Thereâ€™s no letup in the chase for SUV sales. Ford sold 200,000 of the things in Europe in 2017, and is aiming to top that this year by spreading SUV jam over everything it can find. A process that has resulted in this slightly taller, slightly butcher version ofÂ the Ka+ five-door supermini, following the example set by the Fiesta Active. A Focus Active will be along in early 2019, too. Hmm.
Anyway, â€˜activeâ€™ is a movable-feast type of word whose definition very much depends on whoâ€™s using it. If a 23mm raised ride height, bigger bumpers and wheel arches and standard roof rails sound like key elements of an active lifestyle, youâ€™ll be happy. Otherwise, underneath the standy-up, sticky-out stuff, this remains a supermini that will be best restricted to the knockabout fun of sleeping policemen rather than the more testing environments of slippery tree roots and quarries.
At least your Active will stand out from the common herd with its 15in alloy wheels, chrome grille and foglight bits, model-specific cabin fabrics and remodelled front end. Also in the Activeâ€™s defence, there are some chassis mods including a bigger anti-roll bar that joins the electronic stability control in fighting rollovers if the roof rails are loaded to the max. The higher-profile 185/60 tyres give a slightly softer ride than the standard car which runs on 195/55s.
On sale: now
Engine: 1194cc, 3-cylinder petrol
Power: 81bhp at 5500 to 6600rpm
Torque: 85lb ft at 4,250 rpm
Gearbox: 5-spd manual
Kerb weight: 980kg
Top speed: 105mph
Fuel economy: 49.6mpg
Apart from that, itâ€™s business as before. The only petrol engine is theÂ Ka+â€™s normal 81bhpÂ 1.2-litreÂ three-cylinder unit. It has 85lb ft of torque,Â a top speed of 105mph and a 0-60mph time of 13.5sec.Â A new 1.5-litre diesel has arrived, which is something different for the Ka+,Â but Ford doesnâ€™t think it will find that many buyers. To keep the Ka+ separate from the Fiesta, you canâ€™t have an Ecoboost engine, but the Activeâ€™s five-speed manual gearbox does come fromÂ that New Fiesta source.
Chassis-wise, the MacPherson strut front and torsion beam rear suspension is nominal Ka+ kit. The ride is typically smooth, with the Active making a better fist of things on bad roads, albeit at the cost of extra height-generated body roll. Not many basic superminis are that much fun to drive, but the Ka+ Active does well enough thanks to accurate and nicely-weighted steering thatâ€™s as good on the open road as it is in parking.
Unfortunately, the engine is a bit weedy out of town, where it needs a healthy application of right foot to keep it going. Again, the Ka+ is by no means uniquely culpable in the supermini sector, and there is some compensation in the snickety gearbox.
Thereâ€™s an obvious gap in interior quality between the FiestaÂ and Ka+, the smaller carâ€™s hard plastics shown up all the more by the Fiestaâ€™s recent step upmarket. The materials should be hard-wearing, which is a bonus, but if youâ€™re energised by â€˜premiumâ€™ youâ€™ll have to learn to blank out the sight and feel of the dashboard.
On the positive side, the Active does inherit the latest version of Fordâ€™s Sync infotainment system which has a clear and responsive 6.5in touchscreen. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are both included, which is handy as no integral satnav is offered.
Two adults will fit reasonably in the back, accetable head- and leg room having been achieved at some cost to the boot space. Youâ€™re better up front on longer journeys though, as thereâ€™s moreÂ room to stretch your legs there.
The â€˜small but tallâ€™ recipe is a slightly odd one, and you do wonder who would want that sort of vehicle, but if you do thenÂ the Ka+ Active is appealing and has a usefully small footprint. Despite the apparent niche-ness of such vehicles, though, thereâ€™s no shortage of opposition: Vauxhallâ€™s Viva RocksÂ beats the Ka+ Active on price, and Suzukiâ€™s IgnisÂ has some real off-road ability for not much more cash. The Ford wins on ride and handling, but its engine isnâ€™t much fun beyond city boundaries.