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Forget the Fiat 500 – this is 2008’s most hotly anticipated small car! Replacing one of Ford’s longest-lived models, it’s the all-new Ka – and Auto Express is the only magazine to give you an exclusive first look. Hot on the heels of our spy shots in Issue 997, we can now bring you these images, which provide the best view yet of the blue oval’s new baby. The Ka is the latest step in a thorough overhaul of Ford’s range. As you can see, the newcomer retains the familiar design cues of the original model, which was launched in 1996.

The city runabout has a loyal legion of fans in the UK, and they are sure to recognise the Ka’s wheel-at-each-corner stance, curvy shape and short overhangs. But the second-generation car also brings in new styling details that have made other Ford models – such as the Mondeo and S-MAX – stand out from the competition.

Heavily influenced by the Fiesta-replacing Verve concept, the Ka gets a distinctive family nose, with a large grille set low in the front bumper and big headlamps that extend up the bonnet. At the rear, it’s a similar mix of old and new, with a high, arcing roofline and upright rear end reminiscent of the current Ka, which is completed with fresh tail-lights.

Inside, designers will take further inspiration from the Verve concept and address one of the major flaws of the current Ka – its dated cabin. In comes a classy dashboard with soft-touch materials and a host of hi-tech equipment, including a socket to plug in MP3 players and a hands-free Bluetooth phone connection.

Under the skin lies a chassis shared with Fiat’s 500 and Panda, but Ford’s engineers have been working hard to ensure the Ka offers the same driver-pleasing handling and sharp steering feel of its predecessor. With quality taking a leap forward, so will refinement and the new Ka will have a far better ride than the current car, as well as lower noise levels. It promises to be able to cope better with town and motorway use than any rival in its class – and that includes the 500.

Engines will be shared with the Fiat, so buyers can expect to see a choice of two petrol units at launch – a 63bhp 1.2-litre and 100bhp 1.4-litre – along with the Ka’s first-ever diesel, in the shape of a 75bhp 1.3-litre Multijet powerplant.

The firm’s current Sportka is a popular budget hot hatch, and Ford will seek to repeat its success with an ST model. Performance will eclipse its predecessor though, thanks to power from the same 1.4-litre turbocharged engine as used in the Fiat 500 Abarth. Pumping out 135bhp in standard form, the new Ka ST promises to be a real pocket rocket – and there’s a chance that an even hotter version will be available with the 155bhp unit from the Abarth SS.

The all-new Ka will make its debut at the Paris Motor Show in September, with the first showroom-ready models arriving before the end of the year. Prices will be similar to the current model, starting at around £7,500 for entry-level versions.

Via: Ford Ka | Auto Express News | News | Auto Express
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