Dispatches Do Brasil: A Brief History Of The Ford Ka

Marcelo de Vasconcellos
by Marcelo de Vasconcellos
dispatches do brasil a brief history of the ford ka

The rumors have it that the new Ford Ka will be on sale as of March this year. Production of the old Ka has come to a close as the Zetec Rocam engines have also been terminated (and thus the old Brazil-market Fiesta is probably dead as well). At launch, the new Ka will come exclusively with a 1.5 Sigma engine and a 1.0, three cylinder, EcoBoost-based engine. Rumors have it that it will be the most powerful 1.0 engine in Brazil and will thus have to provide around 82 ponies.

Pictures shown on a Brazilian news site, uol.com.br, show the new Ka in factory plates along a new Fiesta on what the site called final homologation tests. The new Ka sits on the same global platform (called B) as its brother. Reports suggest the new Ka will be as long as the Fiesta, but higher and roomier than its sibling. However, it will be cheaper, though more expensive than the current Ka, at least initially. A sedan version is also in the works, and spy pictures have been taken of it in Michigan by our own Ronnie Schreiber. The Ka sedan could end up using the Escort name in Latin America.

The new Ka is part of the One Ford strategy, though in an ancillary fashion. Initially, it will be produced in Brazil, India and China. Ford of Germany however had extensive participation in the car’s development, and if the car proves successful, it could eventually find its way into Western Europe.

In Brazil, the car was launched in 1997, just six months after Europe. In Brazil, it used two variants of the Kent engine, a 1.3 and a 1.0. With the bigger engine the Ka topped out at 155 km/h while the smaller unit took a hair under 20 seconds to get to 100 km/h. As in other countries, the design provoked a love-hate relationship to the car and left few indifferent. One of the difficulties this car faced was that it was truly and legally a four seater. The 185L trunk was also considerably smaller than the competitors. In a country were compacts are often used as family cars, it was never the biggest seller, but did appeal to those who understood its style and enjoyed an honest to God, fun car to drive.

In 2000 the old Kent engines were done away with and the car got the new 1.6 and 1.0 Zetec Rocam engines. The larger engine now sported 96 hp and could get to 100 km/h in just over 10 seconds, making it a veritable pocket rocket. The 1.0 got a bump to a whopping 65 horsepower – competitive for its class.

In 2002, the first major redesign. Exclusive for Brazil, it changed the front slightly and the back became much more attractive (to most anyway) with the addition of bigger lights and wrap around glass. In this way, the separation between the Latin American and the European Ka became official and they were never again the same.

Following its own trajectory in Brazil, Ford completely redid the Ka for 2008. The Ka grew by nearly 8 inches, got a bigger trunk and could now seat 5 passengers. This new design proved a hit with Brazilians and sales took off again. Though this was mainly credited to the new design, the fact of the matter was that Ford had cheapened the car out. The interior was now made of much meaner material and mechanically it was simplified. It lost the front sway bar, the frontal sub-frame, springs were hardened to compensate, in short, the car lost the magic that had made it a true driver’s car. It was now the cheapest car in Brazil.

In 2012, the final curtain call came for the Ka. It received a new front and Ford changed the backlights. As Ford launched the new Fiesta in Brazil, the old-gen Fiesta, now rebaptized Fiesta Rocam, was downgraded and became cheaper. When the 50 month financing (standard in Brazil) was taken into account, the Fiesta Rocam was marginally more expensive than the Ka and offered four doors and more space.

Now Ford hopes the new Ka will have what it takes to battle it out at the 30 thousand real mark. That means it has left the bottom rung of the market and will have to hold its own against heavy hitters like the perennial best seller Volkswagen Gol, Fiat Palio, Chevy Onix, Hyundai HB 20, Toyota Etios among others. The new Fiesta has been a hit in Brazil, taking the Fiesta nameplate to unheard of heights in the Brazilian market. If the new Ka takes permanent residence among the top 10 sold, Ford could find itself inching closer to the real big three in the Brazilian market (Fiat, GM and VW) and not having to worry about being overtaken by upstarts like Renault and Hyundai who have been challenging Ford’s , by now traditional, fourth place in Brazil.

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  • Kyree Kyree on Jan 27, 2014

    So the camouflaged mule that was featured in a TTAC article last year must have been a Ford Ka. Also, this was an excellent piece, Mister de Vasconcellos. It's clear that the current Ka shares parts and perhaps even architecture with the Fiat 500, because both cars seem to use the same center-stack modules.

    • Marcelo de Vasconcellos Marcelo de Vasconcellos on Jan 27, 2014

      Yes, Mr. Williams, it has by now become abundantly clear that our own Ronnie Schrieber did, indeed, spot a Ka sedan. In Michigan! Now, if you're talking about the current Euro Ka, then yes, it's nothing more than a Fiat 500 in Ford drag. It is built at Fiat's Poland factory, alongside the 500, by Fiat's Polish workers. Not only the center stack modules are shared, but if you're familiar with Fiat products, you'll see the instrumentation is all Fiat, as are the signalling stalks, buttons etc. Things big and small. Now Ford did say they tuned the suspension to their standards, however, the Euro press is almost unanimous in saying that they didn't do a good job. They say that if you close your eyes, the present Ford Ka sounds like a Fiat, runs like a Fiat, even smells like a Fiat! I don't really remember, but I think they even share engines. Like I said in the article, the Euro and Brazilian Ka started parting ways in 200 and by 2008 they were not even closely related. BTW, thanks for the compliment!

  • Daniel g. Daniel g. on Jan 27, 2014

    Hi marcelo, a sales people told me something like the platform is the same as new fiesta, do you now something? also my first idea was the new ford ka (they comment some numbers of sale price)can to compete with kia picanto in terms of pasive security using stability control and maybe 4 disc brake (the only in the segment) the fiesta from mexico use this strategy for sales. and maybe is a good thing the new VW UP! advertising latinNCAP 5 stars and fuel economy numbers to compare. very hot market to ford!!!

    • Marcelo de Vasconcellos Marcelo de Vasconcellos on Jan 27, 2014

      Hey daniel g. Yes, the Ka will now sit on the same platform as the new Fiesta. As to equipment levels, the new Fiesta, built in Brazil, as well as the EcoSport, have access to all manners of Ford equipment. The ones you mention may well find their way into a Ka Titanium, if and when Ford decides to build such a version here. There's really nothing yet. Come March we'll know.

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