posted 7 months ago

Ford KA+ Active Review

Ford give their tiny KA+ the SUV treatment, but what’s it like to drive and is the KA+ Active any good at soft-roading?

From £13,450
Pros
  • Soft ride soaks up the worst of UK roads
  • Butch looks increase appeal of the KA
  • High seating position
Cons
  • Spartan kit for such a high price
  • Extra height can feel a little wobbly

Introduction:

Ford has recently started to ruggedised their family of hatchbacks, the Ford Fiesta was the first to receive the Active moniker, and the Ford Focus Active has also just been released into the wild.

Smaller SUV based cars make perfect sense, they give you the raised ride height everyone so desires, but without the extra heft and cost of a large crossover or off-roader. The majority of those buyers never even venture off the road, this is where Ford is hoping to corner a niche in the market.

Currently, there’s limited competition, the Vauxhall Adam Rocks gives similar SUV styling and is a little cheaper, while the Suzuki Ignis can be specced with proper all-wheel drive making it a more serious off-road contender for not much more money.

So with the KA+ being Ford’s smallest car how well does it take to the soft-roading treatment? 

On the Road

Powered by a 1.2-litre TI-VCT three-cylinder engine, the KA+ Active produces 86 BHP and 115 Nm of torque, which means a 0-62 time of 13.5 seconds; somewhat lethargic but due to the peppy nature of the engine it never feels that slow, thankfully.

There’s also the choice of a 1.5-litre diesel which makes 95 BHP and a healthier 215 Nm of torque; this drops the 0-62 to a more palatable 11 seconds. The diesel will set you back an additional £1,600 which is a fairly hefty increase.

Both are available in front-wheel drive; there’s no all-wheel option to be had.

Around town the 1.2 litre zips along without issue, it’s an engine that loves to be revved and worked hard, so don’t worry about wringing its neck to get the best from it. At higher speeds you’ll notice the pace slacken significantly, any incline will also have you grabbing for a gear or two lower. 

Ride height has been increased by 23mm, larger anti-roll bars have also been added and work in combination with the electronic stability control to reduce the chances of the somewhat upright from Ka rolling over.

Skinnier 185/60 tyres also add some extra rubber to the sidewalls compared to the broader, shallower 195/55’s found on the standard model.

Apart from that, mechanically the KA+ Active is the same as the normal KA+.

Increasing the ride height has made the KA feel as though it’s on stilts a little, under swifter turns or emergency changes in direction the Ford can feel a little like blancmange, with the stability control cutting in to keep each wheel in check.

Over normal driving, you merely notice that the driving position is more commanding, you now peer down on smaller city cars rather than being on their level.

Ride is on the soft side; the Active soaks up lumps, potholes and even speed bumps without any drama. To that end, it feels somewhat floaty on occasion, but around town, it’s superbly comfortable, no doubt the new tyres help.

With that tiny three-cylinder engine comes a lot of noise when you let the revs build, it’s by no means deafening, but you’ll notice it the harder you push the KA. Once up to motorway speeds the lack of a sixth gear means you’re left with a bit of a din as the revs sit around 4,000.

There’s no automatic option to be had, but thankfully the manual is excellent to use, a short throw makes the Ford feel nimble and sportier than it is; the raised height of the stick also places it nicely in hand.

In the car

Inside you find a decently sized 6.5-inch touchscreen, it runs the same system that’s found across the current Ford line-up which is nice to see. Usually, manufacturers will give lesser models in their range a cut down system or leave them entirely sans touchscreen.

Dash plastics and the whole interior feels cheaper than even the Fiesta, but you have to remember that the KA isn’t of the same generation. Hopefully, the next version will see a lift in interior quality.

Manual heating controls are the order of the day, the large dials being easy to adjust, below sits a little shelf for your phone, and there are two USB sockets next to the ubiquitous 12v output.

You can fully turn off the traction control for when all that off-roading gets a bit sticky, the button for this is behind the handbrake. Unlike the Focus, there are no ‘specialist’ driving modes to choose from here.

Taking the KA along a section of green lane and through a ford wasn’t an issue, the extra ride height gave it plenty of clearance over the rougher patches. More challenging terrain would quickly show up the Active’s limits.

A high, upright seating position makes the KA feel a lot bigger than it is. Space up front is as roomy as a Fiesta, you don’t feel cramped with a passenger on board, and there are various cubbies around the cabin to store bottles and other loose items. There’s even a small carpet lined pocket in the side of the dash that’s only accessible when the door is open.

Rear seat pockets allow you to stow even more items; there’s also space for two adults to fit comfortably in the back which would be fine for shorter journeys.

Boot space measures in 270 litres, 13 of those are made up by the space under the floor where the optional spare wheel can sit. 

Ownership

Prices for the KA+ Active start at £13,050 for the petrol and £14,645 for the diesel, making it roughly £1,200 more than the current top-level Zetec trim.

Ford says the 1.2 litre 86 BHP will manage 43.5 MPG, while the diesel will achieve 56.5 MPG. These are based on the newest WLTP ‘real world’ tests, so should be what you’ll see over every day driving conditions.

Emissions for the diesel are 108 g/km meaning a £145 first-year rate of tax, the petrol fares worse off with 129 g/km which bumps it up to the £165 band. After that, both will drop down to the flat rate of £140. 

As this is the Active and a budget city car, there aren’t any half leather additions to be found here as you find on the Active X models of the Focus. Currently, the KA+ Active makes do with black and brown fabric trim throughout.

Optional upgrades are aplenty with the level of kit on offer still being relatively low for the price. A heated windscreen and front seats which also includes an armrest will cost an extra £300, while the city pack that adds rear parking sensors, heated folding door mirrors and rear powered windows is £350. The technology pack consists of keyless start with auto lights and a dimming rear view mirror, £350; while electronic temperature controls are a further £275.

You can also choose a spare steel wheel for an extra £150.

All new Ford’s have a three year, 60,000-mile warranty. This can be extended to 4 years, 80,000 miles for £160, or 5 years and 100,000 miles for £290.

When the KA+ was crash tested by Euro NCAP in 2017, it achieved a three-star safety rating. This was primarily down to the lack of autonomous emergency braking which can add a star on its own, other concerns related to the dashboard posing a risk of injury to occupants of different sizes in the front seats; there was also poor protection for the chest of the rear seat passengers.

It did, however, score full marks on the side barrier and side pole impact tests.

Six airbags come as standard which is impressive in a car of this size; these include front driver, passenger, curtain and side.