By on August 26, 2014

ka sedan

The Ford Ka was born as a provocateur with a challenging design and hints of refinement that solidified the idea that cars are not sold by the pound. Highly successful in Europe, this recipe proved less so in the rest of the world, particularly Latin America were the car was relentlessly cheapened out over its career and became irrevocably divorced from the European car in its second generation. Now, designed and developed by Ford Brazil (with some help from the European unit), the Ka, in its third generation, sets out from the tropics in its eventual quest to become an integral part of the One Ford strategy (sales in Europe, from a UK beachhead, should commence in the fall of 2015).

This time around the Ka will be Ford’s cheapest offering, nestling under the Fiesta. Though it is shorter than its cousin, its wheelbase is exactly the same. The new Ka is taller and a hair wider, offering a greater sensation of roominess in its interior. If front seat space is comparable, the back seats have been placed further back and due to the high roofline, four non-NBA sized people can sit in good comfort, especially by segment standards. As in everything else in life, this decision brought with it a definite drawback: The 257 liter trunk is the smallest in its category. While not such a problem in Western Europe, were cars like this are viewed as urban runabouts, it definitely could be  blight for the Ka’s career in much of the rest of the world. In these markets, a Ka is expected to pull family duty and the trunk is tight for a family of four come vacation time.

The new Ka is also a very interesting statement on how Ford sees the Brazil and other developing auto markets. In Brazil the car starts off at 35,000 reais, whereas some competitors are offered at 25,000 reais. When equipped like the Ka, however, Ford’s pricing becomes competitive, maybe even aggressive. Features like assisted steering, air conditioning and power windows have become the new norm, and the Ka’s equipment levels are commensurate with its price. Ford claims they want the retail sales title and will have to sell over 10 thousand cars a month to reach their goal.

For that amount of money the Ka offers the items mentioned, but extras like electronic brake distribution, hill holder, Sync and even its version of an emergency call system, the first for any car in Brazil. Other sophisticated items like ESP are offered depending on version, and a first for the small car segment in Brazil.

Stepping inside the car, besides the roominess already mentioned, the care taken in its finishing is immediately noticed. While hard plastics are the norm, they are decently assembled and different textures and color are duly appreciated. Internal design and layout is inspired by what is seen in the Fiesta. Cubbies to put modern life’s unavoidable accruements are offered generously and Ford claims there are 21 of them, though I didn’t notice all of them. However, there are more places to accommodate stuff than in the Fiesta and most competitors. Overall impressions are good.

Stepping back out to see the design, the car’s height is readily apparent. As confirmed by the tape measure, the car is and looks taller than anything else in the segment. As it is relatively short and wide, to some the car will look fat. To my eyes it doesn’t seem so, but the height is a bit of a challenge. The front fascia clearly follows Ford’s Aston Martin-inspired ideal and is still a very nice look. The side profile is also eye pleasing, with a high belt line that Ford managed to make not too intrusive as sightlines are good. The car’s worst design element is the back. Comparing to the front and even its profile, it is demure to be sure. Maybe even too timid for what the front suggests.

Mechanically, the car begins to stand out to the enthusiast. The car uses a naturally aspirated, 1 liter, 3 cylinder, 12 valve, flex fuel version of the engine already on sale in Europe and North America, but without the turbocharger. It features variable valve timing in both the intake and exhaust, and other tricks like separate cooling for head and block.  The crankshaft is built so there is an angle between flywheel and pulley, a simple solution that eliminated much of the bothersome vibrations inherent in 3 cylinder engines without having to resort to extraneous measures. Ford also promises low upkeep costs. For example, the engine features an oil bathed chain that requires no maintenance for 240,000 kilometers. This small power plant produces 80 horsepower using Brazilian gasoline or 85 ponies should you choose to fuel it with ethanol. This makes it the most powerful naturally aspirated 1.0 liter engine in Brazil and, quite possibly, the world.

