Ford Ka hatchback
Price: £8,795 - £11,295
- Cute looks
- Quite practical
- Great to drive around town
- Fiesta is a better option
- Struggles to cope with motorways
- Poorly equipped compared to rivals
"It looks great, drives well and is cheap to run, but it's overpriced compared to newer rivals."
The original Ford Ka was a huge success that spawned an endless line of imitators. It wasn’t just small and cheap to buy and run, it was great to drive, had bags of character and was unlike anything else on the road. It was a superb first car and a major sales hit.
The current version is the second generation model, and, sadly, it's not quite as good. It was built in conjunction with the Fiat 500, is made in the same factory and uses many of the same parts. It's still fun to drive, but it doesn’t handle as well as the old car, and interior quality has slipped a bit. There's only one engine available with the Ka – a 1.2-litre petrol – but it offers pretty good performance and running costs.
There is a choice of seven specification levels: Studio, Studio Connect, Edge, Zetec, Titanium, Metal and Grand Prix III. And there are plenty of personalisation options, too, including a wide range of colours and decorative stickers. The main downside to the Ka is that it's beginning to look a little overpriced compared to newer rivals like the Hyundai i10 and Skoda Citigo.
MPG, running costs & CO2
Economy and emissions are way behind rivals
The Ford Ka is a city car, so it has to offer low running costs. The 1.2-litre petrol engine will do 57.7mpg and 115g/km CO2. That puts it in tax band C, making it free to tax for the first year and £30 per year from then on.That makes for fairly low running costs, but it's pretty poor for the city car class.Almost all of the Ka's rivals offer at least one model with sub 100g/km CO2 emissions and fuel economy in excess of 60mpg.
A low insurance group rating will keep premiums to a minimum, though, and servicing costs are inexpensive.
Interior & comfort
Comfortable around town but Ka is noisy at motorway speeds
As a city car, it's no surprise that the Ka is in its element when being driven around town. The seats are supportive and comfy and the suspension does a good job of absorbing bumps and potholes.
There are some issues, though. It can be difficult to find a decent driving position, for starters, because you can't adjust the steering wheel. It gets really noisy in the cabin at faster speeds, too, because it's not very well insulated from wind and road noise, which makes motorway journeys pretty draining. This problems made worse by the fact the engine starts to strain and gets loud over about 50mph.
Practicality & boot space
Quite spacious inside and has a decent boot but only comes as a three door
The Ford Ka is surprisingly spacious given its tiny dimensions. There's enough head and legroom to squeeze in even taller adults in reasonable comfort. The boot is pretty sizeable, too, with 224 litres of space. That's a little bit smaller than the Volkswagen up! and Hyundai i10, which have 251 litres and 252 litres of capacity respectively, but more than most other rivals, including the Toyota Aygo and Fiat 500.
The trouble with the Ford Ka when it comes to practicality is not how much space there is but how you access it. It only comes as a three-door, so while there's a reasonable amount of room in the rear seats, it's a pain to get back there. And although the boot is decent, it has a high lip, which makes loading bulky or heavy items more awkward than it should be. The rear seats do fold down – extending the load area to 747 litres – but split-folding seats don’t come as standard on the entry-level Studio models, while they’re a standard feature on the cheaper Volkswagen up!.
Reliability & safety
Reliability should be good but Ka got a poor safety rating
The Ford Ka's safety rating will be a bit of a worry to some potential buyers. It was tested back in 2008 before crash testers Euro NCAP started combining all the various scores into one star rating. But it was given four stars for Adult Occupant Protection, three stars for Child Occupant Protection and two stars for Pedestrian Protection.
On top of that, the Ka only comes with two airbags as standard and electronic stability control is an optional extra. This is pretty poor compared to newer rivals like the SEAT Mii, Kia Picanto and Hyundai i10. Ford hasn’t performed too well in customer satisfaction surveys of late, either.
It came 23rd out of 32 in the 2013 Driver Power manufacturer rankings, a disappointing result for Britain's biggest selling car brand. There wasn’t enough feedback from Ka owners for it to figure in the Top 100 Cars league table, but we would expect it to be reasonably reliable – there have been no major issues reported on it.
Engines, drive & performance
Better than the Fiat 500 but not as good as the old Ka
The Ford Ka may have been co-developed with the Fiat 500, but they’re not the same car. The steering and suspension are both different, and thanks to Ford's input the Ka is better to drive than the 500. Sadly, the Ka isn’t as good as the old version – it's not quite as nimble or as much fun – but it is capable. The steering has been set-up for town driving, so it's light and easy-to-use, and that combined with decent visibility and tiny dimensions makes the Ka very manoeuvrable. There's only one engine in the range – a 69bhp 1.2-litre petrol engine, which is zippy enough for town driving but struggles a little bit at motorway speeds and gets quite noisy as a result. The gearbox is pretty smooth, too. The main problem with the Ka is that it's up against a very, very accomplished rival and it's really hard to justify buying the Ka over this other model. That rival isn’t another city car, it is the Ka's bigger brother – the Ford Fiesta. It looks better, it's one of the best cars on the market to drive, it has lower running costs and more space and it's not that much more expensive than the Ka.
Price, value for money & options
Rival superminis and the larger Ford Fiesta look like better value for money
The Ford Ka is in a bit of an awkward position in the market. It's cheaper than the Fiat 500 and MINI – but then it doesn’t have the same fashionable appeal as those models. And it's more expensive than the likes of the Volkswagen up!, Hyundai i10, Skoda Citigo and SEAT Mii, despite not being as well equipped or as cheap to run.
As you go up the specification levels the price tag starts competing with the more accomplished Ford Fiesta, too. There is a choice of seven specification levels: Studio, Studio Connect, Edge, Zetec, Titanium, Metal and Grand Prix III. Entry-level Studio models don’t get much equipment, coming with electric windows, remote central locking and not a lot else. Even safety kit like side airbags and electronic stability control are optional extras.
Resale values are ok, but no match for the more desirable Fiat 500.
What the others say
"Cute styling, better to drive than Fiat 500 and decent practicality, but it's expensive, poorly equipped and less fun to drive than other Fords."
"The old Ka kept going for 12 years, but the new one looks basically like a shrunken Fiesta. It is, however, based on the same basic bits as Fiat's 500. In other words, developed from the Panda platform. Ford has redesigned the basic suspension, but it's still a little choppy on rough surfaces. On the pace, but not a lot more."
"It's a transformation that Fiat would do well to emulate. Like the original Ka, this one is supple over bumps yet crisp in its response to commands. The steering lacks the transparency found in the old Ka, but at this end of the market it's the price you pay for an electric system's economy benefits."
"Not happy with the FIAT 500's over-stiff, bouncy suspension and overlight power steeting, Ford chassis engineers inserted a torsion bar into the twist-beam rear axle, softened the rear springs and fitted progressive rear dampers."
Last updated: 7 Mar 2014