The Ford Ka has been a firm favourite with British drivers for 11 years now. And during that time, it’s had a host of different faces.
More than a decade’s exposure has done little to dim the charm of the Ka. It still feels sharp and engaging to drive, with involving steering, a responsive engine plus a ride and handling compromise that few rivals can match. However, while the cabin design is neat, it falls way behind others in terms of space and quality. Saddest of all, though, is the lack of thought and care that has gone into this run-out model – offering some cheap stickers is a poor effort. Hopefully, Ford will be able to rectify this for the 2008 version.
The blue oval mini has been a stylish convertible, sporty hot hatch, rugged rally car and the basis for numerous concepts – not least a special estate called the Touringka. So, with the long-awaited replacement set to arrive early next year, Ford has launched a swansong version of the existing model to celebrate all that has gone before.
Called the Ka-ligraphy, it’s essentially a standard version with a set of snazzy bodywork graphics and flashy alloy wheels. The new decal set shown on our model is called Butterfly, and it covers the rear wings, boot, and corners of both the roof and bonnet. Depending on the colour of your car, the floral pattern comes in either a pink/purple or pink/red combination.
If this isn’t to your liking, then you can choose a star sign theme, or even an ‘I luv my Ka’ tattoo-style sticker. In theory, the changes are a great idea, and give drivers a chance to really personalise their cars. Sadly, the decals lack the funky charm of similar options on the MINI or new Fiat 500. In fact, the overall look is that of a cheap aftermarket accessory, rather than a carefully thought out set of add-ons.
Put simply, the whole package just doesn’t offer the kind of versatility its rivals deliver, with nothing actually changing the character of the Ka. There isn’t the depth of choice offered by the MINI or 500, and frankly it’s all too little too late. For this approach to work successfully, Ford needed to give owners much greater scope for modification.
This is a shame, because underneath the gaudy graphics there is still a great car. Despite its age, the Ka looks fresh and familiarity has not dented its visual impact, although the fussy alloys of this model will not be to all tastes.
Get inside, however, and the cracks are beginning to show. The curvy dashboard looks the part, but the quality of the plastics lags well behind newer challengers. Space is an issue, too, with occupants sitting in the back suffering the most.
Out on the road, the little Ford redeems itself. The wheel at each corner stance means there is a lot of fun to be had in bends. Sharp and accurate steering gives go-kart-like responses, while the ride is still composed at all speeds. Despite the Ka’s advancing years, it remains a great driver’s car. Even the prehistoric 1.3-litre engine feels strong, if a little breathless and coarse at high revs.
At £8,595, the Zetec Climate model driven here appears expensive when compared to newer, more spacious opposition. And with this in mind, the £390 Ford is asking for the sticker pack seems particularly steep.
RIVAL: Hyundai Getz GSi THE compact Korean offers buyers more space, pace and equipment than the Ford. On top of that, it has a useful five-year warranty. However, the Getz can’t match the Ka for style or driving enjoyment.