Tuesday 25 April 2017

Supersize me: How KA+ adds space - and price

Watch for cost with 'bigger little' Ford

'New species entirely': Ford Ka
'New species entirely': Ford Ka
Eddie Cunningham

Eddie Cunningham

A rising tide lifts all boats, they say, and as established car models move more and more upstream - in size, equipment and price - the smaller craft rise a notch, too.

That is most definitely the case with Ford's KA+. The + is a dead giveaway, isn't it? But it would be wrong to think of it as a bigger 'old' Ka. This is a new species entirely; it swims in a different pond - a pond occupied by larger fish.

The old Ka was tiny and a 3dr. This has internal dimensions not far off the current Fiesta and, significantly, is a 5dr - and those doors open wide.

I expected it to be cheap and cheerful. It is neither. By the time you'd pay delivery charges on the one I had on test (I admit some of the add-ons are zany - who needs heated front seats?), you're coughing up €16,000-plus for it. That's a handful of euro, especially as the existing Fiesta effectively starts around €16,700. However, the new one will cost a good deal more when it arrives in the summer.

That's the way things are going; cars of this size (and smaller) are often now in the ¤14-15k bracket as the likes of the new Fiesta move upwards. To be fair, they have equipment levels that would be deemed off-limit luxury a couple of years ago.

With the KA+, that rising tide lifts the price. Yes, there is an 'entry-level' at €13,050 with a lower powered 1.2-litre petrol engine and less equipment. It's bread-and-a-little-butter and not nearly as attractive a proposition, even at that price. It would also be susceptible to attack from the likes of the bargain-basement Dacia Sandero supermini, which is significantly larger.

Far more likely to be of interest is the KA+ with the 85bhp engine I had on test. Mind you, it will still have to deal with the big seller in the broad city-car/small-supermini sector, Hyundai's i10. It sets the tone for cars of this ilk - even allowing for the KA+ edging towards Fiesta cabin dimensions. There is serious competition for your money already out there.

So, what do you get for your euro with the new Ford? Not a bad-looking car at all, I must say. And a good impression of a decent interior. I admit it came across a lot better than I expected. There was no garish evidence of that awful plastic which used to haunt cheaper Fords. The dash is decent, too, and the centre-slotted SYNC system lets me flick around radio stations and phone with ease.

I had a lot more room than I remember from a short, previous drive. They haven't skimped on space at the back, either. This is, of course, all relatively speaking; it is a small car.

But it was the headroom that made the biggest impression - when you have that, you always feel something is more spacious than dimensions might suggest.

Getting in and out was as easy as you like. The car is 3cm taller than the current Fiesta and it showed front and rear (I always try every door and seat in a car as soon as I have my driving position set up).

The rear seats split/fold 60/40, leaving you a bit more room to go with a decent boot (up 50 litres to 270 - a good achievement).

Not so with opening the rear hatch door, however; the only ways to open it are by key fob or from the cabin. Odd.

But it does have three seatbelts across the back. Ford's market researchers noticed people inquired about three rather than two belts. It suggests a focus of a practical nature on it being a ferry for young families - as a second car.

I'd also expect it to be something first-time buyers will check out and Ford await custom from those who are downsizing.

Regardless of buyer, they've tried to make it practical by, for example, carving as many as 21 stowage slots for smaller items.

This KA+ is a 'global' car and the ones we get here are made in India - with one big difference. The suspension is tuned to European driving tastes. I think they got a decent balance on that because one of the more pleasant surprises was how well it felt on the road. I expected a lower quality of handling and ride. This was comfortable and kept the worst of road/tyre noise/bumps out of the cabin. The tyres (on 15ins wheels) helped, of course, but I was happy with the drive.

However, the more powerful 1.2l-petrol (only in Zetec grade) was only fair. To pick up from 80kmh to 100km took ages. Imagine what the 70bhp version would be like. I'd love the 1-litre 3yl EcoBoost in it, but that's a different context altogether. The KA+ does a straightforward job for, in reality, around €15,000. It was solid, easy-to-drive, roomy and sensible. I think it is also a bit pricey. For all that, they are confident 1,000 people will be buying one each year in the not-too-distant future. Considering so few people bought the old tiddler Ka, that is what you call a rapidly rising tide.

Facts & figures

Ford KA+ Zetec 1.2-litre (85PS) 5dr city-car/small-supermini, 5spd 110g/km: 4.8l/100km. Standard on tested version were manual air con, 15ins alloys, Ford SYNC with Applink (emergency assistance, steering wheel controls), cruise control, MyKey, front fogs, electric front windows.

Options include: Driver Assistance Pack (rear parking sensors, heated/electric/fold mirrors), electric rear windows, heated front seats/armrest (€300), rear privacy glass (€150), spare wheel (€100).

Prices start from €13,050 (Studio entry-level, 70bhp engine). Zetec (85bhp engine) from €14,650. With options: €15,540. All Ford cars have a 7-year/100,000km warranty.

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