Ford KA+

Debut: 2014
Maker: Ford
Predecessor: Ka (2008)

 Published on 26 Sep 2016
All rights reserved. 

The original Ford Ka, produced between 1996 and 2008, caught our hearts with its cute looks, excellent chassis and fine build quality. However, Ford found it difficult to make money from such an A-segment small car, whose prices are limited and market capacity much lower than B-segment superminis. Therefore for the second generation it gave up building its own and partnered with Fiat instead, revamping Fiat 500 into Ka. That didn’t work either, as the Mk2 turned out to be much less popular. Now entering the 3rd generation, what would Ford do to make it finally work? The answer is unexpected: upgrade the car to B-segment!

But then you might ask, isn’t Ford already has Fiesta serving the B-segment? Yes, but the enlarged Ka, smartly renamed to KA+, works in a much different philosophy. In fact, it was originally designed for South America and India, so it was engineered and built to lower standards. The car was first launched in Brazil in late 2014 and then India in 2015. European debut was probably not in the original plan, but as Renault found plenty of European buyers want a cheap and unsophisticated car like Dacia Logan/Sandero, Ford Europe decided to import the car from India, albeit with some extensive modifications, such as reinforcing the chassis and subframe, adding extra sound insulation, stiffening the suspension, fitting a faster steering rack and grippier tires and upgrading equipment. Even so, it guarantees bargain prices for the space and practicality it offers.

That is why the KA+ is so boring to look. It has 5 doors and a boxy shape, or no genes left from the original Ka. Inside, the dashboard design is outdated. Plastic moldings are hard and grey, of course, though not as shiny or brittle as some rivals’. At least it feels robust enough. For its prices, it is pretty well equipped. The cabin is actually roomier than Fiesta. It has identical wheelbase (2489 mm) but both the roof and hip points are raised to enable more room. This means it is able to fit 4 six-footers. Visibility is also improved thanks to the larger windows.

To keep cost down, it is built on the well-proven “global B-platform”, or the platform of Fiesta and B-Max. Inevitably, the old platform has not much concern about weight saving, but given the track record of Fiesta it should be a good basis for handling and ride. We don’t know how the South American or Indian cars performed, but the modified European car really drives nicely, much better than either its prices or looks suggested. The steering is direct and nicely weighted. The handling is keen. Body control and grip are not far from the level of Fiesta. Ride is also surprisingly supple and quiet. The 5-speed manual gearbox shifts with positive actions, while the clutch is expertly weighted. The high degree of polish is something unexpected for a car at this price level.

On highway, the car remains composed and impressively refined, letting far less wind and road noise into the cabin than, say, Dacia Sandero. The only weak point in the dynamic aspect is engine. To save cost, Ford replaces the sweet-revving 1.25-liter Zetec of the Fiesta with a 1.2-liter Duratec unit, which feels strained at high revs. It also lacks mid-range pulling power thus you need to work hard for overtaking. It is rated at 85 hp and 83 lbft of torque, a bit low by class norm. Fortunately, it is not too boomy when being pushed hard, so refinement is acceptable.

It is easy to assume the outdated looking and packaging KA+ to trail the majority of the class. However, thanks to its fine underpinnings and adequate modifications, it actually delivers better than average ride, handling and controls. Factor in the roomy interior and low prices, it is surprisingly competitive.

Length / width / height
Valve gears
Other engine features
Max power
Max torque
Suspension layout

Suspension features
Kerb weight
Top speed
0-60 mph (sec)
0-100 mph (sec)
KA+ 1.2 Ti-VCT
2016 (Europe)
Front-engined, FWD
Steel monocoque
Mainly steel
3929 / 1695 / 1524 mm
2489 mm
1198 cc
DOHC 16 valves, DVVT
85 hp
83 lbft
5-speed manual
F: strut
R: torsion-beam
1055 kg
105 mph (c)
12.5 (est)

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