24 November 2016

New Ford Ka+ first drive

The Ford Ka+ which is now on sale in Ireland is expected to change the brand's profile in the small car segment writes Trish Whelan. It's not an upgrade of that model but a completely different car to the city car nameplate which has been around since 1996. Indeed, it is quite close in size to the Fiesta, and may well draw some of its customers from that supermini's segment.

The Ka+ is also a 5-door, whereas the previous Ka as a 3-door 4-seater kept Ford from competing in 85pc of its segment where people wanted a car with five doors and that could seat five people.

"We know that was a key factor and put off many customers," Ford Chairman and Managing Director Ciaran McMahon explained at the car's launch yesterday at the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park at Stratford in London where the 2012 Olympic Games took place. "We need to re-establish Ka+ on the market as an entirely different vehicle and to re-educate customers that it is not a replacement for the old Ka."

The Ka+ has class-leading front headroom and rear legroom, and has 21 stowage locations in the cabin. "It's very roomy inside, it's also taller, drives really well, and both engines offer great fuel economy. It's a fantastic package and we believe it will meet the requirements of today's discerning customer. We have a huge opportunity with this new car," the Ford Ireland boss added.

Initial estimates of sales in Ireland are around 300 for next year but Ford hope to double this figure for 2018.

"We believe we have the package right with value for money," Ciaran McMahon said. Keeping things simple, Irish customers can choose from two grades - Studio and Zetec. Power is from a 1.2 petrol engine outputting 70hp or 85hp depending on grade.

The Studio grade gets 15-inch steel wheels, body-coloured bumpers; chrome upper grille; front fogs and daytime running lights; AM/FM radio with a device dock for charging your phone etc; speed limiter; ESP; trip computer and remote central locking. The Zetec adds manual air con, 15-inch alloys; Ford SYNC with App/Link; leather steering wheel; cruise control; and MyKey.

We were supplied with Zetec models for our drive around London suburbs and busy streets - an ideal test route for this city car which took it all in its stride. The car is agile and quite fun to drive. It offers a claimed combined fuel consumption of 5.0 L/100kms (56.5mpg) so is frugal. C02 emissions are 114g/km.

From the off, this little number didn't disappoint in any way. The car is easy to get in and out of, I was able to get a lovely driving position, and the cabin has an overall feeling of spaciousness. Seats are very comfortable and materials are of a good quality. There was even good knee room in the back and good boot space of 270 litres which can take two large suitcases. Rear seats have a 60/40 split. All vehicles ordered for Ireland come with a spare wheel.

Ciaran McMahon sees demand still remaining in the sector in which it competes as it accounts for 20pc of the overall market and feels it is a segment 'ripe for picking' with a new car like Ka+ which he said has come a long way to meet the needs of the customer.

The car is designed to appeal to young, cost conscious customers as it is priced at €13,650 for the Studio  and at €14,650 for the Zetec. It is available on a special PCP deal from €29 per week which will help drive traffic at the showrooms. The PCP involves a down payment of 30pc deposit.

Ford also expect the Ka+ to be an attractive proposition to older people as it offers ease of getting in and out. The car is built in India and comes with a 7-year 100,000kms full factory warranty.

A new Fiesta is due next year which will be larger than the current model, and more expensive according to Ciaran McMahon.