This is starting to get ridiculous. The cornering forces have built to such a level that I can barely keep myself in the seat. The only thing that’s holding me in place is my increasingly tight grip on the plastic steering wheel and the use of my left knee as a brace against the centre console.
The problem here is not that I’m travelling at an outrageous speed. No, instead it’s the slippery fabric on this Ford Ka’s seats combined with a complete lack of any side bolsters. It’s an unusual safety feature, forcing me to reduce my pace long before the Ka has reached its own limits of grip. Who needs ESP when you’ve got seats like this?
I’m reluctant to slow down because a) I’m in a rush and b) it took ages to build up the speed. When driving small-engined cars the key to rapid cross-country progress is keeping up your momentum. Every digit on the speedometer is precious, particularly when you’re relying on an engine as lethargic as the 1.2-litre petrol unit in this Ka Edge.
While the brochure says there’s 68bhp under the bonnet I can’t help but think that some of those horses may have been left behind in the stable. Below 3,000rpm there is no sense of urgency from the engine and what little power you do get is delivered in a very patchy manner, almost as if the engine is gasping for every breath. Once the revs build to 4,000 things improve a little but the noise is enough to make you want to quickly change gear rather than push on to the redline.
That’s a shame, because the Ka has a sprightly ride. Steering response is quick and direct and although the chassis leans a bit too much and the suspension is too soft for my liking it does have plenty of grip. Once you’ve built up a good head of steam you can hustle the Ka through corners – up to the point where you’re nearly thrown from your seat. That soft ride isn’t all bad as it makes the Ka comfortable around town, soaking up the potholes and speed humps surprisingly well for such a small car.
The brakes are good with decent response and feel and, should they not stop you in time in an emergency, the new model is safer than the old one. There are now twin front airbags as standard with curtain and side airbags available as an optional extra. While ABS is standard an ESP system is not, appearing as an option on the order form. Unfortunately the Ka only scores four stars on the NCAP safety tests, while the Fiat 500 (with which the Ka shares much of its underpinnings) scored the maximum 5 stars.
While the seats are a nuisance the rest of the interior is pretty good, more plush than the old model and with a more generous level of kit – air conditioning, electric windows and CD player (with 3.5mm socket for MP3 players) are standard on the Edge spec model I drove. The biggest criticism is that the radio is too far away from the driver and there are no controls on that cheap-feeling wheel, but the rest of the Ka’s dashboard is within easy reach.
Being a city car there’s not a lot of space in the boot but it’s on a par for the class, while accommodation for rear passengers is also adequate.
As you would expect the Ka has low running costs. The small engine manages decent economy and it’s easy to return a mpg figure in the high 40’s but the official 57mpg will take some very delicate driving, not helped by the engine’s lacklustre performance. Insurance should be cheap as the Ka sits way down in group 3, while the 115g/km of CO2 emissions places the Ka in Band C on the road tax chart.
This particular Ka Edge costs £9,365, but that includes metallic paint (£445) and 14-inch alloy wheels (£325). Compare that to a similarly specced Fiat 500 Pop and you’re saving close to £1,300, although the Fiat does come with seven airbags as standard, electric door mirrors and Start/Stop technology for better economy.
So the new Ford Ka is cheap to buy and run, nicer on the inside and slightly safer. Its biggest problem is that any potential for a fun drive is hamstrung by that asthmatic petrol engine. That’s a shame, because with the right engine the Ka could be a barrel of laughs. Perhaps Fiat would like to share their TwinAir technology.
Oh, and can someone sort out those seats out too?
Ford Ka Edge Scores
|PERFORMANCE||Gutless and noisy engine||2|
|HANDLING||Competent but old Ka was better||6|
|AFFORDABILITY||Cheap to buy and run||8|
|DESIRABILITY||Uninspiring design can’t match appeal of rivals||4|
|DRIVING SPIRIT||Spirit? Apart from the chassis it hasn’t really got any||4|
Ford Ka Edge Specifications
|0-62 mph:||13.4 seconds|
|Top Speed:||99 mph|
|Economy (EU):||57 mpg|
|CO2 Emissions:||115 g/km|
|Price (as tested):||£9,365|