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Pros: Itís a Ford, still looks quite neat, sit-up driving position.
Cons: Starting to feel its age, not as fun as the original, steep prices
Trim Range: Studio, Studio Connect, Edge, Zetec, Titanium, Metal, Grand Prix III
Petrol engines: 1.2 (69)
Diesel engines: Not available
Gearboxes: Five-speed manual
What is the Ford Ka?
This second generation Ford Ka is, deep down, not actually a Ford. It is a product of a joint venture with Fiat, so is derived from the Fiat 500. Sadly, it lacks the verve that makes the Fiat 500 so popular and isnít a patch on its well-liked, strong-selling predecessor.
Ford has recently dropped the 1.3-litre diesel engine from the Ka, leaving just a single 69hp 1.2-litre four-cylinder choice. The diesel was torquey but also rather noisy and not all that nice to use: poor sales encouraged Ford to pull it. The remaining petrol is better but still not wonderful.
It works OK but no more and there are many better performing vehicles in this sector. Most of them are also quieter and have better gearshifts Ė oh, and an automatic is unavailable in the Ka, which is a bit of an omission for a city-focused model.
Ride and handling
The first Ka handled brilliantly and rode pretty well too. This rides OK but the handling isnít a patch on the original and is the reason why many of the first Kaís fans now look elsewhere. Itís an opportunity missed by Ford.
The key problem is that it lacks focus. It feels like any other mediocre small car, and the chassis isnít firm enough to make it entertaining through the corners. The steering is also unimpressive, although it is fairly light.
Behind the wheel
Dashboard and driving position
The Ford Ka has a reasonably comprehensive dashboard and it feels commanding behind the wheel. Itís clear to see the Fiat links Ė the bottom half is pure old-shape Fiat Panda, for example Ė but it feels far more grown up than the original Ka, which is what modern buyers demand.
The driving position is rather upright, with the driver feeling perched on top of the seat. The pedals are cramped which could be an issue for those with bigger, wider feet, and the steering wheel doesnít adjust for reach, so will be slightly too far away for most people.
Despite being small, visibility in the Ka is a bit restricted. Sitting so high doesnít help, oddly, as the roof and the top of the screen pillars get a little in the way. The rear deck is also tall and shallow which could make reversing tricky Ė parking sensors are strongly recommended (theyíre optional on all models but standard on none).
Gadgets and technology
Small car buyers are increasingly demanding more technology from their cars and the Ka has been slowly upgraded over the years to try and reflect this. You can play MP3s on the stereo of all models, for example: an Aux-in jack is also standard, although more advanced features such as iPod connectivity are not available.
- Smartphone connectivity: Ford has recently introduced a low-priced Studio Connect variant, which has Bluetooth, so itís making an effort here.
- Navigation: You canít have sat nav on a Ka.
- Personalisation: The connectivity pack (standard on the Studio Connect, optional on others) has an SMS reader function, which will read out text messages (and display the name of the sender in the instrument pack).
- Audio: Higher-grade models get an punchy stereo upgrade but you canít have DAB
- Internet: No internet functionality on a Ka
- Can it Tweet or Facebook: you canít send tweets or update Facebook.
- What is the standout gadget on the Ford Fiesta: The connectivity pack thatís fitted as standard to the Studio Connect is pretty comprehensive; it even includes a USB port.
Passenger space and practicality
The Ka is a small car on the outside but also within too. It feels narrow the moment you close the door, due to the proximity of it to your elbow, and those in the front will be conscious of how close theyíre sitting to one another. The driving environment also feels cramped and those in the back may grumble if theyíre any bigger than young child height. Even those kids may grumble: the back windows are too small.
Do note, the Ka in Studio, Studio Connect and Edge trim is technically only equipped to seat four people, not five. Carrying a fifth passenger in the rear would be an offence.
The Kaís 224-litre boot is actually not a bad size. Folding the seats extends it to
747 litres which again isnít bad for such a small car. Itís a practical shape as the Ka is a relatively tall car, although the curvature of the back door can make dropping on big and square items a bit tricky.
At slow speed, the Ka isnít too bad on refinement. The engine is audible but fades into the background once youíre on the go. Unfortunately, it becomes more vocal when extended and overall Ďgreyí noise is also rather intrusive. The Ka lacks the sophisticated refinement of rivals such as the Volkswagen Up.
The Ford Ka has an OK four-star Euro NCAP crash safety rating but this dates back to 2008: the tests many of its more modern rivals have taken are much tougher. ESP stability control isnít standard on any model but, more worryingly, neither are side airbags. The hazard warning lights do automatically flash when the car brakes heavily, though.
Running costs/Value for Money/Pricing
The Ford Ka 1.2 will average 57.7mpg and it emits 99g/km CO2 Ė both very strong figures for a petrol model and enough to give it free road tax status. They also explain why the diesel was no longer requiredÖ auto stop-start is standard on all models, as is a Ďchange upí gearshift light.
Quality is so-so: it lacks the integrity of a modern Ford because, of course, it isnít built by Ford. This means the interior plastics donít feel as solid as in a Fiesta or Focus, and the cheaper overall ambience may be off-putting for some brand loyalists.
Pricing and equipment
Prices for the Ka start at £8795, pitching it above most rivals which start at under £8000. The Studio Connect is better value as it includes useful extra standard kit for just £500 more. Justifying its slightly high pricing, the Ka isnít too mean on the core equipment Ė standard air con features early in the range from Edge trim upwards, for example Ė but many of the modern features found on rivals are unavailable.
Value for money
We think they Ka has become better value over the years but it still isnít quite cheap enough. Itís certainly not worth paying the premium for models like the Grand Prix III and Metal: they have flashier equipment but the core car isnít good enough to support it. The sweet spot in the range is the new Studio Connect, even if it does lack features modern car buyers assume will be standard, such as electric windows and mirrors.
There are several very strong rivals in this sector. The obvious one is the Volkswagen Up, and its family siblings the SEAT Mii and Skoda Citigo. All three are superb cars. Kia also sells the fine Picanto and the Hyundai i10 is also popular (though be aware a new one is on the way). Arch-rival big-selling brand Vauxhall offers the Adam too, although this is premium-priced, three-door only and pitched more upmarket than the Ka.
The first Ford Ka was a hit but this one isnít as good. Itís off the pace of some very competitive rivals and isnít as appealing to neither driver nor passengers as the first one was. Itís co-developed with Fiat and weíd much rather have a 500 or Panda.
By Richard Aucock
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Mon, 14 Oct 2013