The best part about driving this engine is its refinement. It pulls very progressively from 1500 RPMs up to redline. Couple that with its long fifth gear, and it’s a comfortable cruiser at speed. The sprint to 62 mph is done in about 14 seconds, which is very good in the category. Were it not for a certain sluggishness in its response, and the existence of the new Volkswagen up! (which also uses a 3 cylinder 1.0), this could be considered the best 1.0 in the Brazilian market, bringing heat to some of the 1.4 and 1.6 liters available. Though smaller, the up! is undeniably faster and even more economic. It also sounds better, though it vibrates more than the Ford.

The first Ka had a kart-like ride that enthusiasts appreciate (myself included). The back for example always threatened to let loose in curves if the driver hesitated in accelerating. The new Ka does not touch that level of sportiness, but its manners driving fast or slow are impeccable. The suspension does not allow unnecessary roll, yet manages not to be uncomfortable. Handling is precise, the electric steering is very light in urban driving and becomes heavier the faster you go (though still numb compared to hydraulic setups), noise and harshness are contained and I didn’t notice any squeaks and rattles from the finishing. Again, probably the best suspension available in small cars in Brazil, were it not for the up!.

The new Ford Ka is a well-rounded, relatively sophisticated modern car. Offering space (at least for passengers) and an undeniably modern, efficient and fun ride and engine, it is poised to become a sales leader in places where small cars are appreciated. It is on sale in Brazil and the sedan version, the Ka+, will begin sales next month. It will soon be exported to other South American markets. It will also be produced in India and sold all over the world. It is a shame North Americans will probably not get it because it continues Ford’s tradition of offering advanced and pleasant small cars.

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47 Comments on “Capsule Review: 2015 Ford Ka (Brazilian Market)...”


  • avatar
    petezeiss

    “The new Ka does not touch that level of sportiness, but its manners driving fast or slow are impeccable.”

    Music to my ears, though I doubt we’ll ever see it in NA while I’m still driving.

    Great intro to this groovy little car. Height is always Right, so it’s got that going for it. Easy in/out for oldsters.

    • 0 avatar

      It is impressive what they have achieved. I drove it over a rough patch of pavement that usually unsettles most cars, especially smaller ones due to the short wheelbase, and the Ka took it in stride. And the extra height is appreciated. Not only easier ingress and egress, but also a sensation of airiness that its sibling the Fiesta, for example, cannot touch.

      • 0 avatar
        petezeiss

        “a sensation of airiness”

        Exactly this… so crucial to me in a small car. When my sister bought a Fit I initially scoffed at the little sardine can until I sat in it.

        The airiness provided by the extreme cab-forwardness and the small windows between the mirrors and A-pillars was wonderful. Now I like it better than our CR-Vs except for its being shorter.

        • 0 avatar

          Yep, small cars have come a long way. It’s difficult to call cars with the Ka’s profile sardine cans, because that is now in the past.

          • 0 avatar
            petezeiss

            Over the past 10 years or so I’ve come to want smaller vehicles; no more trucks (pay guys with trucks & tools instead), even CUVs are mostly too large since I never have more than one passenger.

            I just love tight, capable little cars and I hope the trend Sergio started of bringing more global vehicles over here to NA continues and strengthens. Small cars are fun, cheap, loaded with what used to be options and, oh, the garage space you’ll have left over :-D

  • avatar
    psarhjinian

    I still prefer the “New Edge” Ka from last decade. This one looks terribly generic.

    http://trialx.com/curetalk/wp-content/blogs.dir/7/files/2013/03/cars/2000_Ford_Ka-1.jpg

    • 0 avatar
      Jimal

      Me too. We had a first gen Ka as our rental during our honeymoon in England back in 2005, so there is a bit of sentimental value. I’d love to import one as soon as they’re old enough, but I think the challenge will be finding one that isn’t completely rusted out by then.

