Given the power of novelty to shift cars out of showrooms, the Ford Ka is something of a sensation. The little supermini survived virtually unaltered for eight years - a testimony to its original design. Only in 2003 were major changes introduced: an all-new 1.3-litre Duratec engine was offered, while the 1.6-litre Sportka and Streetka rag-top both hit the streets for the first time.
However, a long production run - along with cute, timeless looks, fun handling and value for money - have made the car hugely popular among used buyers. While the newer Streetka and Sportka are great machines in their own right, the original 1.3-litre model is a near-unbeatable package for the money. But there's a wide selection... so which is the best buy?
You can buy an early (P-reg) example for as little as £1,500. Opt for a three-year-old Collection model and you can expect to pay £4,000, while an extra £1,000 should get a 30,000-mile Ka Luxury. Early (03-reg) Sportkas and Streetkas are available from £5,500 and £7,500 res-pectively. Year-old examples of either are typically around £2,000 more.
Not all Ka models were fitted with power-assisted steering and, while un-assisted cars aren't unbearably heavy, PAS is still desirable, particularly for urban drivers. Due to the model's significant success, there are plenty of used examples to choose from, so buyers can afford to be picky and avoid high-mileage or neglected versions.
Stuart Laughton from Huddersfield, West Yorkshire, has owned his Ka from new - and loves it. "It's rather tinny, but it's great to drive, cheap to run, and I can service it myself," he says.
"With three people on board, it's a bit underpowered. But if I'm travelling alone, it zips along quite happily. Although there's some rust coming through at the front, it's only cosmetic, and the front suspension bushes already need to be replaced. Still, I'd buy another Ka without hesitation."
The Ka didn't fare very well in Auto Express's Driver Power 2005 reliability and satisfaction survey, coming a lowly 91st out of 100 vehicles. Although it scored highly for running costs, the brakes, performance and overall comfort attracted criticism. Nevertheless, if you're after some cheap chic you could do a lot worse than buy a Ka. Early models can look scruffy, yet a more recent example - or one of the many limited editions - has plenty to offer at a price that's hard to beat.