6.2.2009 Ford Ka review
It has been a while since Ford Motor Company practiced a little bit of Latin in naming its models but, says Iain Robertson, a little bit of Ford is now deeply entrenched with Latin roots, as the all-new Ka hits the road in eco-style.
Of course, Ford, as befits a major player, has been in the vanguard of new model innovations for many years. Yet, the previous generation Ka demonstrated that, while the company could style a potential icon, it struggled with its mechanicals. Although I realise that this may read like heresy – after all, there are a great many first generation Ka buyers, for whom the model is their preferred mode of eco-transportation – the original Ka's engine was basically the same, pushrod-valve, three main-bearing crank unit that drove the notchback Anglia 105E to moderate sales successes in the early-1960s. Ford's 'innovation' drew a blank after the name and shape were devised.
Faced with the problems of lower profitability and the required greater volumes to amortise high development costs of baby cars, Ford's financial woes of the past two to three years led it to seeking an association with another manufacturer. Fiat Group has always been a willing partner to almost any carmaker or government (check out its various historical associations to see what I mean) and its most recent 500 model is 'cutting edge' as far as Ford is concerned. So, the new Ka has its Latin injection, courtesy of Fiat.
The platform and engines are pure Fiat, while the body is pure Ford and bears an expected familial relationship with the company's other recently remodelled Fiesta. Fortunately, although it possesses greater dimensions, which makes rear seat access less of squeeze than the original Ka, its swoopy and almost ornate styling approach makes the outgoing version look positively aged, which is as good a reason as any to be airborne about its potential sales success in 2009.
However, there is another good reason to consider Ka, a factor that hefts it happily into our arena. Whether choosing the 69 bhp 1.2-litre petrol or 74 bhp 1.3-litre turbo-diesel, both units weigh-in with a less-than-120 g/km CO2 rating. Of course, there is more to the environmental argument than these figures but they are associated with fuel returns of 55.0 mpg and 67.0 mpg on the Official Combined test cycles, which means VED costs of £35 each annually. Low insurance starts at Group 1E for the entry-level Studio, rising to 3E for the more highly specified 1.3TDCi Zetec.
While hardly the stuff of legends, because the Fiat 500 delivers near-identical figures, like the BMW Mini, the new Ka is markedly larger than its iconic forebear – a small-ish stature generally equates to first-class driveability and wieldiness, especially in urban areas. I am delighted to report that the Ford Ka meets all expectations in these regards.
Yet, there is an additional discernible difference between the new Ka and the original. It lies in the overall quality. While not wishing to 'diss' the Fiat, Ford’s offering rides sublimely, whether in the city, the 'burbs, or out in the country. It is clear that the Blue Oval engineers have waved their usual magic wand over the suspension settings, to make the Ka far less restless and therefore less tiring to drive for longer periods. Beautifully built and taut handling, it is also pleasingly zesty, being capable of despatching the 0-60mph sprint in 13.1 seconds, with a top speed nudging 100mph in either guise.
The interior accoutrements are strongly reminiscent of the Fiat, especially the bulky centre console, which can constrict clutch leg movement for taller drivers, and the tilt-only steering column adjuster (another inherited element). However, the two-tone fabric seats are supportive and comfortable, while the dials are from Ford's parts bins. It is a defiantly funky little car and, even though its price tag has taken a minor upwards hike (and I do feel that a sub-£7k model would have separated the Ka from bottom-end Fiesta more succinctly), it is sure to find a raft of welcoming purchasers, who will love it because it is a Ford… even if the accent is Torinese (or should it be Polish? After all, the new Ka is built on the same lines as the Fiat 500 in Poland).
Model tested: Ford Ka
Body-styles: 3-door hatchback
Engines: 1.2 (P4), 1.3 (TD4)
Trim grades: Studio, Style, Style+, Zetec
Prices: from £7,995 to £10,195
In the showroom: Now
Review star rating: 5 STARS
Warranty: Three years, 60,000 miles
Iain Robertson © Next Green Car.com 2009
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