      • 0 avatar

        Jimal, look for one in Brazil or other South American countries (I don’t think Mexico got this car). They were introduced here a year later than in the UK and ones from non-coastal regions should not have too bad rust issues. For sentimental value I’d also like to keep one forever in my dream garage. They are basically the same car.

    • 0 avatar

      Hey Psar! I do too, but its mission is different this time. The original Ka came out of a time where the traditional European compacts were starting to grow leaving some space under them for smaller sized cars. However, because of costs and equipment levels a smaller car would not necessarily endow it with a lower price. So, following Renault’s lead (Twingo), Ford conjured up (to channel a word our own Derek Kreindler likes so much) its mini gamechanger, the Ka, that while smaller than the Fiesta, sported a more advanced design and even equipment levels. I think for most of its career the Ka was even more expensive than the Fiesta. Cars like them really opened the way for later “chic” small cars like the mini or Cincuecento.

      Now, it will be cheaper than the Fiesta (though it is better than the Fiesta in some aspects). But the larger dimensions, real seating for 5, makes it a general player and not a niche like before. In that vein, I understand Ford’s decision to make it less visually challenging. But it fits in with Ford’s design language quite well, and as far as small cars go, is among the best looking (just compare to yesterday’s Mirage).

  • avatar
    jaydez

    This car would be a hit in Boston. Think of all the name recognition. It would be the Kleenex of cars up there.

    • 0 avatar
      Jimal

      It would be wicked pissah.

    • 0 avatar

      Ha! As I understand it, people in English speaking countries call it in all sorts of different ways. From Ford “Kay”, to “Kah”, to even separating the letters and saying it like it was an acronym “K. A.”. I could be mistaken but in the UK, I think Ford used “Kah”.

      That’s what you get for being creative! From what I’ve read Ka is an ancient Egyptian word that means something like “spirit of life”.

      • 0 avatar
        jaydez

        From Wikipedia:
        The Ka (kꜣ) was the Egyptian concept of vital essence, that which distinguishes the difference between a living and a dead person, with death occurring when the ka left the body. The Egyptians believed that Khnum created the bodies of children on a potter’s wheel and inserted them into their mothers’ bodies. Depending on the region, Egyptians believed that Heket or Meskhenet was the creator of each person’s Ka, breathing it into them at the instant of their birth as the part of their soul that made them be alive. This resembles the concept of spirit in other religions.

        The Egyptians also believed that the ka was sustained through food and drink. For this reason food and drink offerings were presented to the dead, although it was the kau (kꜣw) within the offerings that was consumed, not the physical aspect. The ka was often represented in Egyptian iconography as a second image of the king, leading earlier works to attempt to translate ka as double.

        I guess all those people in Boston are just looking for their vital essence.

  • avatar

    It’s got very good proportions and it does an excellent job of grafting Ford’s new school of design onto a very inexpensive template. It’s just too bad they chose to stick with the kaleidoscope dash switchgear; I’m sure plenty of people will have issues with it, just as in the Fiesta.

    • 0 avatar

      Not here! Never heard anyone complain about that here. People think it looks all sorts of modern and really lap it up. Of course, comparing to the usual things on offer here, all the busy-ness of the dash’s lines look “classy” and “expensive” and are very welcome.

      • 0 avatar

        Huh. Well, that was my only complaint about the styling. If even *that* isn’t an issue, Ford probably has a hit on its hands. As usual with Fords, the hatchback version looks better, but they’re both great.

      • 0 avatar
        dtremit

        The Fiesta implementation of that switchgear was very consciously modeled after the Motorola RAZR cell phones that were all the rage when it was under development. I think that’s why it reads as dated to me.

    • 0 avatar
      petezeiss

      The last sedan I can remember with roughly the Ka’s proportions was the Toyota Echo. But the Ka somehow avoids the Echo’s instant reminder of a Fisher-Price corn popper. This is the first non-hatchback to strike my fancy in a long while.

