Diesel Ka too pricey for UK roads

'Drivers in other parts of Europe pay less at the pumps for diesel than for petrol'

The Ka diesel has a disappointing 0-62mph time of 13 seconds and a maximum speed of 100mph, while its overall economy is still 5mpg less than the Fiat 500 diesel

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THERE is something about the Ford Ka design that fails to excite me. Maybe it is the fact that it does not have the near-chic presence of the original Ka. This one looks like a blob, and one with little resemblance to the retro-chic Fiat 500, to which the Ka is a non-identical twin.

Fiat builds both models in a factory in Poland. They have three doors and the mechanical ingredients are usually Fiat, and the latter offers an open-topped version, the 500C and hotter Abarth versions.

I always thought the Fiat was expensive for such a small car (139in and entry at 9,265 for the 1.2). Ford offers its Ka 1.2 at a similar price.

My test car was in sporty Zetec trim with the 74bhp 1.3 Ford Duratorq, price 11,860 (200 more than the price of a 500 diesel with a 94bhp Fiat 1.3 motor).

It is no surprise that the Fiat 500 diesel is quicker. The Ka diesel rarely felt lively and a 0-62mph time of 13 seconds and a maximum speed of 100mph tell their story.

The quoted overall economy is 67mpg, which is 12mpg more than the 1.2 petrol but 5mpg less than the Fiat 500 diesel. Maybe Ford needs to talk to Fiat about diesel technology quite soon? The Fiat also has lower carbon dioxide emissions (104g/km vs 112g/km). The Fiat is at least poky, but the Ka is almost dull.

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Why would you buy either the 500 or the Ka with diesel? The Ka diesel costs 1,000 more than the Ka 1.2 petrol and these are not the sort of high-mileage vehicles where the original cost can be offset by lower fuel bills. However, you should recoup your higher investment at trade-in time.

Drivers in other parts of Europe still pay less at the pumps for diesel than for petrol and so diesel-engined toddlers have more fiscal appeal.

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The 500 is a fidgety "ride" and the Ka is not much better. On typical rural roads it can be discomforting with rumbles from underneath.

As mentioned, the acceleration was disappointing, offset to some extent by nimble handling and easy placing in congested town traffic. The trip computer suggested 60 to 64 miles a gallon, which is good, and this could improve as the engine beds in at higher mileage.

Ford has given us a zesty cabin, with body-coloured plastic highlights, though the trim overlay on the steering wheel had a poor join with the wheel rim on the middle spoke. The wheel is adjustable for height but not for reach.

The gearshift is nicely positioned at knee level but it is a score of only 3/10 for the radio controls that are too far away to reach without a distracting stretch from the driver's chair. Odd, too, that the speedometer is on the left of the display and the tachometer is on the right, but both are clearly lettered and quick to read.

Details include a net pouch above the mirror and smaller netted pockets either side of the base of the central stack, with a recess between them for, say, an MP3.

Zetec kit includes air conditioning, heater elements in the windscreen, 15in alloys, see-home headlamp delay, six-speaker audio, remote locking, folding key, power windows.

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Verdict: Not what I hoped for. The diesel model may suit high-mileage users but mostly this car and the Fiat version make more sense in mainland Europe where diesel fuel is cheaper. This week I saw diesel at 1.08 a litre and petrol at 1.24 (Leclerc, Ste Foy).