What is the Ford Ka+?
Slotting in at the entry-point of Ford’s range is the Ka+, nestling below the Fiesta and continuing the line of small Blue Oval-badged cars that began with the original Ka in 1996. Or at least it did until 2019 when Ford confirmed the Ka+ was being discontinued in the UK.
- Top speed: 102-111mph
- 0-62mph: 11.0-14.1 seconds
- Fuel economy: 49-76mpg
- Emissions: 99-129g/km of CO2
- Boot space: 270-1,029 litres
Which versions of the are available?
Previewed in near-production concept form at the end of 2014, but not going on sale until summer 2016, the Mk3 version of the Ka is the largest model yet to wear the nameplate.
Signaling its enlarged dimensions and five-door status the name was revised to Ford Ka+ for the third-generation model which arrived to a rather lukewarm reception. There was little sense of fun or the fine driving dynamics that the Mk1 in particular had in spades.
Ford revised things in 2018 giving the Ka+ Hatchback a facelift, but also adding a separate line with a pseudo-crossover look – the Ford Ka+ Active – complete with an elevated ride height and chunkier unpainted plastic body mouldings.
With Active models effectively being a trim level of its own, the Ka+ Hatchback somes in just two trim levels of Studio and Zetec.
There’s also little choice on the engine front: a three-cylinder 1.2-litre petrol producing 70hp and 85hp was joined by a four-cylinder 1.5-litre diesel delivering 95hp from that 2018 facelift. Diesel-engined small cars are a rarity these days, but Ford clearly wants to cash-in on those remaining black pump loyalists.
What is the Ford SportKa?
Given Ford’s history and sales successes with hotter versions of its bread-and-butter models, it seems surprising that a higher-performance version of the Ka has only been offered once.
Based on the first-generation hatchback, the Ford SportKa went on sale in 2003 powered by a 1.6-litre petrol engine producing 95hp – a modest output, but enough to allow it to be the only model in the range to nudge under 10 seconds for the 0-62mph acceleration test.
Visually the SportKa was easy to pick out from its humbler brethren thanks to wider wheelarch and bumper mouldings that partially covered the familiar headlamps lending it a more aggressive air from the front.
There was a mechanically similar sister car, too – a two-seater roadster version called Ford StreetKa designed by Ghia. One of the most inexpensive soft-tops on sale in the early-2000s, it won a few fans, but ultimately wasn’t a runaway success commercially.
How do you say Ford Ka?
Let’s clear this up once and for all: Ka is pronounced ‘car’. Done.
Admittedly, there’s some confusion, not least because a two letter word spelled-out in capital letters suggests one might simply say ‘K’ followed by an ‘A’, but that’s not right.
Equally misleading was the pronunciation like ‘cat’ but with a silent ‘T’, as popularised by Jeremy Clarkson in his Top Gear days. That is also wrong.
If you need further confirmation, think of the SportKa and StreetKa mentioned earlier – their names only work if the ‘Ka’ part is pronounced ‘car’.
Styling and engineering
Strip-away the Ka+’s lacklustre bodywork and you’ll find a version of the same underpinnings that are shared with the Fiesta.
Consequently, Ford’s smallest model is fairly engaging to drive, but it lacks its bigger brother’s finesse.
You’re constantly aware that everything’s been built with cost-consciousness in mind, from the hard, generally unappealing interior plastics to the relatively simple-to-produce exterior bodywork.
Is it good to drive?
Yes, it’s not bad at all – not as sharp as a Fiesta, but more engaging than the wooden experience that driving a Dacia Duster, for instance.
Even the higher-riding Ka+ Active remains a decent steer, with good body control, minimised roll through corners and a comfy ride.
How much does the Ford Ka+ cost?
List prices for the Ford Ka+ are temptingly low – it undercuts the Fiesta significantly, but remains a pricier option than the Dacia Sandero.
Discounts will be available with relative easy, but it might not always make sense to buy one on a PCH or PCP finance deals given their low resale values. In some instances, a Fiesta might work out cheaper on a monthly tariff.
Ford Ka Model History
Second-generation Ford Ka (2009-16)
It’s difficult for car manufacturers to make healthy profits on its smallest models so, for the Mk2 Ka, Ford teamed-up with Fiat. Underneath the Ford-esque bodywork lies the platform and mechanical heart of the Fiat 500 – they were even built at the same factory in Poland.
Once again a three-door-only Ka Hatchback – there was no Ford equivalent to the Fiat 500C – but it lacked the dynamic prowess that made its predecessor such a hoot to drive.
Power was modest, with a Fiat-supplied choice of a 69hp 1.2-litre petrol and a 75hp 1.2-litre diesel (confusingly badged as a 1.3). One of the trim levels being called Grand Prix was as close as we got to a sporty second-generation Ka.
Despite the 500 still going strong, Ford opted-out of the deal and replaced the second-generation model with the in-house-developed Ka+.
First-generation Ford Ka (1996-09)
Slotting in below the Fiesta, the original Ford Ka was something of a parts-bin special. It was underpinned by a simplified version of the Fiesta’s platform and powered by a 1.3-litre engine that was a development of a design that first appeared in the Anglia over three decades previously.
Not only did Ford make the three-door Ka distinctively weird to look at – first-year sales were slow as potential buyers were initially put off – but it made it great fun to drive, with super-sharp steering meaning you could exploit its potential at low speeds.
Those early models had unpainted plastic three-piece bumpers that were cheap to fix and replace if needed, but its popularity took off when more models were sold with them in full body colour, as is today’s norm.
Trim levels were wide and varied, including the punchier SportKa, the leather-trimmed LuxuryKa (seriously!) and the special two-seater StreetKa roadster.
The problem is you see few of them around today, not just because the newest ones are over a decade old now, but primarily because they rust badly and many have been scrapped. That’s a pity – if you can find a solid one, you’ll have a gem of a city car.