The Ford Ka has never featured in the pages of this magazine before, and for one very good reason: no diesel version. Until now
The new Ka, based on the Fiat 500, is available with a 1.3 Duratorq TDCi engine, which as we all know is effectively a Fiat MultiJet by another name. Ford reckons on only four in every hundred of the new Ka being a diesel, but has decided it cannot afford to ignore discerning dervheads looking for more torque and lower mpg and CO2 in its small city car. The relatively small numbers though mean that it’s not a bargain buy: there is a £700 price premium over the petrol model, and you can only have the diesel engine with the highest Zetec trim level. So the standard price tops ten grand before you add any options. That’s quite a lot considering that petrol versions kick off from £7,995.
When the original Ka was launched back in 1996, there were only eight other models chasing buyers in the baby supermini, or what the motor industry knows as ‘sub-B’, section of the car market. Now, as the new Ka arrives, it’s a much more crowded arena of 21 competing models, including the Citroën C1, Toyota Aygo, Vauxhall Agila, Renault Twingo and of course the Fiat 500. The first Ka was boldly styled and characterful, and it has aged well. Twelve years on, it still doesn’t look particularly dated, but it was ready for change, and the new one is a quantum leap forward.
Overall dimensions are similar to the previous Ka. The length is identical at 3.62 metres. The new car is 10cm (4ins) taller. This raises the “hip point” – the height above ground level of the driver’s hip joint giving improved visibility and easier entry and exit. Improved packaging means a useful 20 per cent increase in boot space, now 224 litres. Style-wise, the new Ka looks like a slightly scaled down version of the new Fiesta, with the same ‘kinetic’ design theme. Ford’s description for its new baby is “short, tall, cute, cheeky”, and it’s a pretty good summary of a car with cropped proportions, a wedge-shaped silhouette and short overhangs.
Inside it is meant to be “playful”, according to chief interior designer Ruth Pauli. The décor is a mixture of toning nature-inspired pastels and bright splashes of colour, and there are some funky touches, like the star-shaped air vents. There are also some nice details, such as the handy little stowage nets – one in the roof that’s the perfect size for holding a pair of sunglasses, and others below the gear lever which are suitable for a mobile phone or other small objects. The glovebox is huge for such a small car, and the door pockets are big enough to hold litre bottles of water. Down-sizers will find plenty of up-scale kit available on the Ka TDCi, including Bluetooth and USB connectivity, passenger airbag deactivation, trip computer and heated seats. Seat comfort is very good, with nicely shaped and supportive cushioning, and the cabin is well laid out and attractive. The gear lever is very well positioned, up on the lower dash. But there are a couple of unfortunate examples of cost-cutting. The seatbelts are not height-adjustable, and the steering wheel adjusts for height but not for reach. Together with pedals that are quite noticeably offset to one side in relation to the steering wheel, these don’t make it particularly easy for a shorter driver to achieve an ideal driving position, which seems odd in a small car likely to attract plenty of women buyers. Although the Ka is based on the Fiat 500, you wouldn’t immediately guess it from the look of it, but there are strong hints behind the wheel. The Ka has the same appealing driving dynamics, a sprightly and ‘chuckable’ little car with a surprisingly good ride. Handling is grippy and crisp.
With the TDCi’s torque curve starting steeply then maintaining a long, flat top from its peak of 1,500 revs, the engine has plenty of go and is nicely geared with quite tall ratios through the five-speed manual box. It made the Ka a very engaging drive on a hilly and twisty test route in rural Ibiza, chosen as a trendy venue to showcase the car.
It comes with a decent list of standard kit, including ISOfix child seat fasteners, power steering, ABS, headlamp courtesy delay system, six speakers, CD radio with MP3 compatibility and aux-in connector, powered and heated body-coloured door mirrors, and electric front windows with driver-side one-touch up and down.
Because the diesel only comes in top Zetec spec, it also has remote/central locking, a driving seat with height adjustment and memory function, 50/50 rear split seat, rear headrests, air conditioning, heated windscreen, 15in alloy wheels, front fog lamps, remote central locking, trip computer, and theatre dimming interior lights.
ON SALE: JANUARY 2009 RANGE STARTS AT: £10,195 FOR ZETEC 1.3 TDCi
- Price: £10,195
- Engine: 1248cc, 4 cylinder, turbodiesel
- Gearbox: 5-speed manual
- Max Power: 74bhp at 4,000rpm
- Max Torque: 107lb ft at 1,500-3,000rpm
- Max Towing Weight: tba
- Combined Consumption: 67.3mpg
- CO2 Emissions (taxband): 112g/km (B)
- 0-62mph: 13.1secs
- Max speed: 100mph
- Insurance Group: tba