Ford Ka Hatchback review (1996-2008)
It may be due for replacement soon, but the evergreen Ka remains a little thriller that's still more than class-competitive.
Driving The Ka's peppy 1.3-litre engine rarely feels breathless, as it has been tuned for low-rev response. As a result, it's great around town and for nipping in and out of traffic - though there's no hiding the fact that performance is off the pace; 0-60mph takes 13.5 seconds, while 50-70mph in top takes a yawning 18.1 seconds. At least it's light, meaning braking is surefooted and rapid. And, while it may not be as quick as rivals, the Ka more than compensates when it comes to handling. The balanced chassis and short overhangs mean the Ford feels agile, and even when thrown into a bend it copes well, with minimal body roll and high levels of grip. The steering is precise and there's superb feedback through the wheel, plus the Ka turns in sharply. Take it out on a twisty back road, and it's in its element, offering a lively driving experience. The ride is firmer than some rivals, but it deals with rough surfaces equally well.
Marketplace It's hard to believe the Ka was launched back in 1996. Despite its age, it looks as fresh today as it ever has. When it comes to timeless design, the baby Ford is an example of how to get it right. Well proportioned, youthful and with a classic wheel-at-each-corner layout, the Ka has a distinctive profile. With so many on the road, it's easy to forget what a good-looking machine it is. Competitors are squaring up to the Ka with a flurry of rivals though - the Citroen C1, Peugeot 107, Toyota Aygo, Fiat Panda, Renault Twingo, Proton Savvy and Volkswagen Fox are all sparring partners.
Owning For a city car, rear head and leg space is fine. Although you can only fit two people in the back, they'll be comfortable once there. The driving position is good, too, and the cabin is roomy up front. Admittedly, the painted metal on the doors reminds you that you're in a budget supermini, but the rest of the interior is durable and well built. The chunky stereo and heater controls are robust, while the leather steering wheel is great to hold and adds a sporty touch. And while the plastics may be brittle, design flair gives it character. It's also great value - we tested the bargain-priced Zetec, which still came with air con, remote central locking and alloy wheels. There are usually deals to be struck too, which is important as the retained values aren't the greatest. Fuel economy was mediocre in our hands at 35.7mpg overall, too, but longish 12,500-mile service intervals shouldn't cost the earth, while insurance ratings are also low.