Driving Torque

Articles, reviews and opinions about cars and all things automotive

Archive for the month “April, 2014”

Ford Ka Studio Connect – Driven and Reviewed

The Mk1 Ford Ka - an icon

The Mk1 Ford Ka – an icon

Rust issues aside, Ford‘s first generation Ka was a huge (if slightly unexpected) success story. It combined inexpensive costs with quirky looks and a fantastic driving experience, even spawning a hot-hatch and two-seater convertible versions in the guise of the nattily-named SportKa and StreetKa (why the latter was never sold as a ‘Desire’ special edition, I’ll never know!).

What we have here is the second generation Ka in Studio Connect guise, now built by Fiat alongside their 500 model, with which it shares many components. Ford recently announced  plans for the third generation Ka which appears to share nothing but a name with previous models, so what should they carry over from the existing Ka, and what should they ditch?

ka-image-1Sales of the 2nd gen Ka have been disappointing for Ford, and I can’t help but assume this is mainly due to the look of the thing. The original model arrived before the raft of quirky superminis that are on offer today, cars such as the Mini and Fiat 500, but even today, it’s different enough to be instantly recognisable in the crowd. Not so this generation. I spoke to scores of people about my test car and the I consistently heard the same thing – “I didn’t think Ford even made the Ka anymore”. Obviously incorrectly assumed extinction isn’t good news when trying to sell a car, but it’s just too anonymous and similar to it’s sister car  – the universally popular Fiesta. It’s not ugly, that would be unfair,  but in such a competitive market, it needs more individuality to appeal to its young, fashion conscious target audience.

ka-image-2When it comes down to  engines, the Ka comes with a selection of one. It’s called the 1.2 Duratec but in reality, it’s a renamed version of Fiat’s 1.2l unit. I can’t help but feel that the Ka is stuck between a rock and a hard place here – being built by Fiat, Ford’s excellent range of diminutive EcoBoost engines aren’t at their disposal. Unfortunately though, Fiat obviously weren’t prepared to offer their impressive TwinAir or Diesel engines for the Ka either, leaving it lumbered with this 69ps unit. This is an old-fashioned engine, and unfortunately it shows; It feels sluggish, lumpy and uninspiring in pretty much all situations, and it’s figures don’t compensate for this lack of performance either. 0-62mph in 13.4 seconds actually feels a tad optimistic ,and 115g/km Co2, coupled with 57.7mpg combined just don’t cut it when so many alternatives have been launched recently.

Things don’t get much better inside either, I’m afraid. I don’t expect high-grade plastics, or anything high-grade in this price bracket for that matter, but even when only paying the relatively meagre sum of £8-£10K, I’d be disappointed if I wasn’t provided with central locking and electric windows. The lack of standard equipment could possibly be forgiven if it weren’t for some other irritating features, such as the Fiat sourced indicator stalks that refuse to operate if the car’s being steered around certain bends, and if they do relent and perform the task they were invented for, they self cancel the second the steering wheel starts returning to straight ahead. Infuriating.

ka-image-6One aspect of the Ka that’s a pleasant surprise is the room you get inside. Yes, anyone on the loftier side of average will probably feel a little strained after a long journey behind the wheel, but that’s not really what the Ka is designed for. The rear seat space isn’t bad at all, even with the front seats inhabited, and the head-room on offer is a lot more spacious than you’d imagine. Boot space is an area often overlooked on cars in this segment, but this is one area where the Ka really shines. At 244 litres in 4 seat mode, it’ll fit quite a few shopping bags in without putting the rear seats down and when you consider that the New Mini’s boot is 30% larger than the previous model, and that’s still only 211 litres, you get the picture.

The all-new Ford Ka

The all-new Ford Ka

From the images we’ve seen so-far of the new Ka model, it’s unrecognisable next to all previous incarnations including this one, and it’s not hard to see why. The Ka seems to have fallen between two hugely lucrative stools in recent times; on one hand there’s the premium superminis – Mini, 500 etc – these are definitely more expensive than the Ka but they offer a driving experience and a customisable look that the Ford could only dream about. On the other hand, there are cars such as the Kia’s Picanto and Hyundai’s i10 – not only are they cheaper to purchase but the standard equipment they’re provided with puts the Ka to shame. Even similarly priced models such as the Citigo/Up!/Mii offer a certain personality that’s sadly missing in the Ka.

When you find a great recipe, as Ford did with the original Ka, it’s very tempting to drag it out, sometime beyond it’s shelf-life. Unfortunately though, when the competition’s products supersede your own, it’s time to move on. This is very much the case with the Ka and by the looks of the new model, Ford have come to this conclusion too.

By Ben Harrington

Specifications; Ford Ka Studio Connect, Engine – 1.2l Duratec petrol, Transmission – 5 speed manual, Layout – Front engine, FWD, Power – 69bhp, Torque – 102Nm, Emissions – 115g/km CO2, Economy – 57.7 mpg, Maximum Speed – 99mph, Acceleration – 13.4s 0-62mph, Price – £9,925 OTR, £10,415 as tested

Advertisements

Peugeot 2008 1.6 e-HDi 115 Feline – Driven and Reviewed

Peugeot 2008 front 3/4The 208 signalled the start of a return to form for Peugeot upon its release in 2012. With uncluttered looks and pleasing dimensions, it’s proved a hit and Peugeot are understandably keen to cash in on this success. Previous incarnations of this range (207) have included an elongated ‘SW’ model – basically offering more room whilst avoiding the ‘estate’ moniker that every manufacturer seems chronically allergic to these days.

