As someone who’s still in touch with his days of youth, I can remember well the dangers of circumnavigating the trends set by one’s peers.
How being dispatched in freshly polished shoes to a school where the populace favoured Reeboks was tantamount to a death sentence, or at least a light kicking.
Surrounded by the retro-chic big boys of BMW’s Mini and Fiat’s 500, you could fear Ford’s Ka awaits a similar nostalgic design fate. However by refusing to hark back to the yesteryear - the Ka looks very much iN; its body is original - modern - fresh even. Naturally ours arrived in top spec trim, dipped in Scuba Blue, with 16”-alloys, body colour bumpers and door mirrors, a boot spoiler, chrome door handles and exhaust tip. It’s a good looking drive, not as radical as the original Ka, but a looker nonetheless. It’s easy to see the connection 500 with which the Ka shares its platform, but the Ka swaps the 500’s cute and cuddly looks for something sharper more aggressive. All of which points towards the Ka being the sportier of the pair.
Fittingly, Ford has tightened up the chassis above and beyond its cheeky Italian sister. This is good news, because where the Ka does wrong foot - and trust me you always get caught out - the cool kids are going to realise that lurking under the less ‘trendy’ kit is a feisty handler.
Next to the 500, it’s sharper and better controlled. There’s loads of grip and a keen turn in, which will eventually turn to super-safe understeer. Sadly, for the more the committed iN drivers - that’ll be you and you - there’s no lift-off oversteery shenanigans to be had here, meaning the new Ka’s not as pointy as its older brother.
Light steering that communicates at a whisper, balanced controls and a positive gear-change, all make the Ka easy to manoeuvre at low speeds. The engine holds the same plucky charm as the body. Progress is by no means swift but the Ka’s heart offers real spirit. With 68bhp from its 1.2-litre four-cylinder engine 0-62mph comes up in 13.1 seconds and top speed is 99mph, but it never complains about being worked hard. What’s most surprising, and probably of more interest to the iN faithful, is how the Ka’s matured. The old car’s chuckability may have been lost, but in terms of refinement it’s a big step up. It now feels like a big car.
Owners can expect low running costs. A fuel economy of 55mpg is possible thanks to stop-start technology that also features a neat anti-stall like facility, and a low CO2 rating of 119g/km means road tax costs only £35 a year.
Inside, the modern theme continues. There’s no over-sized dials; no swathes of body colored plastics, but that’s not to say the interior is not funky. With extensive use of soft touch materials and flashes of white shiny (hard plastic) stuff, it has the feel of a quality product. All the controls, bar the fiddly stereo, are simply to use and fall easily to hand. The driving position seems high at first and would benefit from more scope for adjustment, but it does aid visibility and suits the Ka’s ultimate purpose. It’s easy to get comfy, although the rear seats will be a tight fit for adults of average or above proportions, and the boot is not massive.
At £10,795, Titanium trim is not bargain-basement - the range starts at £8,495 - but it does give you some nice extras to play with.
The aforementioned exterior kit elevates it visually from the lower ranks, and features like climate control and the excellent uprated and sub-woofered stereo, which smothers road noise even at motorway speeds, are all nice to have.
Overall it’s an excellent package – cheaper than a Mini and better to drive than a Fiat 500. No one can argue that it is the coolest small hatch on the road – and with my grasp of fashion I’m not even going to try to – but running under the estate agents’ fleet car radar may just do the Ka’s shape a favour in terms of longevity. And, in the mean time you’re left with a small car that’s fun to drive, economical and comfortable, and offers a viceless break from the norm.