11th March 2019
Drying my eyes after the Mazda MX-5 keys were wrenched from my mitts, I found a Ford Ka+ Active in place of the roadster. Finished in metallic grey, it’s hard to spot the off-roady bits at first as the black plastic wheelarch extensions blend in. However, the silver roof rails confirm this is an Active version that gives an extra 23mm of ground clearance over the standard Ka+. Enough to venture off-road? We’ll find out.
It didn’t take long to explore the Ka+ Active’s potential as an off-roader this morning as I visited a friend who lives up a farm track. The good news is no part of the Ford was harmed in the making of this journey, so the Active manages to convince as a rougher and tumblier version of the Ka+. However, early morning frost did mean a couple of occasions when it scrabbled for grip, so best to stick to country lanes rather than tracks.
Part of this car’s equipment count includes all-weather floor and cargo mats. Just as well, as the amount of muck picked up by my feet today after a lunchtime stroll to stir the creative juices would have ruined carpets. The boot’s rubber mat has also proved its worth this afternoon when I picked up the kids from afterschool club and their shoes seemed to have been planted in a swamp before they donned them to come home.
A dash of winter sun has brought the Ka+’s sun visors into play this morning. However, this served to highlight one of those bugbears that can truly irritate with a car. The source of this ire is the visors hinge down and then into one fixed position close to the windscreen. That’s what they’re supposed to do, I hear you sigh, but the problem is they obscure too much of my forward vision when seats comfortable and cannot be altered. The result? One cricked neck.
A longer day’s travelling in the Ka+ Active today has shown up the biggest weakness of this particular version. It just doesn’t have enough puff. I’m all for small, revvy engines that are fun to work, such as in the Fiesta’s I’ve recently tried, but this 1.2-litre with 85hp just wheezes along. The official 0-62mph time is 13.5 seconds, but it feels even more slovenly as you tackle hills and generally give up on any notion of overtaking or cruising easily.
Spotted this Toyota FJ in Edinburgh this afternoon and it’s a reminder of when SUVs were properly called 4x4s and a crossover was Dick Emery on a Saturday evening. It makes me think car makers have become too obsessed with the whole pseudo-off-road imagery attached to cars and the Ka+ Active is, in many ways, the embodiment of this thinking gone wrong. As a cheap city car, it works well enough, but the crossover element adds expectations it cannot hope to meet.
Final thoughts on the Ka+ Active centre on two details that sum up this car in my view. The boot release button is no more than a rubber dot on the tailgate, which means mucky hand to release and open the hatch. Not good on a supposed SUV. On the other hand, the heated seats are tremendous and just what you want when the temperature has dropped. However, the good bits don’t outnumber the bad with this car.