Ford Ka

Too safe a remake of a daring predecessor

£8,945 - £11,445 Price range

4 Seats

57 MPG

6.8
wowscore
This is the average score given by leading car publications from 18 reviews
  • Practical
  • Fun to drive
  • Economical
  • Less fun than the old one
  • Noisy diesel
  • Poorly equipped

The Ford Ka is a small car that gets reasonable, but not glowing, reviews. It gets praise for its cheap price to buy and the low running costs. Insurance won’t be too high and all the engines are economical, if not really very impressive.

Its biggest problem is the original car, which was so gloriously different and fun that the slightly blander and podgier remake can’t live up to the reputation – but with the rose-tinted spectacles firmly removed, the Ka is not a bad car…

It’s not just a platform that the Ka shares with Fiat’s Panda and 500 – it has the same high-mounted gearshift and higher-mounted radio positioning as the Italians’ dashboard. On the styling front, it’s more similar to the Fiesta which is no bad thing, but it loses some of the vivacious silliness in evidence on the Fiats. 

Plastics are a bit cheap, but like the 500 and Panda, interior space is good. There’s plenty of headroom and legroom for four grown-ups and space for their luggage too. Radio aside, much of the seating and button positioning is entirely sensible.

The old Ka was something of a handling master, with decent ride quality and more fun than any small car since the Mini. The new Ka isn’t as impressive, but it’s not bad – the origins of the Fiat 500 are difficult to disguise, but Ford has done a good job to make the car much more responsive and urgent.

The firmer suspension means the ride isn’t quite as cossetting, but it’s not outright crashy and only larger road sores unsettle it. Like the 500 though, the steering is very light and a little short on feel.

Originally available with a choice of two engines, the Fiat-sourced diesel was quietly dropped from the lineup, leaving just the Ford 1.2 petrol unit.

On paper this returns 57.7mpg – or 115g/km of carbon dioxide – putting it into VED (tax) band C and will poke all models to 60mph in just over 13.4 seconds. This won’t rustle any feathers, but it’s good fun to work while happily tractable around town. Fifth gear is a little long and you might find motorway treks a bit of a chore as a result.

Just as the Ka shares its underpinnings with the Fiat 500, so too does it share an engine range. The 1.2-litre, 8-valve engine is a simple unit, but Ford has re-tuned it for better performance and refinement.

Testers say it feels lively, but also a bit noisy. While it’s more refined than the 500 on which its based, it’s not a patch on the Fiesta. It’s quiet on the motorway though a couple of the reviews mention it’s a little too noisy when you’re accelerating. Still, it’s a characterful little engine!

57mpg economy can’t be sniffed at, nor can the slick gearchange or responsive throttle. That economy means you’ll only spend £30 a year taxing your Ka. With pricing starting significantly lower than diesel Kas, the petrol may make more sense for drivers on a budget.

The reviews of the 1.3 TDCi Ka are slightly mixed. All the reviews agree it’s too noisy, but then a few experts say it’s a better all-rounder than the petrol engine, then others say the complete opposite! This diesel engine isn’t particularly fast, and does cost more than the petrol, though is more economical. Based on the overall consensus, we’d opt for the petrol instead.

With stop-start technology, Ford quotes an average of 68.9 miles per gallon. Road tax is pennies too - only £20 a year. You’d spend more on Greggs pasties.

Opinion is split on its relevance, though. It’s several thousand more expensive than the petrol Ka, so for low-mileage drivers the economy is moot. Critics like the way it gets down the road, but refinement isn’t as good as the equivalent Fiat 500 and the engine needs working hard to make progress - which impacts upon economy.

These are general, non-engine specific reviews. They give a nice overview of what the car is like, without focusing on just one engine/version.

The Ka was tested in 2008 using previous Euro NCAP standards and rated four stars for adult occupant protections and three stars for child occupant protection – a pretty reasonable showing for the class.

However, the Ka only comes with two airbags – driver and passenger – which is four fewer than its platform sibling and stability control was only an option until a recent update. A new test would better reveal how the Ka stacks up, but we wouldn’t anticipate an improvement on that four-star rating.

The Ka undercuts the Fiat 500 by a whopping margin, but without the trendy image of the Italian offering it still doesn’t seem superb value. The more expensive versions, while only topping out at £11,445, seem a little on the steep side, considering that’s well within range of Fiesta ownership.

VED (tax) band C isn’t really low enough – many rivals offer low carbon models with zero rate duty – though the fuel economy is at least achievable if you don’t wring the engine out. Insurance is relatively low but, compared to its platform siblings, resale prices will suffer.

Conclusion

Many reviews seem to suggest the same thing – the Ka is fine, but in such a competitive market, not really good enough to make a splash in any particular area. 

While other manufacturers seem to have learned from the original Ka, Ford has regressed to a more generic offering and it’s less satisfying than rivals as a result. It’s worth looking around before taking the plunge.

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