Ford Ka review
The good-looking Ford Ka offers a practical interior and low running costs, but it's expensive to buy
The second-generation Ford Ka doesn’t have the distinctive looks and fun driving experience of its predecessor, but it’s still stylish and manages to be better to drive than the Fiat 500 on which it's based. There are four trim levels to choose from – Studio, Edge, Zetec and Titanium – as well as a special-edition Metal and Grand Prix II models, with the latter getting black alloy wheels and a carbon-fibre-look stripe running across the bonnet, roof and tailgate. The engine line-up is limited to just two options - a 1.2-litre petrol and 1.3-litre diesel, which are also shared with the Fiat 500. Prices start at £8,725, but most models cost at least £10,000, which is expensive for such a small car – especially when compared to newer rivals like the cute new SEAT Mii and the larger Dacia Sandero.
Our choice: Ka 1.2 Zetec
The Ford Ka is a neat little car that hides its Fiat 500 underpinnings well. There's decent scope for personalisation, too, with Grand Prix II and Metal editions featuring different paint colours and graphics over the standard range of Studio, Edge, Zetec and Titanium models. The downside is that the come at a price, though. Entry-level cars get a radio with MP3 connectivity and not much else, but Edge cars do come with manual air-conditioning, electric front windows and remote central locking. Zetec cars and above get alloy wheels, front fog lights and heated wing mirrors, as well as 50:50 split rear seats for added practicality. On the inside, the cabin is good looking and practical, with a simple and stylish design. It is a shame, though, that some of the switchgear and radio controls have been lifted straight from the Fiat 500. The interior is better than that of the Toyota Aygo, Citroen C1 and Peugeot 107, but far behind newer rivals like the VW up!, Skoda Citigo and SEAT Mii.
The engine lie-up consists of a 68bhp 1.2 petrol and a 74bhp 1.3 diesel. With 0-62mph times of 13.4 and 13.6 seconds respectively and a top speed of 99mph, neither option is particularly quick. However, both offer plenty of performance for driving around town and they can hold their own on the motorway, too. The diesel has more shove but the petrol is more fun as it likes to rev. Ford doesn’t offer an automatic gearbox with the Ka, so the only option is a five-speed manual ‘box. The Ka is more nimble than the Fiat 500, thanks to tweaks to the suspension and steering, but it’s a damp squib when compared to the old Ka and it’s not a patch on its bigger brother, the Fiesta. The Toyota Aygo is more fun to drive, too.
The second-generation Ford Ka makes big leaps over its predecessor when it comes to safety, with a four-star Euro NCAP crash test rating. But while the quality of materials is much better, there are still only two airbags fitted as standard - even on flagship Titanium models - while stability control and extra airbags are only available as options. Ford finished a disappointing 25th out of 30 overall in the 2012 Driver Power survey, but the Ka shares 80 per cent of its components (including engines, gearboxes, chassis and suspension systems) with the Fiat 500, which has proved to be very reliable so far. It’s also built at the same factory as the little Fiat, which should help keep problems to a minimum.
The Ka is 3,620mm long, 1,658mm wide and 1,505mm tall, but despite these compact dimensions, there’s a decent amount of space up front for driver and passenger, and an ok amount of space for two small adults in the back seats, too. The boot offers 224 litres of space, which is considerably more than the Aygo and Fiat 500’s figures of 139 and 185 litres, but less than the VW up!’s 251 litres. Zetec cars and above get split-folding rear seats, which increases the little Ford’s carrying capacity to 747 litres. However, the high lip makes loading more difficult than it should be. The Ka’s driving position isn’t great, either - you sit too high and can’t adjust the steering for reach – but visibility is good.
The Ford Ka should be cheap to run. The engines are frugal, with the diesel option returning average fuel consumption of 68.9mpg and emitting 109g/km of CO2. The petrol isn’t far behind either, with average mpg of 57.7mpg and 115g/km of CO2. This means that both are cheap to tax - even though there isn’t a sub-100g/km road tax-free model – and both fall into insurance group three. One of the Ka’s biggest problems then is its high price tag and, while you can probably expect a big discount at a Ford dealer, the sheer number of Kas on the road means that residual values will be lower than for the more desirable Fiat 500.