The new KA+ is bigger, it's 5dr, and has more room. But can Ford's 'global' city car add 1,000 buyers?
First drive in London: Ford KA+
People ran much further in the Olympics than I recently drove the new Ford KA+.
I took it on a short loop to, and from, the famous Queen Elizabeth Park (where I saw Usain Bolt light up a glorious evening more than four years ago).
London is a great town, and as the KA+ is an urban vehicle it was an ideal setting, I suppose.
But without sat nav (back to the old maps for us) and in traffic (and we're useless navigators), we spent more time worrying about the next turn-off than absorbing the pros and cons of the (short) drive.
Despite that, the following can be said with a fair degree of certainty.
Forget all about the current/previous Ka. This is an entirely different animal. While technically a city car, it is approaching Fiesta dimensions internally.
And I found it much easier to get into, and out of, because it's so tall, there is exceptional headroom front and rear and the doors open nearly 90 degrees.
Importantly, it is a five-door. I barely had to stoop to get into the rear, and when I did I had plenty of head- and leg-room.
The rear seats split/fold 60/40 and there are, they say, 21 stowage slots for smaller items. I didn't count.
The cabin/dash/instruments also come across as less claustrophobic than the current Fiesta (it tends to 'surround' the driver more).
And there was a decent standard of materials used around the cabin.
The KA+ is built on Ford's global platform in India but with suspension etc., tuned for European driving.
As well as the five doors it has five seatbelts, an area that came high on lots of people's priorities, apparently, when Ford did their research for this new car.
Which is why they are emphasising so much that it is not a replacement for the old Ka. Ok, I think we got that.
Despite the SUV craze, the level of small-car buying has held up well. They expect around 300 people to buy a KA+ next year. I think that is ultra conservative (they have 350 ordered) but they expect a steady climb to 1,000 within a couple of years.
That's the real challenge. As they attempt to re-establish themselves with small-car buyers, they must realise the battles they face, given the dominance in the sector by Hyundai's excellent little i10 (1-litre from €12,495).
With the KA+ there is just the one engine (1.2-litre) - 5spd manual transmission is standard - but it has two different power outputs. And each has its own spec levels.
So the 1.2-litre 70bhp is what they call Studio while the 85bhp model is Zetec.
Included as standard on the Studio are: 15ins steel wheels, front fogs, daytime running lights, speed limiter, etc.
Zetec adds: manual air con, 15ins alloys, Ford SYNC with AppLink, cruise control and MyKey. Like all Ford cars now, there is a seven-year /100,000km warranty.
I think it is fair to say the vast majority of people will buy Zetec. It costs from €14,650, with the Studio starting from €13,050.
There have been 'special' versions of the existing Fiesta that wouldn't be a million miles off the higher KA+ price.
But in real terms the Fiesta 5dr starts from €16,700. There will be a brand new Fiesta in July (unveiled today) so there will be distance put between it and the KA+ on more than price.
To get the new car off the ground - it has effectively gone on sale in Ireland now - they have this finance deal which starts from €29/week (0pc APR until the end of March). Unusually, they require a 30pc deposit.
Anyway, on the road the KA+ was decent and felt solid but the electric power steering was heavy.
Ours was well kitted out and looked far from cheap-n-cheerful.
I can see how it is 3cms taller than the Fiesta but, despite being slightly shorter, still managed a reasonable modicum of boot space (270 litres - a 50 litre increase). It was a bit inconvenient, however, that there was no way of lifting the tailgate except by key fob or from inside the car.
The thing that struck me most was how broad and varied they expect the range of buyers to be: from young couples/singles to more mature/downsizing people.
Surely this will suit more than 300 of them next year?