Ford KA+ ACTIVE (2018-2020)

By Jonathan Crouch

Models Covered:

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

* Introduction

The last version of the Ford KA+, sold between 2018 and early 2020, offered a crossover-themed ‘Active’ variant which offered a trendier take on citycar motoring. It aimed to appeal to people who wouldn’t have considered the ordinary version – which of course was just the point. But does it make sense as a used buy?

* The History

Need a really small used citycar with an added dose of attitude? If so, here’s one you might like – the Ford KA+ Active, sold between 2018 and early 2020. Remember the original Ford KA? If you do, you might recall that though small and cheap, it had character by the bucket load. Unfortunately, the same couldn’t be said for the Polish-made second generation design – or the Indian-built KA+ model that replaced it in 2016. So Ford, in the Spring of 2018, moved to refresh the KA+ with a package of changes including the introduction of this ‘SUV’-style KA+ ‘Active’ derivative.

The idea of Crossover styling being applied to a little runabout isn’t a new one but until a few years ago, it was a concept we only saw applied to superminis, not cars like this one competing in the smaller citycar sector. In 2017 though, we suddenly saw a number of jacked-up little city sector hatches launched with roughty-tufty styling and a more characterful attitude to life, the Fiat Panda Cross quickly followed by the Suzuki Ignis, the Kia Picanto X-Line and the Vauxhall Viva Rocks. These were the cars this KA+ Active competed against: like them, it obviously never quite had what it took to be a fully-fledged small SUV.

For likely buyers, this won’t matter one jot. People who would never have considered the KA+ in its unremarkable standard guise will be much happier with the car in this more extrovert form. They’ll note that it offers class-leading standards of interior space and be keen to believe Ford when the company insists that this derivative’s extra 23mm of ride height hasn’t harmed this model’s traditionally agile handling. This Active variant vanished from the price lists when the KA+ range was discontinued by Ford in early 2020.

* What You Get

There’s no doubt that this KA+ Active model will stand out a little more than the standard version on the school run. Does it have the visual character of earlier KA designs? Possibly not. But it’s more fashionable and will probably appeal to a wider audience than anything else from this model line. This variant gets a unique black finish for its upper and lower front grilles, plus a silvered lower skid plate.

Inside, once you’ve stepped over the branded sill plates, you’ll find yourself in a cabin that’s been subtly tweaked over the one you’d get in a standard KA+. A ‘Sienna Hazel’-coloured theme features in the seat fabric and the door trim inlays and there are all-weather rubber mats to protect the interior from muddy shoes and boots. Standard is a 6.5-inch ‘SYNC 3’ centre-dash infotainment screen which allows you to activate audio, ‘phone or Mobile App options via either voice control or the touchscreen icons. You can’t have navigation built into this package but you can stream a navigation app in from your ‘phone thanks to this set-up’s standard ‘Apple CarPlay’ and ‘Android Auto’ compatibility.

And in the rear? Well we’ve certainly been in plenty of Fiesta-sized superminis from the next class up that feel more cramped than this KA+ model’s cabin. That tall, glassy roofline certainly helps and there’s enough legroom for two six-foot adults to sit behind two front-seated friends of similar size. Out back, there’s a decent-sized 270-litre boot, 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 had 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

At least the KA+ Active won’t be burdened by unrealistic customer expectations when it comes to its SUV prowess. No one expects a citycar to be able to function properly off road - not even one dressed for a hiking trip, as is the case here. Still, a bit of extra ride height can get you a surprisingly long way and this variant was raised by 23mm over the standard model. That’s actually 5mm more than the increase you get in Ford’s only slightly larger Fiesta Active model, though this KA+ Active lacks that car’s useful ‘Slippery’ driving mode.

As for engines, well most buyers will choose the three cylinder 1.2-litre Ti-VCT 85PS petrol unit, which makes rest to 62mph in 13.5s on the way to a maximum of 105mph. The minority-interest alternative is a 95PS 1.5-litre TDCi diesel, which offers nearly twice as much pulling power (215Nm) and improves those stats to 11.4s and 111mph. All of this is of course of much greater significance than what this car can do off road – which isn’t very much. But we tried it around a field to find out anyway and found that, as advertised, those special hydraulic rebound stoppers do indeed smooth out the ride a bit over clumps and bumps.

* Overall

And in summary? Well it’s true that this Active variant may be more geared up for the perils of off street parking rather than off road expeditions, but that’s really all potential buyers will care about. In today’s SUV-obsessed used car market, it’s a citycar of its time. And if you’re shopping in this segment, we can see why you might want one.