By on January 27, 2014


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,, 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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20 Comments on “Dispatches do Brasil: A Brief History Of The Ford Ka...”

  • avatar

    Great article, Marcelo.

  • avatar
    schmitt trigger

    Indeed, very thorough explanation.

    It is refreshing to see that US car companies have recognized to tailor their vehicles for the south American market, which is a unique as it has elements from both European and NA designs.

    • 0 avatar

      Well, I think it has always been the case. Back in the 70s and 80s, when the market was closed, cars here developed in quite interesting, and different ways. Just to stay on Ford, one of its greatest hits of all time was in fact a Renault, while in Argentina the Falcon stayed in production for decades.

      After the market opened up in the 90s, there’s has always been demand that we stay on par with what’s on offer elsewhere. However, those who know how to tweak their cars to locals’ tastes and pockets, profit handsomely. The sales leaders are pretty much local, homegrown specialties. Such things as Fiat Uno and Palio. VW Gol, Chevy Onix, even Hyundai HB20 were to a large extent developed here and are sold mostly here.

  • avatar

    Nice write up Marcelo. I have a big soft spot for the Ka after renting a U.K. version of the original design for my honeymoon back in 2005. It was what it was (a utilitarian transportation device), didn’t try to be anything it wasn’t (upscale) and reminded me more of what a modern Mini should be like rather than what BMW gave us.

    Too bad they’ll all be rusted away by the time 25 years comes up…

    • 0 avatar

      I dunno, you can have one here if you try hard enough. I saw a Ka last summer right here in Ohio. The original design, in red with black bumpers.

    • 0 avatar

      Thanks Jimal. Actually, cars like this and the Renault Twingo sort of paved the way for the later retro-premium Minis, Fiat 500 etc. One of their strong suits was always the design. They showed makers that buyers of small cars wanted something more than just transportation. The existence of Ka, Twingo, 500, among others, showed people were willing to pay for something a bit different. Why else would they sell if right alongside them at the dealership, other more rugged transportation devices were on ofeer, things like Clio, Fiesta, Panda? It’s kind of hard from an American perspective, but the Ka was always a little more than basic transportation, for better or worse.

  • avatar

    Great article Marcelo. That looks like a lot of competition in the same size range — you have the current Fiesta, this new Ka, and the EcoSport; all roughly the same size, correct?

    I can understand the marketing on the European Ka; looking at my display, it is a Fiat 500-sized city car that fits under the Fiesta in terms of size (and is currently based on the Fiat 500.) But, now that it is the same size as the Fiesta and EcoSport, that looks like a lot of competition with itself in that size range. Will it be the everyman’s car (the Mondeo of the Brazil market), while the EcoSport will be those who want an SUV/wagon, and the Fiesta for those who want a sporty car?

    • 0 avatar

      I don’t know what Ford is going to do either. It could be the case that they simply thrown in the Sigma and EcoBoost engines into the Fiesta Rocam and downgrade it some more. Production of the Fiesta Rocam has not ended yet (though some say it will only last into March). AFAIK, no one has seen an old Fiesta with the new engines yet.

      In Brazil there are several layers to the small car market. They cover from about the 23k reais (Uno 2 door, Ka, Celta, some Chinese) all the way up to an EcoSport titanium 4×4 for which they ask 70k reais! In Ford’s case it used to be Ka (23-29k), old Fiesta (27-38), new Fiesta (37-50). Mix in the sedans. hen on the same platform EcoSport (55-70k). Basically 4 different cars, sold as hatches, sedans, PUs, CUVs. The idea the Ka was the starter, some more room and better finishing, the old Fiesta for you, more sport and performance, new Fiesta.

      Over at Fiat it was even more complicated. As small cars they had old Uno, new Uno, old Palio, new Palio, Palio Weekend (SW), Strada, Siena, Grand Siena, Punto, Idea, Doblo, Linea. All small, all covering the same 23k to 70k reais. VW: Gol, Fox, Polo, Voyage. Gm the same.

      Very small stepping stones, and with the different shapes and even names, aimed at different public. Different finishing, equipment level, engines. But basically all small.

      • 0 avatar

        When you factor in the financing its not uncommon to go into the dealer asking for a base model Uno and then realizing that US$20 more a month will get you an old Palio… then another US$20 for a new Uno… then the salesman will add another US$30 and get you into a new Palio..

        If you are hot for a car and the salesguy is smooth and smart you end up with US$100 over your monthly payment (which could easily be 50% over) by the time you sign the dotted line.

        • 0 avatar

          Yep, many years ago I saw this in action. I was negotiating a Fiat Uno and spent the better part of a day at a dealer doing it. On that day, between the salesman going in to talk to his manager and coming back, I had a pretty good view of the way salesmen work. One case caught my attention that day.

          An old gentleman came in wanting to buy the basest possible Siena. A pretty, young saleswoman attended him. She, being aware of what her feminine charms were doing to the old man made the most of it and was able to charm him up into a top pf the line, loaded Siena. A difference in price from around 20k reais to almost 40k. I often wonder how he explained himself to his wife when he got home that day.

          Not knocking the saleswoman, it’s her job! But one must be on one’s toes for sure.

          • 0 avatar

            around 1994 I saw my boss driving back from a Citroen dealer in a brand new ZX. He had gone there that morning convinced he was buying a base AX.

            He got up-sold from a base AX to loaded AX, then to a base ZX and ended up with a midrange ZX… Never did ask him if it was a sales-guy or girl :)

  • avatar

    How can any history of the Ford Ka be complete without reference to the Sportka’s infamous bird-swatting and cat-decapitating viral ads?

  • avatar
    Kyree S. Williams

    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.

    • 0 avatar

      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!

  • avatar
    daniel g.

    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!!!

    • 0 avatar

      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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