Up next:

Ford Ka and SportKa (2008) review

Published:19 March 2008

Ford Ka and SportKa (2008) review
  • At a glance
  • 4 out of 5
  • 3 out of 5
  • 4 out of 5
  • 4 out of 5
  • 4 out of 5

The Ford Ka was one of the cars that started Ford's renaissance. So the Blue Oval's business problems shouldn’t distract attention from the fact that most of Ford's current European product line-up is very good. With the Ka due to be replaced at the end of 2008 by a new Fiat-500 based car, CAR has had one last drive.

Ford still make the Ka? 

Yes, the car that debuted Ford’s New Edge styling in 1996 is still going strong. Two Focuses and a Fiesta have come and gone in that time, but the Ka has remained remarkably faithful to the original.

That’s essentially because Ford’s first sub-Fiesta two-door was right from day one. Ford has found itself (for once) leading the way as more and more other manufacturers have joined in with versatile small cars that fill a gap created by the bloating of their superminis.

It’s that rare thing: a car that looks great (or at least distinctive), drives very well and won’t bankrupt you. Even today the Ka continues to do good business way beyond its core market of teenage girls buying their first car.

What’s under the skin?

The regular Ka is powered by a 1.3-litre four. Since 1993 it’s been the sohc 68bhp Duratec engine, which is less wheezy than the earlier 59bhp sidevalve Endura engine. It does a perfectly good job, although what’s always been more impressive than the engine is the chassis. It uses old-shape Fiesta components, including MacPherson struts at the front, but the Ka is lighter and better balanced than that generation of Fiesta and benefits accordingly. It’s agile, poised, versatile and a lot of fun, both in town and further afield. The rear brakes are drums, but they’re plenty good enough

Since 1993 there’s also been the SportKa, which has Ford’s 1.6-litre Duratec, producing 94bhp, with a close-ratio five-speed gearbox plus the suspension from the Puma and a few design details, such as the central reversing light and reshaped grille, from the StreetKa (the convertible version that’s best glossed over). It also has more supportive seats and an aluminium gearknob.

So it the SportKa some sort of bargain hot hatch supermini?

No. Drive it with those expectations and you’re bound to be disappointed. What you actually get is a car that, today, feels like the original Ka felt when it was new: agile, balanced, lively, etc. The extra power, slightly higher spec and sharpened dynamics bring it more or less in line with the best of the small cars introduced over the last few years. The basic Ka, meanwhile, is feeling its age, although it is tremendous value and a great car to learn in.

Where the Ka maxes out at 104mph, with a 0-62mph time of 14.1 seconds, the SportKa has a much perkier 9.7-second acceleration figure and a top speed of 108mph.

The SportKa, with its 16-inch (rather than 13) wheels, wider tyres and lowered ride height, has heavier steering that feels more grown-up – the sort of feeling you get in the Mini and the new Fiat 500. The 1.6 engine is happier on motorways than the 1.3, as well as being generally livelier. Both are reasonably economical: 43.5mpg for the Ka, 37.2 for the SportKa, with CO2 figures of 154g/km and 182 respectively, and low insurance (2-4 for the Ka, depending on spec, and 6 for the SportKa).

What’s changed over the years?

Very little, aside from the engine upgrade in 1993 and an evolutionary up-speccing. Power steering, for instance, is now standard. But you can still get a version without central locking or electric front windows, and even on the SportKa you can’t get a trip computer, stability control or climate control, and electrically controlled mirrors are an extra – although it’s a doddle to reach over and adjust them manually from the driver’s seat. Think of it as less to go wrong.

The door-tops are still painted metal, but that’s part of the design rather than meanness on Ford’s part, and is actually much more pleasing to the touch than a lot of the plastics you get in other cars at this price.

The Ka has stood still while the competition has changed: good diesel engines, bigger boots, better crash protection and more equipment can all be taken for granted.

What can’t it do?

Although the front seats are big enough for two portly adults, and the rears can easily handle two teenagers, the Ka struggles with luggage. What else do you expect from a car that’s essentially a Fiesta with the hatchback hacked off? You get a modestly sized, unhelpfully shaped boot, and the rear seatbacks fold down, plus there’s a tiny glovebox and annoyingly small door pockets.

The SportKa has three-way seat adjustment, while the basic Ka’s front seats don’t adjust up and down, and neither version has any steering wheel adjustment, so there will be people who just can’t get comfortable.

And although the SportKa has longer legs than the Ka, they both get noisy at motorway cruising speeds, and the seats start to feel rather thin after 300 miles or so.

Its Euro NCAP scores don’t look too hot these days, either: three out of five for adult occupants, one out of four for pedestrian protection.

Verdict

Don’t buy a new or used tiddler without considering the Ka very seriously. Intended primarily as a runabout, it’s actually much more fun and versatile than it needs to be, without the price premium of the Mini. It has its space and distance limitations, and no longer feels as sharp or invigorating as it once did, but it can still be a joy to drive.