      • 0 avatar

        You’ve got a great point. The Echo makes me want to vomit, and always did. I didn’t even make a mental comparison between that hideous sedan and this handsome one.

      • 0 avatar

        Yep it sorts of does resemble that Toyota, but so much better executed. Broadly speaking, small Euro-style (now with Brazilian input) hatches from European makes (and Ford and Opel) do it so much better. Another example in comparison to the Mirage yesterday, which Sajeev mentioned needed a spoiler like no other, well, the spoiler is there and the gaps are smaller, integrating this part of the design so much better than anything that comes out of Asia, at least in my experience and in this market segment.

  • avatar
    VoGo

    Did Derek write this or Marcelo?

  • avatar
    DeadWeight

    Blech…motorized mailbox; they’re all the same.

    I need some quality IPA or a nice Trappist Ale to get the wretched taste of motorized mailbox off my palate.

    • 0 avatar

      Not really. It’s interesting, but in the small car market wild variations can still take place. This one is definitely a step up from the usual as is the VW up I recently reviewed. 3 cylinder engines producing more hp and torque than 4 cylinder ones while delivering better economy, real space inside for at least 4, great suspension systems being set up, plus the minimal safety equipment and creature comforts (on or near First World levels) as standard. They are stepping up the small car game in noticeable ways.
      In contrast a review of the Hyundai HB20 I did for TTAC a while back. No comparison to this so big news indeed.

      • 0 avatar
        CoreyDL

        I only like it in hatch form. The sedan looks like a big old afterthought.

        EDIT: The hatch from the rear also looks like an old Vitz. The sedan from the rear is like an old Kia Rio from 1999.

        • 0 avatar

          It’s been while Ford doesn’t do small, good looking sedans from the rear. The possible exception being the 3 triangle-up-in-the-front Focus that looks better from the back.

          Now, the sedan is a necessity in our and other markets. Capable of carrying more almost 500L of baggage, it puts to shame the Fiesta sedan. This happens because the Fiesta sedan was developed for the first world, and there it does not pull family duty. Here it does and the small Ka manages to beat the Fiesta and match cars a category above in trunk space (more trunk than Fit, Civic, Corolla, even the Focus) while being more spacious than the traditional compact sedan in internal space. Although its trunk, like the hatch’s, is smaller than some of the competition like Renault Logan, Nissan Versa, Fiat Grand Siena or Chevy Cobalt (Brazilian). It compensates for this by offering content, safety and a drivability better than the norm for the category.

          So, while I agree, the sedan is even more demure that the hatch in the back, it is undeniably useful and practical and will appeal to families.

          • 0 avatar
            CoreyDL

            I’ve always heard the sedan version is important for the Indian market as well – something about “trunk prestige.”

          • 0 avatar

            There’s also that. A hatch, no matter how sophisticated, is still a hatch and seen as a less formal car, for a more youthful audience. The sedan, meanwhile, is always seen as more grown up and presentable.

    • 0 avatar
      bball40dtw

      I find many of the Trappist Ales and Abbey Ales to be overrated. Maybe it’s just the hype surrounding some of the beers. The same can be said for many limited releases from America’s larger microbreweries (and anything Three Floyds. It’s not worth driving to Muenster, IN.).

      • 0 avatar
        DeadWeight

        Westvleteren 12 ?

        Chimay Grand Reserve?

        • 0 avatar
          bball40dtw

          Those are the real deal and some of the best beers you can drink. I suppose I am more referring to the onslaught of wannabe Trappist and Abbey beer I’ve seen lately. Christmas is a particularlly egregious time for Abbey Ales that taste like sour urine.

          My two bottles of Grand Reserve survived the sewer backup flood I had two weeks ago because they were on a high enough shelf. I can’t say that for all of my beer though.

          • 0 avatar
            DeadWeight

            I know what you’re speaking to with the absolute proliferation of microbrews (many of them being macrobrews with cute names pumped out by the big boys) but by definition, a Trappist Ale (or Flanders one, for that matter) is region specific, and they’re very much limited in terms of heritage, facility location (many being actual Monastery brew operations).

