Sunday, 29 June 2014

REVIEW - Ford Ka Studio Connect

Now there are many cars on sale which do absolutely nothing to excite me at all. On this list- amongst several cars- is the Ford Ka. The name has been around since 1996, and I haven’t liked it since day 1. The first model was particularly ugly, and had a horrid, rattling engine from a Fiesta at the time. But here we are in 2014, so in the spirit of fairness I decided to give the Ka a chance. It shares a platform with the Fiat Panda I reviewed a while back, and also the Fiat 500. These are good cars, so hopefully the Ka could follow suit. So with a brown bag over my head, I hit the open road…

Looks – 6/10

The exterior styling of the Ka has certainly improved since the early models. It definitely looks less like a frog that had hopped into a wall a few times. But the problem faced by the Ka is that its older brother- the Fiesta- is a bit of a looker. And not enough of those genes passed down; leaving the Ka with a resemblance of the Fiesta but no more. This model comes with alloy wheels, but has plastic door handles and mirrors. There’s a pea-shooter exhaust at the back, but this is nothing compared to the rest of the back end. It definitely looks like an alien’s head, and that’s not exactly how style is described often. Some might say the Ka is ‘cute’ but I would have to disagree with them. You want cute? Buy the Fiat 500.

The inside isn’t quite as bad. It was about as masculine as a leotard, but I think most of that was down to the flowery-patterned seats. These I could live with, but the cream plastic trim was a bit too much. It not only clashed with the white exterior paint, but just looked cheap. I liked how the dash offered a subtle nod toward the Fiesta with the shape, but other than this I could tell I was basically sat in a Panda. The driving position was the same; it even had the same footrest which requires a large degree of flexibility to use. You can definitely tell you’re at the lower end of the price scale with the Ka, there’s just lost of bland blacks and greys, and it’s not great to the touch either. And plastic steering wheels are just a big no no these days; that amount of leather is very inexpensive but goes a long way.

Handling/Performance – 5/10

Unlike the Panda I tested- which was the TwinAir model- the Ka comes with a 1.2-litre petrol unit. Sadly this is less powerful than the aforementioned 0.9-litre, and offers about as much power as your average hairdryer. Seriously. It has 69PS and 102Nm of torque, and that’s enough to get the Ka from 0-62mph in 13.4 seconds. In 2014 terms that’s about a decade, and is slower than the TwinAir Fiat- as is the top speed of 99mph. What amazes me is that Ford haven’t opted to put their absolutely superb ECOboost engine. The little 1.0-litre would make a great engine in this car, and would bring it alive somewhat. The 1.2 feels lethargic, and the 5-speed gearbox offers little joy. The KA can hold its own on the motorway, but don’t expect to be overtaking with any great gusto.

The Ka handles a bit like it looks; alien. You see the Ka is a rather tall car, and with such skinny wheels, it’s no surprise that cornering ability is somewhat limited. You don’t have to push hard to find the limit of grip, and that’s hardly reassuring. Saying that, I don’t see many people buying the Ka for its handling; they wouldn’t be able to see well enough out of their brown bag to focus on the apex anyway. The ride is comfortable enough, even if the seats try to make it unpleasant, and if you stick below 70mph it’s not overly noisy on the motorway either. Around town the Ka is more in its element; with a good turning circle and small road presence.

Economy – 8/10

Another argument in favour of the ECOboost engine comes when you read the economy figures for the 1.2-litre. Combined fuel consumption is 57.7mpg and CO2 emissions are 115g/km. This puts the Ka in VED band C, which means £30 road tax, and free for the first year. So it’s not that the KA is inefficient, because it certainly isn’t. But I can’t score it any higher, because a citycar should be sub-100g/km by now, and this is more frustrating when we know Ford have the engine to do just this. So if you’re listening Ford- give us a Ka ECOboost!

Practicality – 7/10

The Ka Studio Connect is a rather strange vehicle. It has USB and bluetooth connectivity with steering wheel controls. Wonderful, you might be thinking, but let me just stop you there. There was no central locking. At all. I was utterly bemused when I put the key in the drivers’ door and discovered that was all that had unlocked. Even Fred Flintstone had central locking, and it’s inexcusable for a new car now not to have it. The same could probably be argued for electric front windows. I’d have happily swapped the Bluetooth and USB in favour of these essentials. Some air con would be nice, as I had a 60 mile trip in 23 degree heat which was a rather unpleasant experience. These issues aside, the Ka is easy to park, spacious enough in the front and can fit adults in the back (sort of). It is only a four-seater and has a relatively generous boot for the size of the car. But to live with every day the bare essentials just aren’t there.

Fun – 4/10

The Ford Ka was about as fun as a four-mile hike in the rain. I could put my iPod on via the wonderful USB port. But then I had to listen to it with the window open, because the vents could only blow hot air at me. Then I had to get out and lock doors individually. Which was an annoyance. And to top it all off people were pointing at me (I presume it was the brown bag). None of that is fun. “So why a 4 then Dan?” I hear you ask. It may seem generous but in fact there’s sound logic to it. Because the Ka soon became a source of laughs for me and my friends. I joked that I was overtaken by a glacier, and my friends told me the flowery seats were right up my street; it was all very jovial. They even wrote “kick me” on my paper bag. And mocking the Ka soon became a rather entertaining subject. Not conventional fun- I agree- but I was smiling nonetheless.

Concluding Remarks

So how can I sum up the Ka then? It’s not a bad car, but it’s definitely frustrating. The potential is there to make this a rather good car. I think if Ford were to put the ECOboost engine in it, and fit central locking, the potential is there. And there could even be the 125PS version to offer a more sporty option. But as it is, it leaves you wanting more. Price for the Studio Connect starts at £9,295 but my test car with its special paint (£250), rear parking sensors (£200), Electronic Stability Program (£325), curtain airbags (£200) and a spare wheel (£95) it came in at £10,415. That’s a lot for a car with windy-down windows. For more information visit the Ford website or pop into a dealer. The Ford Ka Studio Connect; getting priorities completely mixed up.

Total Score – 30/50

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