You still see the original Ford Ka by the thousand but its successor, having failed to take off in the way its quirkily styled forebear did, is quite a rare sight. Bland styling and a tall, narrow rear end that looks as if it was caught between closing lift doors limit its appeal, and the city-car class now has many more models to choose from than it did in the Ka’s heyday.
Rivals include the five-door Hyundai i10 and Kia Picanto (the Ka is three-door only), the near-identical Citroën C1, Peugeot 106 and Toyota Aygo triplets and the great VW Up!. Also worthy of mention are Fiat’s appealing Panda and 500 models, to which the Ka is closely related, being based on Fiat innards and built in the same factory for economic expediency.
The entry-level Ford Ka is the 68bhp 1.2 petrol in Studio trim, although the better-equipped 1.2 Zetec is our recommendation. There is also a 74bhp 1.3-litre diesel — rare in this class because it makes little economic sense.
The first Ford Ka was terrific fun to drive, and although the latest version looks less nippy, it still handles corners with a satisfying flourish that complements its free-revving petrol engine. The 1.2-litre motor tends to get a bit noisy when worked hard, and the 1.3 diesel’s near-constant grumblings can prove rather wearing.
The Ka’s habitat is more urban side street than rural back road, so its modest size and light steering are great assets. And although the suspension is firm, the Ka provides a comfortable ride. High-speed driving uncovers excessive wind noise accompanied by some tiresome road roar on coarse surfaces, which makes the little Ford a less appealing long-distance car than, say, the Up! or Panda.
You get quite a funky interior in a Ka, the pearl-white centre console giving the stylish, modern dashboard a striking visual lift. The non-adjustable steering wheel can make it tricky to get perfectly comfortable at the helm, and that’s another reason for buying the Zetec, which adds adjustable steering wheel and seat height and the handy Quickclear electric windscreen demister to the package.
The space up front is not bad for such a small car, and while room isn’t quite as generous in the rear, it’s still fine for short trips. The boot is a useful size, and the rear seats fold down, of course.
Equipment levels are not exactly lavish — even with the range-topping Titanium trim you have to pay extra if you want curtain airbags — and the Ka’s list price is on the high side. There are many ways of personalising a new Ford Ka with stripes and other finishes, but they all cost extra and may even reduce the car’s resale value if you go mad. If it’s a cute, personalised car you’re after, you might be better off settling for a Fiat 500, even though it’s not as much fun to drive.
The one to buy
Ford Ka 1.2 Zetec
- £10,475 (at time of publishing)
- 1242cc, 4 cylinders
- 68bhp @ 5500rpm
- 76 lb ft @ 3000rpm
- 5-speed manual
- 0-62mph in 13.4sec
- Top Speed:
- 57.7mpg combined
- Road Tax Band:
- L 3620mm, W 1658mm, H 1505mm