New Ka hits the road

We get to grips with Ford’s baby – and reveal why it’s the best small car in the world.

Overall Auto Express Rating

5.0 out of 5

Ford had a tough brief for the new Ka. It had to be better built than its predecessor, safer and more refined, yet retain the dynamic abilities and cute looks that made the original such a winner. The great news is that Ford has pulled it off! The Ka is more mature and a little less sharp, but is still fun to drive. It’s not fast, but it will put a smile on your face. And it will cost very little to run, too. Well done Ford for making the best small car in the world right now.

It has been a long time coming, but the new Ford Ka is finally here. And Auto Express is first behind the wheel!

The original Ka has been a roaring success since its launch way back in 1996, thanks to a winning blend of affordability, simplicity and sublime handling. As a result, 500,000 have been sold in the UK.

With the recent success of the new Fiesta, expectations for the next-generation model are high – and they need to be. The Ka faces real competition from the excellent Fiat 500, with which it shares its chassis and engine range.

Thankfully, the little Ford looks great. It has a nose that brings it into line with the rest of the firm’s models, and the overall shape closely resembles the Fiesta, with pointy headlamps, a curvy bonnet and sculpted flanks.

But there’s no mistaking the Ka’s heritage from the rear, as the tall, rounded bootlid and chunky rear bumper clearly hint at the cute styling of the outgoing model.

Behind the wheel, standard instruments and a bold centre console replace the teardrop-shaped dash of its predecessor. The hard plastics give clues to the Ka’s budget price, but it still feels great – and the switchgear is well laid out. The seats are comfortable, while the interior has a surprising amount of legroom front and rear.

There will be a choice of four trims when the Ka hits the UK – Studio, Style, Style+ and Zetec. Buyers will also have the option of goodies such as a Bluetooth phone connection and a six-speaker stereo, as well as a quick-clear windscreen and heated seats – a unique option in the small car sector.

Fire up the 1.2-litre petrol unit, and the Ka pulls away smoothly. As with the original, it’s no ball of fire – the 0-62mph sprint takes 13.1 seconds – but it is revvy and responsive. Ford’s engineers have worked on the dinky engine to cut emissions to 119g/km – that means only £35 a year for road tax – and fuel economy is up 21 per cent on the old model to 55.5mpg.

However, it’s not straight-line pace that’s going to sell the Ka. The pin-sharp handling from the previous model isn’t quite intact – but it’s still good fun.

Ford has vastly improved rigidity and reworked the Fiat-sourced suspension, steering and chassis, which not only makes for tidy cornering, but also for top-notch safety and excellent crash protection. Turn into a bend, and the Ka comes alive. The electric power-steering system is excellent, offering plenty of feedback through the wheel – more so than in the 500.

Add this to the superbly balanced ride, and you’ve got a grippy little hatchback that’s comfortable too.

The baby Ford doesn’t boast blistering pace, but it certainly offers low-speed thrills in an affordable, practical package. Factor in plenty of standard equipment and it’s everything a small car should be.

Read about our drive in the diesel Ka here.

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