta now start at €16,500?
It's going to be a balancing act, that's for sure, but Ford obviously think it worthwhile as there is big, big demand for the 'thrifty' small car all over the world.
Dacia showed that was the case in Ireland too. And, judging by their sales, that is still the case.
Ford's research suggests that at this level, price is the major consideration (58pc). Fuel consumption comes next (56pc) followed by reliability. All obvious really.
Potential buyers of the KA+ include those currently driving an older car who see a chance to get into a new one for much the same price as a larger secondhand; people downsizing, and those curtailed by the physical limits of urban parking and travel.
The current 3dr KA version costs from €13,290 ex-works but this is a much different animal altogether.
For a start it's a 5dr and based on the current Fiesta platform - so it is much bigger.
It marks a major departure for Ford because, with its arrival at the bottom end of the small-car or so-called supermini market, the Fiesta shifts into more 'premium' territory.
And, I can tell you, the next Fiesta will reflect that big time. Sworn to secrecy for now, but it will raise eyebrows.
While the KA+ is built in India (and Brazil for South America) it has been extensively overhauled, re-invented and adapted for Europe.
For example, they spent eight months getting the look and feel of the cabin materials to their liking.
It's chunky to look at and, on my first sit-in acquaintance, betrayed few signs of low-cost motoring. Even the doors clunked solidly.
There is exceptional room front and back for such a small car. With a larger 'driver' in front of me I had ample knee and head room behind (they claim 29mm better real legroom than a KIA Rio); boot space is decent but I'd fear for the lip/bumper - there's a lot of metal exposed to loading scratches. They are targeting the likes of the Dacia Sandero (from €10,190) and KIA Rio (I'm not sure that's such a valid comparison) but I think equally relevant is the likes of the big-selling Hyundai i10.
At four metres, the KA+ is 40mm shorter and 10mm lower than a Fiesta.
So much stuff is Fiesta based I'm tempted to use the 'baby' analogy.
Nearly everything is tweaked in some way or other to suit the KA+ from the electric steering to the suspension tuning. There is a front anti-roll bar too.
Sitting in was informative. The dash is simply laid out, the central display and dials all typical Ford - nothing too smart or out of place.
Some clever stowage (21 slots) ideas for the cabin include a little alcove behind the dash where you can put your valuables and no one can get at them when the driver's door is closed flush.
There will be just the one, petrol, engine but three different versions of it: 70PS, 85PS and a similarly powered (85PS) Eco model.
No there is no 1-litre 3cyl EcoBoost which would have been ideal for city driving. But a Ford executive told me it would just have been too costly.
There will be two spec levels. Entry (20pc of sales) will have six airbags, Hill assist, electric front windows, 15ins wheels, front fogs, adjustable driver's seat etc. Options include manual air con and Bluetooth. The volume seller will have the latter two items as standard as well as SYNC and a manual speed limiter.
From my brief sit-in and examination of the cabin, it didn't look or feel like a cheap-and-chirpy small car. But, as ever, it will require driving before a lot of questions are answered.
Meantime, they hope for the same EuroNCAP results as Fiesta after substantially increasing safety elements.
I think there is little doubt, given the firepower of the brand overall, that this Ford will register on the lists of many seeking a value-for-money small car for around €13,000.
Dacia have already shown there are plenty of buyers at that level - if the car and the price are right. It is going to be a most interesting time for sellers and buyers.
Ω Following the success of the Fiesta ST and ST 200, there will be an ST Line in the supermini. And, as part of its move upmarket with some models, Ford say there will be ST Lines on Mondeo, Focus etc as well.
These ST Line cars are a way of sprucing up cars without going the full-blooded ST performance route entirely. So you get the likes of 17ins alloys, honeycomb front grille etc.