Targeted straight at the value end of the B-segment - or even upmarket products from the higher end of the A-segment below - this is the Ford Ka+. It's about the size of a Fiesta, but it focuses on space, value and equipment ahead of outright dynamic ability, with Ford saying it's for people who want a bigger, more practical vehicle for less cash. That means you have to accept some quality compromises in terms of visual appeal and cabin finishing, but if you do decide to weigh into this all-new model you won't be disappointed - it's a perfectly acceptable means of getting from A-to-B with the minimum of fuss.
In the Metal:
Before we get into the merits of the Ka+, it's worth just clarifying that, although Ford has used the letters 'K' and 'a' in its name, this is NOT a successor to the first two generations of the Ka. Developed by Ford Brazil and built in India on the global-car platform, the Ka+ shares only a name with its 'antecedents', instead fulfilling a function whereby it replaces the most basic models of Fiesta and allows that car to push further upmarket, while the Ka+ takes on the likes of the Hyundai i10/i20 offerings and other cheap-and-cheerful machines like the Suzuki Celerio, Dacia Sandero and, crucially, the Opel Karl.
Ford is nevertheless adamant that, despite a lot of these rivals heralding from the A-segment, the Ka+ is a B-segment machine that sits alongside the Fiesta. As a result it's a physically large machine among the peers listed above. At nearly four metres long, it's getting on for 300mm longer than its next nearest rival, the Hyundai i10, which allows Ford to claim class-leading front headroom and rear legroom, and one of the biggest boots (270 litres) in the segment with a full complement of people on board. However, in order to get that sort of capacious interior layout, what we're left with on the outside is a Plain Jane hatchback. Gone is the cutesy and endearing teardrop look of the older Kas, replaced by a staid, upright five-door that comes across as a bit under-wheeled on 15-inch alloys and which isn't as interesting to look at as some key alternatives... nor, for that matter, a Fiesta. Furthermore, there's little that can be done in terms of personalisation, funky paint jobs (there are just two bright shades in an eight-hue palette) or contrast roofs, although Ford is planning some black-and-white Colour Editions in other markets that might make their way here to add more youthful appeal to the range.
It's not a bad-looking car, this Ford, but then it isn't particularly alluring from the kerb either. And the same goes for the interior. In Zetec trim, a splash of piano-black finishing for the centre console and a lovely multifunction leather steering wheel help lift things, but it's otherwise a sea of unremitting scratchy, charcoal grey plastic within. It feels sturdy enough in terms of fit and, again, cheaper interior materials are something all the Ka+'s rivals feature so it's not as if Ford is alone on this score, but for a brand that is in the main trying to take on the premium marques of Germany and Japan, the Ka+ cabin feels like a retrograde step. It is, however, extremely accommodating in terms of size and thoroughly well-equipped within for such an affordable machine, so there are characteristics to commend the Ka+ for.
If a Blue Oval on the nose of a car invites you to think of a sparkling chassis, you'd better think again for the Ka+. Ford insists it has let loose its European engineers on the underpinnings to fine-tune this Brazilian machine for the tastes of customers in this part of the world, but it doesn't feel anything like as zesty to drive as the original Ka, the outgoing Fiesta or a whole host of other Fords over recent decades. While our test route was largely urban, one or two occasions of quick cornering presented themselves and during these the Ka+ felt ungainly and way out of its comfort zone.
The body lolls about on its suspension too much and the steering - while fairly weighty and direct - lacks for much in the way of genuine feel. Coupled with adequate brakes, it simply means that there's little fun to be had in throwing the Ka+ around. Your passengers in that cavernous rear section certainly won't thank you for it.
Luckily, by way of recompense, the Ka+ is impressively refined for this sector. The ride is excellent, plush and comfy at all times, while wind and tyre noise are quelled to a high degree. The little 85hp 1.2-litre engine doesn't really intrude on proceedings unless you rev it - which you won't want to do, because it only makes it sound harsh and it doesn't really elicit much in the way of extra performance - while the slick-of-throw five-speed manual gearbox is a pleasure to use. Factor in the Zetec's standard-fit cruise control and decent fuel economy, and the Ford is a perfectly fine little A-to-B motor that gets the job done with little in the way of histrionics. And in the end, isn't that all we need from a value city car, rather than flashy exterior graphics and steering set up to tackle the Nürburgring?
What you get for your Money:
It is good value-for-money, starting at €13,050 for a 70hp Studio version and climbing to €14,650 for the 85hp-only Zetec, which (going by Ford's predictions in various markets) will be the bigger seller; a Fiesta Zetec, by the way, starts at €14,000 here. Ka+ Studio models come with a modest specification, as they run on 15-inch steel wheels for a start, but there are some highlights such as front fog lamps with daytime running lights, Bluetooth, USB and Aux-in connectivity, electric front windows, a speed limiter, hill-start assist, ESP stability control, a trip computer, remote central locking and an alarm, plus a tyre-pressure monitoring system too.
Step up to Zetec, though, and the luxuries start to appear that make the Ka+'s simplistic cabin rather more palatable. Manual air conditioning, a DAB radio with a 4.2-inch screen, SYNC and Emergency Assistance, a leather-wrapped steering wheel with remote audio controls, Ford's MyKey programmable settings hardware and cruise control are all added to the mix, while outside the steel wheels are upgraded to 15-inch alloys.
And that's about your lot for Ka+ equipment, save for a very short options list. Standard paint is Oxford White, while for €150 you can switch that (if you're brave) to Bright Yellow. There are four €600 premium paint colours, including the Deep Impact Blue that seems to be the car's signature hue, and then two €950 top-line options, one of which is a metallic gold and the other is the Ruby Red. Further to the exterior shades are a 14-inch steel spare wheel (€100), privacy glass (€150), Electronic Automatic Temperature Control, (or climate control in plain-speak, at €320), heated front seats (€300) and the Driver Assistance Pack (€320), which adds rear parking sensors, heated and electrically folding door mirrors and electric windows in the back. In fact, the only option not fitted to our test car was the €15 Smoker's Package, so €16,790 is as good as absolutely top dollar for a Ka+ in Ireland.
It's worth pointing out that although some rivals, like the Opel Karl, have lower starting prices, in order to match the sort of specification a Ka+ Zetec is offering as standard requires fees that are in the same ballpark as the Ford's €14,650 ticket. Finally, Ford Ireland is offering the Ka+ from as little as €29 per week on a PCP deal.
The new Ford Ka+ is roomy, comes with plenty of desirable toys and has cultured driving manners that mean it does exactly what Ford set out to achieve with it: namely, it offers no-frills, bargain new-car motoring that doesn't feel like some sort of punishment duty. Our only concern is that, if you're not badge-loyal, then there are plenty of alternatives in this class that do the job equally as well. However, if you're a Ford fan and you're in the market for such a car, you'll find no real reason to avoid the Ka+.