Not so the 208 though; for now at least, the SW has been dropped in favour of an extra zero – giving us the 2008 we have on test here. It’s the latest in a long line of ‘crossover SUVs’ to go on sale in the UK, so it’s in good company. With no lack of competition though, the 2008 is going to have to offer something a bit different to make a success of itself.

Peugeot 2008 sideThe 208 lineage is visually apparent from just a glance – everything from the nose to the B pillar is very similar, with a more utilitarian front apron added to compensate for the raised ride height – a compulsory feature on any self-respecting SUV. Things get a little different towards the rear of the 2008, with a bulge and rails having been added to the roof which culminates in a more vertical, practical rear hatch.

Aviation-style hand brake.......apparently

Aviation-style hand brake…….apparently

The overall look of the 2008 is attractive and offers more visual presence than the 208 it’s based on. It also cleverly avoids the rather awkward look of the SW model it succeeds and this theme continues on the inside. There are some styling cues added to set it apart from lesser models, not least of which is one of the most original hand brake levers I’ve ever encountered; no boring, long cylinder with a grab handle here – the 2008 sports a fist shaped ‘aviation’ device. What this achieves exactly, I’m not sure but it’s certainly a novelty that causes no offence. Elsewhere, the 2008’s cabin space is typically Peugeot – there’s the low-slung, undersized steering wheel that continues to cause debate, and some of the plastics used unfortunately hark back to the questionable QC days of the brand – a shame when they’ve proved what they can achieve in this department with the new 308.

Slide rails in cargo area - so simple yet so effective

Slide rails in cargo area – so simple yet so effective

There are other additions to the inside of the 2008 that are more function than form and add to the every-day usability of the car. Features such as cargo slide- rails on the boot carpet and wipe-clean plastics around the boot aperture are very welcome when the extra space is actually used for carrying loads – nothing worse than scuffs and marks on your new upholstery and trim!

'Cielo' glass roof option with ambient lighting

‘Cielo’ glass roof option with ambient lighting

Our range-topping Feline spec test car came equipped with the standard ‘Cielo’ glass roof and blind. If you’re markedly over 6′ tall, it might be wise to experience first-hand whether this option’s for you, as the headroom it takes up could make driving uncomfortable, even with the height-adjustable seats on their lowest setting.

Our test car came equipped with Peugeot’s 1.6l e-HDi Diesel unit in 115bhp guise – coincidentally, the same power as the legendary 1.6 205 Gti. Don’t expect similar performance to the Gti though, the 205 weighed roughly the same as your average paperclip, and the 2008…..doesn’t. Don’t expect silky-smooth levels of refinement, either – the HDi is loud and clattery in an old-school kind of way, and it takes an absolute age to get to optimum temperature. That shouldn’t necessarily sway anyone towards the petrol options either, though. What the Diesel lacks in subtlety, it more than makes up for in performance and economy. It’s one of those engines that belies its official 0-62mph time of 10.4s, feeling far more perky in the real world, and ultimately, SUVs and crossovers get away with a bit more noise as it goes hand-in-hand with the rugged image they offer. There is a 92hp derivative of the same engine available that returns slightly better economy and even dips below the magical 100g/km Co2 mark (98g/km), but I’m not sure that the money saved would compensate for the extra 3 seconds on the 0-62 dash.

The raised ride-height doesn't impact too negatively on road manners

The raised ride-height doesn’t impact too negatively on road manners

Adding ground clearance to a car, even if it’s just a few inches, can change its road manners beyond all recognition. Not so the 2008 – Peugeot have kept things stiff and responsive, avoiding the wallowing sensation that ‘proper’ off-roaders can be blighted with.The levels of grip provided are surprisingly good, you just need to watch out for torque-steer if things get over-zealous on the loud pedal. This obviously means that once the tarmac runs out though, the 2008 isn’t going to act like the proverbial mountain goat – it’s just not going to happen. What Peugeot have provided to add some 4×4-like credibility is a very Land-Roverish function called Grip Control (standard on VTi 120, e-HDi 92(manual) and e-HDi 115 models in Allure and Feline specs). What this function provides is fairly self-explanatory, but to see it in action – go to www.youtube.com/watch?v=jTVPxHX1jZo&feature=youtu.be

Peugeot's Grip Control system

Peugeot’s Grip Control system

This area of the market has grown substantially over the last few years and it shows no signs of abating. The moral backlash against 4x4s hasn’t decreased their popularity at all, but the inflated price of fuel and VED has resulted in the advent of ‘crossovers’ that combine the rugged looks with more reasonable running costs. This means that the 2008 has some pretty stiff competition, but with the right engine, it’s got the looks and quality that’ll certainly appeal.

By Ben Harrington

 

Specifications; Peugeot 2008 Feline, Engine – 1.6l e-HDi, Layout – Front engine, FWD, Power – 115bhp, Torque – 270Nm @ 1750rpm, Emissions – 106g/km CO2, Economy – 70.6mpg combined, Maximum Speed – 117mph, Acceleration – 10.4s 0-60mph, Price – £19,445

Peugeot's 2008 - the first car to come complete with it's own Standard Lamp.........that's a lie.

Peugeot’s 2008 – the first car to come complete with it’s own Standard Lamp………that’s a lie.

 

 

 

 

 

Post Navigation