            Just like with Belon oysters, if it ain’t from Belon, it’s not a Below.

            For the record, I’ve had many fine non-Trappist Ales, stouts, IPAs, pilsners, etc brewed by American microbrewers such as Bell’s (in Kalamazoo, MI) and, especially, brews such as New Holland’s Dragon’s Milk (Holland, MI).

            If I had time, The Truth About Beers.

          • 0 avatar
            bball40dtw

            Right. Trappist Ales are very specific to certain monks, styles, etc. There are many Abbey Ales that are very good as well. However, there are breweries that call things “trappist” or produce an Abbey Ale of poor quality.

            Dragon’s Milk is about the only bourbon barrel stout you can get on a regualr basis in Michigan. Others, like KBS or Black Note are so limited in their release. I feel like a Founders cheerleader lately, but I find their porter to be consistently great. If you want to start TTAB (The Truth About Beer), I’d gladly put some time into it.

  • avatar
    tankinbeans

    Okay, the trunk space is good for its class, but can you get things in there instead of just air? My roommate tried taking his Fusion, a large car, camping and tried stuffing a cooler in the trunk. While the trunk was large enough volume-wise, the opening was a joke. He ended up having to borrow my Escape because there was so much stuff that wouldn’t get past that opening.

    • 0 avatar

      I don’t think you’ll have any trouble. Though in the hatch the rear sill is now higher than in previous Kas, this car is made primarily for the developing world where it is a family car so makers try to make cars with a good aperture. In the First World, many sedans and hatches, especially the smaller ones, are more lifestyle cars and makers tend to let form override function. Not the case here.

      In the case of the sedan, judging from the pics, the opening seems reasonable. A sedan trunk is usually not that good for bulky items, but these small sedans usually have long items covered as I can’t remember the last time a compact sedan was launched here without reclining seats. Compare the opening of many of the Brazilian compact sedans to offerings like Cerato and others, and the advantage is clear.

  • avatar
    tankinbeans

    These cars almost look like they scream to be made into a notchback. The illusion of a separate trunk for the Indian market, but the usefulness of a hatchback when you have a big awkward item.

    • 0 avatar

      There will be a notchback version. Unfortunately not coming to Brazil. It reminds one of the old Euro and South American Escorts I had one of and have written about for TTAC a couple of times. The Indians will get it because it’ll be comply with the 4m long rule and get favored tax treatment while the sedan is over 4m long.

  • avatar
    Victor

    Nice review, Marcelo.

    As for the Ka, I’ll check it out. I am currently in the process of buying an up! for the wife. This could be a contender. She really likes the Fiesta, but it is a bit north of our price range.

    Guess I’ll wait for Latin NCAP to say something about the Ka. The up! got five stars.

    • 0 avatar

      Hey Victor! Thanks for reading! Definitely worth the wait. Both Up and Ka have now made the other cars in the segment look old (not the 208, though). Comparing the Ka and Up, the Ka is definitely bigger while the Up is more “esperto”, but exactly because of that Up characteristic, the Ka will be more relaxed on the highway. I’d say comfort in the Ka is greater but the Up surprised me in that category. The Up is also more economic, but vibrates more, while the Ka did away with the vibration, but the 3 cylinder noise is much more present in the Ka. Surprisingly the trunk in the Up is 285L while the Ka has under 260, which is a good, middle size bag. To me the Up is a bit more cheerful (especially in upper trims, as the interior in the basic ones is sort of sad, while the Ka will probably satisfy the wife more, not the same but quite like the Fiesta’s), while the Ka seems more grown up. You just have to balance what is more important to you. I’d go for the better deal. Equipment levels in the Ka will probably be higher for the same price.

