What are you driving?
It's the new Ford Ka+ supermini, and that plus sign is significant, as Ford is adamant that this new small hatchback is not a direct replacement for the Ka of old. Instead, it sits somewhere between that car and the all-new Ford Fiesta, allowing the latter to move more upmarket without alienating buyers on more of a budget. Rivals come from the city car class, such as the Volkswagen up! and Hyundai i10, but also from more budget-oriented - if larger - options such as the Dacia Sandero and Opel Karl.
Ford Ireland offers just two models, the 70hp Ka+ Studio, which comes with Bluetooth, USB and aux-in connectivity, electric front windows, a speed limiter, ESP stability control, alarm and immobiliser and front fog lamps. It rides on steel wheels and the stereo has a 'device dock', so you can see it's not exactly brimming with equipment. It costs €13,050. The Ka+ Zetec, as tested here, has an 85hp engine and adds 15-inch alloy wheels, air conditioning, Ford SYNC with Applink and steering wheel controls, a leather-trimmed steering wheel, cruise control and MyKey. It comes it at €14,650 before options.
Name its best bits
I really didn't have high hopes for the Ka+, as I suspected it might go the way of the Ford EcoSport in terms of primary development for markets that are less demanding than our own. But I've been proven wrong and it starts with the Ka+'s appearance. While I'd stop short of calling it attractive or stylish, it looks far better in reality than pictures can convey, and it's undoubtedly from the same school of design as any other modern Ford.
The interior is pretty good too, with notably wide opening rear doors and solid feeling switchgear. The driving position seems fine and on the road the Ka+ reveals a polished chassis that mixes good bump absorption and comfort with fine body control and stability. The compact dimensions inherently mean it's agile and while it's not a car you'd choose for a mountain blast, it is more capable through the corners than a car developed for town life needs to be. Back in town, at sedate speeds, the engine is quiet and smooth, while the steering and other controls are light, as you'd hope.
Anything that bugs you?
Perhaps because the chassis is so good you begin to expect more of the engine, but ultimately it feels pretty flat unless you use all the rev counter. It's quite old school in that way, in a world taken over by turbocharging. Thankfully it's smooth and quiet in operation.
Our only other notable gripe is with the cabin plastics. They're all hard and scratchy to the touch. Admittedly, most cars at this price point are the same. Oh, and the lack of an external button to open the rear hatch is quite annoying, especially in winter when the car is invariably filthy.
And why have you given it this rating?
Judged against the Ford Fiesta, the Ka+ isn't a shining star in the range, but when compared to its real rivals from other brands it makes a good case for itself. And yet, there are loads of options at about the same price, some more spacious, some better-equipped, some just nicer. The Ka+ doesn't do any one thing in an outstanding fashion.
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