WHEN the Ford Ka first appeared at the motor show I thought it was as ugly as sin, but its cheeky, up-front styling very quickly became part of our consciousness.
Now it is even more ingrained in the country’s psyche, and I must admit that the shape has grown on me.
That strong, sharp edged design was well chosen by Ford, and it now adorns almost every model in the range, all of which are selling like hot cakes.
Of course, Ford’s cars have improved beyond all recognition since the early 90′s and they are well worth a wedge of anyone’s money.
I would rather have a Ka than a VW Lupo, SEAT Arosa or Fiat Seicento in the ever-widening city car class. That’s not to say it’s perfect, mainly because the interior is so small, but it does do most things very, very well.
And later models with body coloured bumpers look so much better than the early offerings with their vast areas of black plastic front and rear.
The Ka was designed on the Fiesta chassis to save development time, and so has exactly the same wheelbase. Of course, the stalks and some of the switches also come from the Ford main parts bin, but it does feel different and individual inside.
There was only one engine choice until the last year – the venerable 1.3-litre unit from the Fiesta which has been around for a long time. It produces 60 bhp and doesn’t like to be revved very hard, where it quickly runs out of puff.
But it produces decent performance for a small car, in what is quite a light body – performance which certainly betters that of other city cars.
It drives the front wheels through a standard five speed gearbox, with a light clutch and excellent brakes. There’s no power steering (PAS) in the ealy Ka models. This did not arrive until the better equipped Ka2 and Ka3 came out. But it was available as an option on the base model and many owners added it to the spec.
Cars without PAS are still reasonably light of steering except when parking, and some drivers prefer them at speed because they give better driver feedback. The standard Ka got PAS in 1997.
Handling and roadholding are excellent, with neutral balance tending to understeer on the limit, but excellent safety with strong grip.
The ride too is very good – again much better than some other city cars – taking the worst of surfaces in its stride, and particularly the bump and grind of city streets at low speeds.
Equipment in the base model includes tinted glass, stereo cassette, split-fold back seat, driver’s airbag and immobiliser. Ka2 adds the PAS, plus electric front windows, central locking and height adjustable driver’s seat. Ka3 adds air conditioning, alloy wheels, leather covered steering wheel and up-rated audio equipment.
Insurance is a very reasonable group 2, economy should be around 42mpg and servicing – which can be handled by any garage – is every 10,000 miles.
Pay about £2,245 for a ’96 P-reg Ka, £2,820 for a ’97 R-reg Ka2, £3,460 for a ’98 S-reg Ka3, or £6,190 for an ’01 Y-reg LuxuryKa. All prices are from a dealer.
Model: Ford Ka
Driving: Nippy, agile and comfortable
Performance: Decent acceleration and can keep up on motorway
Economy: 40+ is good, but later engines from other makers are better
Safety: Driver’s airbag, ABS optional
Recommended Buy: Ka2
Alternatives: Daihatsu Cuore, VW Lupo, SEAT Arosa, original Mini
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