Not even two years since its European launch, Ford have got the magic markers out on the KA+. What can it all mean?
“The KA+ was introduced for customers in Europe as a spacious, well-equipped and value-for-money small car that offers excellent fuel-efficiency and fun-to-drive dynamics at an affordable price”. You have been reading the words of Ford’s press department before you write in to complain. A ‘Fiesta Minus’ with ‘milquetoast styling’ is what Driven to Write had to say on the matter in 2016.
Introduced into the European market at the end of 2016, Ford have delivered just over 51,000 KA+’s last year to buyers for whom style has either ceased to matter or simply never much figured in their lives in the first place.
Pitched at B-sector vehicles such as the Opel karl, VW Up and Fiat Panda, but also more budget fare such as Dacia’s Sandero, Ford’s repurposed Brazilian offering has more or less pegged the previous generation KA sales-wise, (at least before that model fell off a metaphorical cliff). A success then? Define successful. By way of context, Dacia managed to sell 194,996 of their freshly minted Sanderos over the same period. Not a roaring success then.
However, it’s worth bearing in mind the break even point on something as inexpensively developed as this wouldn’t be colossal, so it’s likely Ford aren’t massively out of pocket on this one. Nevertheless, there’s clearly some dissatisfaction with MoreKA’s performance, after all, why so hasty with the crayons?
Externally, a reshaped grille, and larger, more swept back headlamps, combined with restyled bumpers front and rear are Merkenich’s major contribution to MoreKA’s ‘assertive new look’. Even more assertive however is the new Active which is raised 23 mm and features the mandatory rocker and wheel-arch cladding, roof rails, active-embossed scuff plates; not to mention all-weather mats for both cabin and cargo area to protect the interior from ‘active lifestyles’.
Amongst the changes to the car are technologies hitherto the preserve of more upmarket Fords, which include a new info / entertainment system, rain-sensing wipers and automatic headlamps. The cabin too has been given a cosmetic makeover. Also new to the model is the three cylinder 1.2 litre Ti-VCT petrol engine, while a diesel option is also being made available, in Ford’s 95 PS 1.5-litre TDCi unit.
Ford have also made much of the effort they’ve put into to bringing MoreKA up to class standards, its chassis incorporating “a unique front sub-frame, and suspension components including springs, dampers, and rear torsion beam axle optimised for Europe’s roads.” According to Ford, “nearly 50 % of the body is made from high-strength steels, including the floor, front and rear chassis rails, window pillars, front bumper beam and passenger door beams.”
Yet despite all this clearly quite thorough work on behalf of Ford’s engineers, one is presented with a vehicle which still lacks conviction. If anything, it resembles; in overall silhouette, in market position and in perception, the Tata Indica-based CityRover of 2003. This thinly veiled Indian B-segment offering was a potent symbol of how desperate matters had become at MG Rover as they entered their final death throes.
MG Rover rather self-effacingly informed journalists it wasn’t expecting the CityRover to be seen as a class leader, and with just over 9,000 examples sold from 2003 to 2006, it didn’t prove a sales leader either. In 2003, Autocar’s Chris Harris spoke of a car which he found surprisingly well honed for UK conditions, but facing an uphill struggle against more sophisticated, yet no more expensive rivals.
Ford faces similar problems. MoreKA isn’t a bad effort. It’s essentially competent and even the unloved visuals are anodyne rather than offensive. No, it’s Ford’s rivals which are at issue here. There are too many of them and what they’re offering is (for the most part) more sophisticated, more desirable, and better realised.
It’s difficult to fully grasp what Ford hope to achieve with this model. They’ve clearly surmised that the likely sales wouldn’t be anywhere near the class leaders, given MoreKA’s background and function over form style, yet it’s difficult to believe they can be satisfied with volumes that barely match those of its unloved predecessor.
This week’s rather sudden facelift, some 18 months into its European sales career may well do for now, but if Ford are committed to refreshing it every two years, surely the cost benefits from leveraging their emerging market fare starts looking somewhat tenuous?
So which is it Henry? A cheap and cheerful sub-Fiesta for people who aren’t interested in up to the minute style, or a serious stab at a class-competitive subcompact? Because right now, More is looking an awful lot like less.
European sales data: carsalesbase.com