Ford KA+ (2018-2020)

Models Covered:

5dr Citycar (1.2 Ti-VCT petrol / 1.5 TDCI diesel]

By Jonathan Crouch

* Introduction

Having launched the KA+ in 2016, Ford improved it in 2018 with a significant package of changes and it was in this form that this model saw out its remaining production run, which ended at the beginning of 2020. Are these last KA+ models worth seeking out on the used market? They featured a more up to date three cylinder petrol engine, better infotainment provision and the option of a fashionable ‘Active’ body style for those wanting it. As before, particular strengths of this design include a spacious cabin and rewarding handling. Potentially then, there’s a lot to like here.

* The History

A small car can have big ideas, even if it’s city-sized. For proof of that, you’ve only to try the model we’re going to look at here, the KA+. It was launched in 2016, then usefully revised in the Spring of 2018 to create the model we’re going to look at here.

You might know the KA model line. In its original first generation form, Ford’s smallest contender was difficult to forget, bug-shaped, beetle-browed and hailed by many at its original launch in 1996 as the most innovative thing the industry had produced since the early Mini. Over half a million examples of the MK1 model were sold over a production run that lasted an incredible 12 years with hardly any changes. The car’s success lay in its simplicity, which made it cheap to make and sell. It was a formula Ford should have stuck to.

They didn’t. In 2008, the second generation KA tried to move a little more up-market and offer a fashionable, slightly more affordable alternative for people who couldn’t stretch to trendy small products like BMW’s new-era MINI. But with a three-door-only bodystyle that didn’t really save you much over a far more practical five-door Fiesta,

Hence the need for a different approach with this KA+, launched late in 2016. It wasn’t adventurously styled – the Blue Oval brand’s ‘One Ford’ global product policy by then discouraged cars of that kind – but in compensation, buyers were offered five doors in a KA for the first time and near-supermini-standards of cabin space. The KA+ wasn’t long in the showrooms before that began to feel a bit dated as part of a package that, to be frank, needed an extra injection of character.

Hence the need for the heavily revised KA+ model range launched in 2018. The main petrol engine with this updated car was an all-new Ti-VCT three cylinder unit, there was a diesel option for the first time, equipment and media connectivity standards had improved and buyers could also specify an ‘SUV’-style Active trim level at the top of the range. Lots of changes then, but they weren’t enough to save the KA+, which was quietly deleted from the Ford range at the end of 2019.

* What You Get

For the 2018 KA+ update, Ford tweaked the front grille, the front apron and the bumpers of the standard model, plus it changed the headlamps and added C-shaped daytime running light mouldings in a bid to give it a little more aesthetic presence. If you want a KA+ that stands out a little more on the school run, you’ll need the ‘SUV’-style ‘Active’ version.

Older folk will like the way that the extra ride height of the ‘Active’ model makes getting in slightly easier. The Ti-VCT engine isn’t the only thing this facelifted KA+ model borrowed from an entry-level Fiesta. That supermini also donated this facelifted car’s 6.5-inch ‘SYNC 3’ centre-dash infotainment screen, a standard feature providing you avoid entry-level trim.

In the back seat, the extra body length of this design in comparison to the citycar norm really pays off, providing for a wide door that makes this the easiest citycar in the class for rear passengers to get in and out of. And once inside? Well there’s certainly not much to complain about for a model of this kind, unless you’re irritated by the lack of things like grab handles, coat hooks and door pockets. Once the tailgate’s raised, the 270-litre space revealed is the largest in the citycar class.

* What To Look For

The KA+ is built from tough mechanicals and designed to withstand the rigours of third world markets but we did come across a few issues in our owner survey that you’ll need to look out for. One owner have an electrical problem that disabled the mirrors, saw all the dash warning lights come on and rev the engine constantly at 2,000rpm; it turned out the air mass sensor had broken. Another owner complained of rattly trim, struggles to engage gear, a creaking exhaust and a reluctance to start. In another case, there were water leaks – into the boot and the passenger footwell; check these areas. In another case, there were idling problems, fuel pressure issues and squeaks from the rear. Apparently, the wheels are very susceptible to pothole damage, so check them carefully.

* On The Road

This little Ford is much more at home within the city limits. We found it agile around town, easy to park and perfect for parents thanks to its spacious size.

Under the bonnet, as part of the 2018 model year changes, Ford replaced the original KA+ model’s 1.2-litre Duratec four cylinder petrol engine with a more modern three cylinder Ti-VCT unit. This unit, also 1.2-litre in size, was offered with the same 70 and 85PS power outputs as its predecessor and was supposed to deliver around 10% more mid-range pulling power, though you still have to thrash this car quite hard to get anywhere quickly. There’s a minority interest 1.5-litre TDCi 95PS diesel engine available. The quicker petrol unit and that diesel are the two engines offered to buyers of the SUV-style ‘Active’ variant, which gets an extra 23mm of ride height, a wider track, a larger front anti-roll bar, revisions to the steering and optimised front shock absorbers that feature a special hydraulic rebound stopper that smooths out the bumps or jolts you’d get over rougher surfaces.

* Overall

And in summary? Well what we have here is a reminder that all citycars are not the same. This one, we’d say, is the only contender in its class from this period large and practical enough for a supermini-sector buyer to realistically consider – and that’s a strong sales point. It all means that in our view, family buyers shopping for a citycar from the 2018-2020 period really have to have this one on their list.