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Car group tests

Ford Ka+ vs Vauxhall Viva vs Skoda Citigo

Can Ford’s new Ka+ go straight in at number one in the small car class? We find out as it faces two tough rivals

Downsizing is all the rage, but Ford is bucking the trend with its latest city car. Bigger and more spacious than the model it replaces, the aptly named Ka+ aims to offer all the benefits of its compact predecessor, but with the practicality to rival models from the class above.

Designed and developed for South American and Asian markets, the Fiesta-based newcomer has been overhauled for more demanding European buyers. That means it promises to be good to drive, solidly built and well equipped. Yet despite an increase in size and refinement, it costs no more to buy than the original Ka.

Best city cars

So has Ford done enough to go straight to the top of the class? To find out, we’ve pitched it against two formidable rivals in the form of the Skoda Citigo and Vauxhall Viva. The former is our reigning champ, combining compact dimensions and penny-pinching running costs with refinement. 

The Vauxhall isn’t quite as accomplished on the road, but its bargain-basement price, generous kit count and hi-tech additions make it a tough opponent. So which of these tiny tots carries off the big prize?

Head to head

Ford Ka+

Model: Ford Ka+ 1.2 ZetecPrice: £10,295Engine: 1.2-litre 4cyl, 84bhp0-60mph: 12.1 secondsTest economy: 41.2mpgCO2: 114g/km, £30

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The Ka has been the entry point to Ford ownership since the original made its debut in 1996. This latest, third-generation model is called the Ka+ and has grown in size, plus it’s also available as a five-door for the first time. Built in both Brazil and India, the newcomer is offered in Studio and Zetec trims and with a single 1.2-litre petrol engine in either 69bhp or 84bhp guise. Here we test the flagship £10,295 1.2 85 Zetec.

Tester's notes: The UK only gets the 1.2-litre four-cylinder tested here, but a wider variety of engines is available worldwide. Ford’s PowerShift twin-clutch gearbox is also offered.

Vauxhall Viva

Model: Vauxhall Viva 1.0 75 SLPrice: £9,865Engine: 1.0-litre 3cyl, 74bhp0-60mph: 13.5 secondsTest economy: 37.6mpgCO2: 104g/km, £20

At £9,865, the flagship Vauxhall Viva SL offers lots of kit for the money. It’s designed to sit under the stylish two-door Adam and the larger Corsa supermini, but hi-tech upgrades and grown-up dynamics make it a match for its rivals here. We test the 1.0-litre SL model, although the car in our pictures is the SE spec.

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Tester's notes: The Viva comes with a City Mode, which  delivers more assistance to the steering for parking manoeuvres. But the control is already so light that you’ll never need this.

Skoda Citigo

Model: Skoda Citigo SE L GreenTechPrice: £10,865Engine: 1.0-litre 3cyl, 74bhp0-60mph: 12.7 secondsTest economy: 49.8mpgCO2: 98g/km, £0

The Skoda Citigo has proven to be a small car phenomenon. Not only has it scored numerous road test victories, it scooped the City Car crown in the past five Auto Express New Car Awards. 

There’s a choice of three or five-door bodystyles, five trims and a 1.0-litre engine in two states of tune. Here we test the flagship £10,865 SE L 1.0 75 GreenTech five-door – although the car pictured is a Colour Edition.

Tester's notes: The brilliantly packaged and executed Skoda feels far more grown-up and refined than its dinky dimensions and bargain price suggest. Only flaw is the pop-out rear windows.

Verdict

First place: Skoda Citigo

The Citigo’s winning margin has been reduced, but if you’re looking for a cheap, practical and fun runaround, it still takes the crown. What’s more, it’s just as impressive when you leave the city behind and head for the open road. Better still, a mildly facelifted model is just around the corner, so there’s room to haggle on the price and the already tempting finance deals. 

Second place: Ford Ka+

If you’re after supermini space on a city car budget, then the roomy Ka+ deserves serious consideration. It has the best ride and handling in the class, thanks to its Fiesta underpinnings. Zetec trim also comes loaded with kit, while Ford's Options finance makes it surprisingly affordable. However, it's let down by a dated interior, high running costs and awkward looks.

Third place: Vauxhall Viva

Smart styling, generous kit and low running costs count in the Viva’s favour, plus its standard OnStar service and optional IntelliLink touchscreen infotainment system are light years ahead of its rivals’ set-ups. Yet while the Viva is easy to drive and park, it lacks the dynamic polish of its rivals here and it feels out of its depth away from the city. It also has the smallest cabin and boot. 

