"It looks cute, and it's reasonable to drive, but the new Ford Ka isn’t quite as impressive as its predecessor."
The original Ford Ka made a big splash when it was first launched, a kooky car whose quirky dimensions had never been seen on UK roads before. But it was fun to drive, too, giving young drivers a change from the norm. It was a top-seller right up until it was replaced by the current model – which is when things went a bit wrong. Ford collaborated with Fiat, using many of the components from the Fiat 500 and sharing the same factory production facilities. The result is, well, simply less fun. Also, some of Fiat's lower quality standards have been allowed to infiltrate the Ka's interior. It's not a lost cause, though, with some of Ford's key strengths ensuring that it's still better than many of its competitors, offering a wide range of models and high equipment levels in the upper specifications. There are only one engine to choose from – a 1.2-litre petrol – but there's lots of scope for personalising your KA thanks to some quirky body stickers and funky colours. The Ford Ka comes in six main specifications – entry-level Studio, then Edge, Zetec, Titanium, Grand Prix and top-of-the-range Metal.
MPG, running costs & CO2 emissions
No small city car worth its salt wouldn’t be expensive to run, so the Ka is certainly economical, if not quite class-leading. There's only one engine to choose from – a 1.2-litre petrol engine, which benefits from a good mix of price and running costs, returning 57.7mpg and emitting 115g/km of CO2. No Ka is exempt from annual road tax, but other costs are low, with cheap insurance premiums and low servicing charges across the board.
Interior & comfort
The Ka is most comfortable when being driven in town, as you’d expect for a city runabout. Most of the bumps are absorbed fairly well, and while the driving position isn’t as good as it could be because of a lack of steering wheel adjustment, you do still have reasonable visibility. All seats are supportive and comfy – which they weren’t in the previous model – but there is way too much engine, wind and road noise when driving at motorway speeds. In fact, this noise can make it a little tiresome on longer journeys.
Practicality & boot space
You’re not going to get a huge amount of practicality out of a small city car like the Ka, but there is more space than you’d probably expect inside. Rear passengers will find enough space to get reasonably comfy, with even taller adults capable of squeezing in. You get 224 litres of boot space, which is more than both the Fiat 500 and Toyota Aygo, but less than the Volkswagen up! and Skoda Citigo. When the back seats are folded down, the capacity expands to 747 litres, but it's main failing is access. All that internal space is all well and good – if you can get to it without getting cramp first. There's also a high boot lip, so leading big, bulky items is pretty tricky at times, and the folding back seats don’t split on entry-level Studio models. It's only available as a three door, which limits the car's practicality, while finding a good driving position can also be tricky because of a lack of reach adjustment in the steering wheel. Thankfully, visibility out is still reasonable.
Reliability & safety
Ford is such a powerhouse in the UK market (and globally, too, of course) that finding it in the bottom third of the manufacturers rankings of the 2013 Driver Power customer satisfaction survey is a bit of a shock. What's more, its 23rd position is actually two spots higher than in the 2012 poll. But at least it still beats its arch rival, Vauxhall. However, the latest Ka just isn’t popular enough to feature in the survey – though it shares a number of its parts with the Fiat 500. Fiat ranks even lower than Ford – but the 500 has actually proved to be one of Fiat's more reliable models, so you shouldn’t be put off. In terms of safety, the Ka has a similar deficit to other small city cars and was only awarded a below-par four stars in the Euro NCAP crash safety tests, thanks in part to the fact that the Ka only has two airbags fitted as standard.
Engines, drive & performance
It's hard for any car to match up to the fun of the Ford Fiesta, but when that car is a Ford so you expect for it to at least share some of its sibling's characteristics. But something is missing from the Ka. Ford may insist that it is very different from its Fiat 500 cousin, but we actually think it's difficult to find much between them. Thankfully, what differences there are, actually make the Ka better – including better steering and suspension giving it extra agility over the Fiat. But the nimbleness, security and plain old fun of the original Ka just aren’t there. You’d at least hope that these changes meant that the suspension was better at absorbing road bumps, but it isn’t. The only solace is that the Fiat 500 is worse. The zippy 1.2-litre petrol engine does make the Ka quick enough for town driving, while it's decent enough on the motorway, too, if you can ignore the noise inside the car. The engines offer decent performance, with the gearbox proving to be smooth and the steering light and easy, so parking the Ka in tight spaces is really straightforward. The Ka may be better to drive than the 500, but the Toyota Aygo and the Fiesta easily beat it – and the Fiesta doesn’t cost that much more. We’d recommend anyone thinking of getting the higher spec Ka models, to consider getting a Fiesta instead.
Price, value for money & options
If you start at the basic Studio model, standard equipment levels are pretty basic, with only electric windows and remote locking available, but precious little else. Even side airbags are only available as an optional extra. This is much less than you’d find in a Hyundai i10, for instance. But if you go up the specifications, then equipment and accessories do improve – but just as cost and equipment reach a good balance at the top of the range, the Ford Fiesta is suddenly affordable and that is a much larger and far superior car. Even then, the likes of the Toyota Aygo and Citroen C1 are also available as five-door models, which boosts practicality no end, for a similar price. Its cousin, the Fiat 500, is more expensive, but it has style on its side. Used prices for the Ka are so-so, but don't expect it to challenge the Fiat for decent resale values.