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14/07/2011
Character and Distinction

Technical Analysis of the Ford Ka

 

It’s not the latest new arrival, but a city car that has been on our roads for years. Personal, dynamic and versatile, the Ford Ka has repeated the success of the previous series, even if it is hiding a platform shared with the Fiat 500

by Duilio Damiani

The two layouts, Ka+ and Ka Titanium, can be personalized with other elements, such as the handy support for a portable navigator hooked onto the windscreen pillar, a panoramic sunroof, parking sensors, rapid defrost windscreen – something really new in vehicles of this category – and alloy rims of up to 16”, instead of the 14” and 15”, are standard for both versions.

 

When the first generation made its debut in 1996, the Ka was an immediate sensation that met with the approval of critics and the public because of a roundness, expressed by the exclusive “New Edge Design”, that was so personal that it decreed its commercial success. The job of repeating this appreciation fell to the second series and the debut of new Ka in 2008, but it was not quite as simple,  because it had to reconcile the new stylistic path that was more in line with the times, with less futuristic but equally personal characteristics. A less revolutionary result than the first, but just as vivacious and modern, so much so that three years later it is one of the most popular city cars on the Italian market and second only to the Panda or 500. And it is no accident,  considering its mechanical nature sparked off by an industrial agreement between Fiat and Ford, that the 500 and the Ka share a common platform in addition to its industrial provenance, both being made on the assembly lines of the modern Fiat factory at Tichy in Poland. A project in step with the times, with strong brand differentiation given by exclusive and highly personalized contents to make two independent products that target different customers with price lists that are also very different.

Kinetic profile
The first series was particularly popular with women, the second series has the “Kinetic Design” common to all Ford’s most recent successful ranges like the Fiesta, Kuga and Mondeo, which is expressed in the small Ka as an immediately identifiable facelift that pleases audiences across the board. It has the dimensions of a real city car, 3.62 metres in length and 1.89 in width (only 1.65 without including the external mirrors), a comfortable interior for four passengers, a commendably spacious boot considering its class, a capacity of 224 litres that can be increased to over 700 by sacrificing the rear bench seat.
The stylistic elements are found especially in the front with its trapezoid radiator grille that conjures up the range’s family feeling, expressive headlights, and a shaped wheel arch on strong shoulders. Reminiscent of past shapes is the rear pillar tapered towards the round rear window and triangular deflector, a boot door emphasized by an integrated  spoiler on the lower edge that unites the two generous tail lights.
Dynamism and the attractive appearance of Kinetic Design are also conjured in the interior, with  decidedly sculpted shapes, expressive colours and audacious contrasts, so much so that they meet with the approval of a younger public. A trapezoidal dashboard contains all the instruments, four circular main elements integrated with the central console by ergonomic climate controls –  manual or automatic depending on the layout – entertainment systems, an audio system that can be integrated on request with a voice-controlled bluetooth interface for hands-free telephone connection, and inputs for iPod and USBs.
The two layouts, Ka+ and Ka Titanium, can be personalized with other elements, such as the handy support for a portable navigator hooked onto the windscreen pillar, a panoramic sunroof, parking sensors, rapid defrost windscreen – something really new in vehicles of this category – and alloy rims of up to 16”, instead of the 14” and 15”, are standard for both versions.

Sporty dynamism
There are two beating hearts under the bonnet of the  Ka, both very frugal and with  CO2 emissions of less than 120 g/km: the economic 1.2 lire Ford of the Duratec family, and the feisty 1.3 Duratorq.
Compact and lightweight, made entirely in aluminium, the sequential injection four cylinder petrol has 8-valve distribution, with a single camshaft perfected to provide torque at low revolutions and a maximum of 69 HP, and particularly low average fuel consumption of slightly less than 20 km/litre.
The really new thing about this version is that along with the petrol engine there is a modern direct injection diesel Tdci, with Borg-Warner turbocompressor, intercooler and 16-valve distribution with double camshaft, that will given 145 Nm torque from 1500 rpm and 75 HP maximum, for a top speed of over 160 km/h and declared average consumption of almost 24 km/litre.
In line with projects with a talent for eco-compatibility, also being planned is an e-Ka version with zero emissions, asynchronous, 3-phase electric engine and lithium ion batteries, making it autonomous for up to 200 km, and a top speed of 130 km/h.
The modern platform, supported by elastic springs and shock absorbers on independent front wheels, with torsion bar on the rear axle, combined with simple but modern mechanics that limit kerb weight to 940 kg (a little over 1,050 for the Tdci Turbodiesel model). In fact the Ka is particularly good in traffic and on city streets, agile in tight manoeuvring spaces facilitated by a steering diameter of just 9.2 metres and electric power steering (EPS). Although it does not have a lot of the refinements usually found in the higher ranges, it does have complete equipment, first and foremost passive safety managed by a body with elements in boron steel that make it stable and strong and will protect passengers even in the event of a serious accident. This is combined with an Intelligent Protection System (IPS) that integrates the action of four airbags that can be increased to six with lateral curtain airbags, seatbelts with pretensioners and shaped seats to prevent whiplash for total passenger protection. A city car with road racer ambitions thanks to modern electronic control systems, like the anti-lock braking system (ABS) with Electronic Brakeforce Distribution (EBD), in an optional ESP package with the main dynamic systems that include Electronic Stability Programme (ESP), anti-slip Traction Control System (TCS), Hill Start Assist Control and Hydraulic Brake Assist (HBA). The brand’s dynamic DNA has imposed a series of optimizations that perfect steering, chassis and suspension by adding specific elements to the original platform, like the rear antiroll bar, reinforced anchor points and differentiated rigidity bushings, with specially adjusted springs and shock absorbers which give the Ka handling and sportiness that is markedly Ford. During the development process, internal synergies imposed an exchange of information with the project for the new Fiesta, so the two models share certain components like the wheels and tyres, which, from the most common 165 and 175/65 R14 of the Ka+ and the 185/55 R15 of the Titanium, decidedly in line with those of competitor city cars,  continue up to the sporty low profile 195/45 R16, usually offered on vehicles of a higher class.

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