      As to Latin NCap, the platform is common between Fiesta, EcoSport and Ka. So the underlying goodness is sound. Fiesta and EcoSport have achieved 4 and 5 stars while the up got 5 stars for front passenger protection and 4 for kids (better than the EcoSport IIRC). Of course depends on the results, but I think both will be among the safest, if not the safest small cars in Brazil.

  • avatar
    krhodes1

    Interesting car, or Ka. Seems like this would be a better seller in the US than the too tight in the back Fiesta. Mine would have to be the hatch, the sedans this size are just so very useless, whatever the “trunk prestige”.

  • avatar
    wmba

    Balancing any rotating system can be accomplished by applying appropriate masses at appropriate radii. at appropriate angle to each other at each end of the rotating shaft. Basic theory, and what Ford has come up with by reading textbooks.

    That’s balanced to the external observer, the engine mounts and you the driver. Utter vibration hell can still be going on inside the system – outside seems serene.

    The timing belt is not a chain. It’s a belt designed to run in oil.

    Surely the last Ka is a Fiat 500 – they were both built in Fiat’s factory in Poland on the same platform.. The first gen Ka was as close to a British chocolate biscuit tin as any modernish car with the last gasp of the Ford Kent ohv engine as motive power. Cheap and built to stay that way.

    • 0 avatar

      Hey wmba, the vibration is important to be reduced to the driver. At launch, Ford stressed the engine mounts, steering wheels fixations and seats mounts all had received new parts (compared to the Fiesta) exactly to counterbalance the tendency of the 3 cylinders to be vibrant. These parts may or not fail over time, but they stressed this has been thoroughly tested. The advantage of mounting the mentioned parts at an angle comes from the need to keep upkeep costs down. Other engines around the world use things like “árvores de balanceamento” (sorry forgot the English term), which add cost, complexity and some weight. The solution may be simple, but talking to people who know this well they say it’s a simple solution that appears to do the job. If so simple, why wasn’t it done before? Depends on who you ask, but the consensus is that there were packaging issues, that Ford solved (not an engineer, so…).

      As to the chain you are right. Got my notes mixed up. What I wanted to write was exactly that:. Previously the Zetec 1.0 had a chain that was to be observed every 100,000 km with no real expected shelf life. What I hear from mechanics is that they started needing to be changed on a case by case basis, some as early as 150,000 km others have lasted 300,000 km plus. In my notes, there was a comment on how I, as a previous Ka Zetec owner, did not miss the chain as the belt was much more silent and is now just as durable as the chain. So the benefits seem obvious.

      As to the second generation Ka (the Cincuecento twin) being the last Ka, you surely mean Europe right? Because the new Ka is here and I’ve driven it. Below I’ll offer some thoughts as to why I think the Ka will really make it to Western Europe.

      The EcoSport has made it to Europe. The Ka sits on the same platform as it and the Fiesta. It has a size advantage on the Fiesta and a ride just as good. A car like this is necessary to combat the continual growth of cars like the Dacia/Renault Sandero and others that sell space at a low price. At least the cars seen here (new Ka vs. Sandero), the size difference is not that big and the Ka is more sophisticated in its ride than the Sandero. Using a name like Ka only reinforces that notion as Ford will not likely give up pricing on the Fiesta that is up there, but smallish and becoming more so with every new car the competition launches.

      I don’t remember exactly right now, but the Ka even in Europe (in Latin America certainly) eventually got the much more modern Zetec engines. Why they kept the Endura/Kent engines at launch is a mystery, but maybe the smaller Zetecs were not ready. They were cheap, but offered good driving dynamics, small size and an internal and external design that made it a car that will be remembered, moreso maybe than the Fiesta’s from the same era.

      No one really knows where the next Fiesta is going, but it’ll very likely be larger and even more sophisticated, opening up space for a Ka that can compete on size, pricing and dynamics as it’ll carry on the current Fiesta’s torch. Seems pretty much like a no brainer from where I stand as cheap cars are needed and growing in Europe.


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