 

 

Ka (SportKa in brackets)

Engine 1297cc (1597cc) 8v 4-cyl, 69bhp @ 5500rpm (94bhp @ 5500rpm), 78lb ft @ 3000rpm (100lb ft @ 4250rpm)

Transmission 5-speed manual, front-wheel drive

Performance 0-62mph 13.7sec (9.7sec), top speed 104mph (108mph), 43.5mpg (37.2mpg), 154g/km CO2 (182g/km)

So it the SportKa some sort of bargain hot hatch supermini?

 

No. Drive it with those expectations and you’re bound to be disappointed. What you actually get is a car that, today, feels like the original Ka felt when it was new: agile, balanced, lively etc. The extra power, slightly higher spec and sharpened dynamics bring it more or less in line with the best of the small cars introduced over the last few years. The basic Ka, meanwhile, is feeling its age, although it is tremendous value and a great car to learn in.

Where the Ka maxes out at 104mph, with a 0-62mph time of 14.1 seconds, the SportKa has a much perkier 9.7-second acceleration figure and a top speed of 108mph.

The SportKa, with its 16-inch (rather than 13) wheels, wider tyres and lowered ride height, has heavier steering that feels more grown-up – the sort of feeling you get in the Mini and the new Fiat 500. The 1.6 engine is happier on motorways than the 1.3, as well as being generally livelier. Both are reasonably economical: 43.5mpg for the Ka, 37.2 for the SportKa, with CO2 figures of 154g/km and 182 respectively, and low insurance (2-4 for the Ka, depending on spec, and 6 for the SportKa).

 

 

What’s changed over the years?

 

Very little, aside from the engine upgrade in 1993 and an evolutionary up-speccing. Power steering, for instance, is now standard. But you can still get a version without central locking or electric front windows, and even on the SportKa you can’t get a trip computer, stability control or climate control, and electrically controlled mirrors are an extra – although it’s a doddle to reach over and adjust them manually from the driver’s seat. Think of it as less to go wrong.

The door-tops are still painted metal, but that’s part of the design rather than meanness on Ford’s part, and is actually much more pleasing to the touch than a lot of the plastics you get in other cars at this price.

The Ka has stood still while the competition has changed: good diesel engines, bigger boots, better crash protection and more equipment can all be taken for granted.

 

 

What can’t it do?

 

Although the front seats are big enough for two portly adults, and the rears can easily handle two teenagers, the Ka struggles with luggage. What else do you expect from a car that’s essentially a Fiesta with the hatchback hacked off? You get a modestly sized, unhelpfully shaped boot, and the rear seatbacks fold down, plus there’s a tiny glovebox and annoyingly small door pockets.

The SportKa has three-way seat adjustment, while the basic Ka’s front seats don’t adjust up and down, and neither version has any steering wheel adjustment, so there will be people who just can’t get comfortable.

And although the SportKa has longer legs than the Ka, they both get noisy at motorway cruising speeds, and the seats start to feel rather thin after 300 miles or so.

Its Euro NCAP scores don’t look too hot these days, either: three out of five for adult occupants, one out of four for pedestrian protection.

 

 

Verdict

 

Don’t buy a new or used tiddler without considering the Ka very seriously. Intended primarily as a runabout, it’s actually much more fun and versatile than it needs to be, without the price premium of the Mini. It has its space and distance limitations, and no longer feels as sharp or invigorating as it once did, but it can still be a joy to drive.

 

 

 

Rating

 

Handling 4

Performance 3

Usability 4

Feelgood factor 4

 

 

Stats

 

Ka (SportKa in brackets)

Engine 1297cc (1597cc) 8v 4-cyl, 69bhp @ 5500rpm (94bhp @ 5500rpm), 78lb ft @ 3000rpm (100lb ft @ 4250rpm)

Transmission 5-speed manual, front-wheel drive

Performance 0-62mph 13.7sec (9.7sec), top speed 104mph (108mph), 43.5mpg (37.2mpg), 154g/km CO2 (182g/km)

How heavy 905kg (944kg)

Made of Steel

Length/width/height (mm) 3620 (3650)/1827/1385 (1409)

 

 

How heavy 905kg (944kg)

Made of Steel

Length/width/height (mm) 3620 (3650)/1827/1385 (1409)

 

 

Specs

Price when new: £7,095
On sale in the UK: Now
Engine: 1297cc (1597cc) 8v 4-cyl, 69bhp @ 5500rpm (94bhp @ 5500rpm), 78lb ft @ 3000rpm (100lb ft @ 4250rpm) - (SportKa in brackets)
Transmission: Five-speed manual, front-wheel drive
Performance: 13.7sec (9.7sec) 0-62mph, 104mph (108mph), 43.5mpg (37.2mpg), 154g/km CO2 (182g/km)
Weight / material: 905kg (944kg)
Dimensions (length/width/height in mm): 3620 (3650)/1827/1385 (1409)

Rivals

Ford Ka Cars for Sale

View all Ford Ka Cars for Sale

Ford Ka Leasing Deals

Photo Gallery

  • Ford SportKa rear three-quarter
  • Ford SportKa front three-quarter
  • Ford Ka front three-quarter
  • Ford Ka interior
Comments