Review

Ford Ka hatchback

Price  £8,945 - £11,445

Ford Ka hatchback

reviewed by Carbuyer

Pros
  • Cute looks
  • Quite practical
  • Great to drive around town
Cons
  • Fiesta is a better option
  • Struggles to cope with motorways
  • Poorly equipped compared to rivals

At a glance

The greenest
Studio 1.2 69PS 3dr £8,945
The cheapest
Studio 1.2 69PS 3dr £8,945
The fastest
Studio 1.2 69PS 3dr £8,945
Top of the range
Grand Prix III 1.2 69PS 3dr £11,445

"The Ford Ka looks modern and drives well, but a dated engine means its rivals are cheaper to run."

The Ford Ka is the product of a joint project with Fiat; a non-retro version of the Fiat 500 with a Ford badge on the bonnet. Because it's a bit less upmarket than the Italian car, it's also cheaper to buy, but unfortunately its rather dated engine also makes it costlier to run.

Unlike the Fiat, which has seen engines updated and changed throughout its life, the Ford is offered with just a 1.2-litre petrol engine. During that time, it has been left behind by its rivals which in many cases are free to tax. The 68bhp engine offers decent performance in town, but struggles with motorway driving, where it lacks power and becomes rather noisy. But the Ford Ka's suspension goes some way to making up for it, being more comfortable than the Fiat 500.

Overall, the Ka needs a makeover to be competitive in such a hotly contested sector. Our car of the year, the Hyundai i10 and the Skoda Citigo are more refined and practical, while the Fiat 500 has far more character and wider choice of engines with lower running costs.

MPG, running costs & CO2

3.3 / 5

Ford Ka isn't as cheap to run as newer rivals

Just one engine is available since Ford dropped a diesel engine from the range. Happily the 1.2-litre petrol was better suited to the Ka anyway, even if it is now badly in need of an update. That’s because most rivals now beat its 57.7mpg fuel consumption and 115g/km CO2 emissions, making them cheaper to run.

The Ka will cost you £30 each year in tax, while several versions of the Hyundai i10, Fiat 500 and Skoda Citigo have emissions below 100g/km, making them road tax exempt. The thriftiest Fiat 500 can manage 76.3mpg, while the Skoda Citigo can return 68.9mpg.

The Ford Ka also won’t hold its value quite as well as its rivals, particularly if you go for the top trim levels. The desirable Fiat 500 commands some of the highest values on the used car market for a car of this size, along with the sensible Hyundai i10.

Engines, drive & performance

3.2 / 5

Ford Ka is fun and agile in town, but struggles on motorway

Your choice is restricted to Ford’s 1.2-litre petrol engine with 68bhp, which accelerates the Ka from 0-62mph in 13.4 seconds and has a top speed of 99mph. It’s well-suited to the Ka around town and along most country roads, but becomes noisy and lacks power on the motorway.

This could lead you to look elsewhere if you want a city car but also travel further afield, especially as the Fiat 500 is available with a more powerful 85 or 105bhp petrol and a 95bhp diesel engine.

Ford has done a good job with the suspension though, making the Ka more comfortable and slightly better to drive than the Fiat. But, again it struggles at higher speeds, where the Citigo and i10 still manage to sooth away the miles. The Ka is a city car through and through, with light steering and great manoeuvrability, making it easy to drive and park in towns and cities.

Interior & comfort

2.3 / 5

Smooth suspension but Ford Ka is noisy at motorway speeds

The Ford Ka is based on the Fiat 500, but you wouldn’t know it from sitting inside. While the Fiat is cute and retro, the Ka is modern and more conventional. The gearlever is within easy reach while the dashboard has a clear layout and attractive buttons and switches. The front seats are comfortable and, because you sit fairly high up, visibility is excellent. This is a real bonus in town, making it easier to negotiate narrow streets and park in tight spaces.

But it’s not perfect, sadly there’s only height adjustment for the steering wheel, not reach, so it can be hard to find your ideal driving position. The Ka also suffers from poor refinement at higher speeds, with lots of road and wind noise making it less relaxing than the Skoda Citigo or Hyundai i10.

Ford’s engineers have given the Ka a different suspension setup to the Fiat 500, and if anything it’s more comfortable, soaking up bumps well for such a small car.

Practicality & boot space

3 / 5

Ford Ka has a reasonable boot and useful storage cubbies

Despite its small size, the Ka is quite tall, so it feels spacious in the front seats with lots of headroom. With only three doors it’s a different story for rear passengers, who will need to squeeze past the front seats to get inside. One seated, however, space isn’t too bad with reasonable headroom but limited legroom.

Storage spaces are dotted around the cabin, including a large glovebox, door pockets and a slot to keep your phone or MP3 player. The only cupholder is shallow and low down behind the gearlever, so you could end up with coffee on your legs.

The boot measures 224 litres; smaller than the Citigo and i10 which feature just over 250 litres of luggage room each. The Ka does offer more space than the 185 litres found in the Fiat 500 and 168 litres in the Toyota Aygo.

Zetec trim levels and above feature rear seats that split in the middle and fold forwards for 747 litres of space, with metal seat backs making them resistant to knocks and scratches. All versions come with a tyre repair kit as standard, but you can buy an optional spare steel wheel for £100.

Reliability & safety

3 / 5

Reliability should be good but Ka got a poor safety rating

The Ford Ka’s four-star safety rating is likely to put off some potential buyers, particularly as it was tested before Euro NCAP’s criteria was made tougher in 2009 making its rating less impressive still. Front driver and passenger airbags are standard, while Ford has recently included electronics to help prevent skids, but side airbags are still optional, regardless of the trim level.

By contrast, the Skoda Citigo and Fiat 500 have five star ratings and the Citigo comes fitted with side airbags across the entire range.

Ford’s recent performance in customer satisfaction surveys is also cause for concern, slipping a further two places to 25th out of 32 manufactures in this year’s Driver Power rankings. Skoda finished first, with its Citigo in second place out of 150 cars. Despite this, the Ford Ka doesn’t have a reputation for going wrong and should be relatively cheap to fix if it does.

Price, value for money & options

3.2 / 5

Ford Ka is expensive with sparse equipment in lower trims

The Ford Ka is cheaper than the chic Fiat 500, but has a slightly higher starting price than the Skoda Citigo and Hyundai i10, despite being less-well equipped and costing more to run.

There are a confusing number of trim levels too, with Studio, Studio Connect, Edge, Zetec, Titanium, Metal and Grand Prix III all offering slightly different levels of kit. While Studio is very basic, Studio Connect adds Bluetooth, steering wheel controls a trip computer and 14-inch alloy wheels. You’ll need Edge if you want air-con and remote central locking, while Zetec adds fog lights, a heated windscreen, split/folding rear seats and a leather steering wheel. Titanium, Metal and Grand Prix III add styling features and luxuries like climate control.

We’d recommend adding the ‘Panorama Roof’ which also includes curtain and side airbags for £400, improving safety. A ‘Connectivity Pack’ adds Bluetooth, steering wheel controls, USB and a trip computer for a reasonable £260, while rear parking sensors are £200. If you fancy leather seats in your Ka, they will set you back £760.

What the others say

3 / 5
based on 4 reviews
2 / 5
"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."
10 / 20
"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."
3.5 / 5
"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."
4 / 5
"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 
24 Jul 2014

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