Is it worth waiting for this model?

Dacia Sandero

Due: DecemberPrice: From £5,995 (est)Engine: 1.0-litre 3cyl, 74bhp

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Like the Ka+, the facelifted Sandero aims to deliver supermini space for city car money. Tweaked looks give the Dacia a less bargain basement feel, plus there’s a new three-cylinder petrol engine.

Figures

 Skoda Citigo  SE L GreentechFord Ka+ 1.2 ZetecVauxhall Viva 1.0 75 SL
On the road price/total as tested£10,865/£10,865£10,295/£11,515£9,865/£9,865
Residual value (after 3yrs/36,000)£4,400/40.5%£4,200/40.8%£4,173/42.3%
Depreciation£6,465£6,095£5,692
Annual tax liability std/higher rate£346/£691£389/£778£334/£667
Annual fuel cost (12k/20k miles)£1,277/£2,129£1,544/£2,573£1,692
Ins. group/quote/road tax band/cost4/£436/A/£05/£463/C/£304/£480/B/£20
Servicing costs£288 (2yrs/20,000)£550 (3yrs)£506 (3yrs/60,000)
    
Length/wheelbase3,563/2,420mm3,929/2,489mm3,675/2,385mm
Height/width1,463/1,645mm1,524/1,695mm1,485/1,595mm
Engine3cyl in-line/999cc4cyl in-line/1,196cc3cyl in-line/999cc
Peak power/revs 74/6,200 bhp/rpm84/6,300 bhp/rpm74/6,500 bhp/rpm
Peak torque/revs 95/3,000 Nm/rpm112/4,000 Nm/rpm95/4,500 Nm/rpm
Transmission 5-spd man/fwd5-spd man/fwd5-spd man/fwd
Fuel tank capacity/spare wheel35 litres/foam42 litres/foam32 litres/foam
Boot capacity (seats up/down)251/959 litres270/849 litres206/1,013 litres
Kerbweight/payload865/425kg1,009/491kg939/489kg
Turning circle/drag coefficient9.8 metres/0.33CdN/A/N/A10.4 metres/0.33Cd
Basic warranty (miles)/recovery3yrs (60,000)/3yrs3yrs (60,000)/1yr3yrs (60,000)/1yr
Service intervals/UK dealersVariable (1yr)/135 12,500 miles (1yr)/781 20,000 miles (1yr)/338 
Driver Power manufacturer/dealer position3rd/15th27th/27th25th/22nd
Euro NCAP: Adult/child/ped./assist/stars89/80/46/86/5 (2011)N/A74/72/68/64/4 (2015)
    
0-60/30-70mph12.7/13.1 secs12.1/11.8 secs13.5/14.3 secs
30-50mph in 3rd/4th7.0/10.7 secs6.7/10.2 secs7.5/10.6 secs
50-70mph in 5th17.2 secs17.5 secs17.4 secs
Top speed/rpm at 70mph 107mph/3,200rpm105mph/3,000rpm106mph/3,400rpm
Braking 70-0/60-0/30-0mph 54.3/36.8/9.0m52.7/37.5/11.2m52.5/37.8/10.2m
Noise outside/idle/30/70mph62/43/63/73dB60/42/63/71dB71/53/64/74dB
Auto Express economy (mpg/mpl)/range49.8/10.9/383 miles41.2/9.0/381 miles37.6/8.3/265 miles
Govt urban/extra-urban/combined 55.4/76.4/67.3mpg42.8/70.6/56.5mpg50.4/72.4/62.8mpg
Govt urban/extra-urban/combined 12.2/16.8/14.8mpl9.4/15.5/12.4mpl11.1/15.9/13.8mpl
Actual/claimed CO2/tax bracket131/98g/km/16%158/114g/km/19%174/104g/km/17%
    
Airbags/Isofix/parking sensors/cameraFour/yes/£450*/noFour/yes/£300*/noSix/yes/£285/no
Auto box/stability/cruise control/AEB^£255/yes/£450*/£275No/yes/yes/no£500/yes/yes/no
Climate control/leather/heated seatsNo/no/yes£275/no/£150Yes/no/£160
Metallic paint/xenon lights/keyless go£500/no/no£495/no/no£555/no/no
Sat-nav/USB/DAB radio/BluetoothYes/no/£155/yesNo/yes/yes/yesNo/yes/£435**/yes
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