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What Car? says

4 out of 5 stars

For The Ka is fun to drive, stylish and cheap to run

Against The engine isn't that refined or frugal. The boot is small

Verdict A cracking car for new and keen drivers

Go for… Post 2002 1.3 Collection

Avoid… Pre-June '97 cars

Ford Ka Hatchback
  • 1. There's a surprising amount of space in the front, but passengers in the back are much worse off
  • 2. The suspension is the most common source of problems
  • 3. Check for rust on older cars, particularly on the lower edge of the doors and around the wheelarches
  • 4. Rear space is inevitably tight, and trying to get in or out of the back is tricky
  • 5. The boot is very small, but that's perhaps no great surprise, given the overall size of the Ka
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Ford Ka Hatchback full review with expert trade views

Here's proof that price can have nothing whatsoever to do with driving fun.

The Ka costs buttons to buy and run, yet it changes direction with the agility and speed of a Six Nations winger. There's minimal lean in corners or bounce over bumps, but the firm suspension still manages to dish up a well-damped, comfortable ride.

Less good is the 1.3-litre engine, which was dropped from the rest of the Ford line-up some time ago, and you can see why. Newer powerplants are easier on the juice, rev more cleanly and are less noisy at higher speed. However, it dishes up strong mid-range pull and, at motorway pace, wind and road noise are well suppressed.

Anyone in the front will enjoy a surprising amount of space in the practical cabin, but those in the rear suffer. You have to be a contortionist to get in and out of the back of this three-door-only car, and there's precious little room when you get there.

Trade view

James Ruppert

Strong market for these, especially late plate models and 1.3 Collection

James Ruppert
Used car guru

There's only one engine in the main line-up - an old-tech 1.3-litre petrol - but a revised version in November 2002 raised the power output from 59bhp to 69bhp. This is our choice.

We say 'main line-up' because a SportKa version arrived in 2004 with a 94bhp 1.6-litre engine and lower, stiffer suspension that sharpens its responses still further with minimal sacrifice to ride comfort. It's the nicest Ka, but it costs a lot more than the standard Ka and is no hot hatch.

Instead, we'll settle for a 1.3 Ka in Collection trim, which captures the Ka's main appeal - plenty of low-cost smiles per gallon - but adds a welcome dose of creature comforts.

The earliest cars (pre-June 1997) had no power steering so we'd give them a miss. Initially, trim levels ran from Ka to Ka1, Ka2 and Ka3, but later cars changed the badging to Ka (basic), climbing through Style and Collection to Luxury.

Trade view

Duncan McLure-Fisher

One of the most reliable cars, with few failures and small repair bills

Duncan McLure-Fisher
Managing Director,
Warranty Direct

No way. This is low-cost motoring at its most entertaining. The Ka was cheap even when it was new.

It has been around since 1996, so there are plenty of second-hand ones around to suit every budget, from cheap to extremely cheap.

There's always likely to be a willing market for them, too, so you should have little trouble off-loading one.

It loses value fairly slowly, which keeps whole-life costs down, but the real clinchers are the remarkably low service and maintenance costs, and the group 2 insurance for most versions - ideal for those who have just passed their test.

Mind you, none are expensive. Luxury trim slots into group 4 (hardly wallet-sapping) and the SportKa is group 6.

The only complaint you'll hear from owners is the amount they spend on fuel. It's all relative, though, because 1.3-litre cars offer a reasonable official average of 42-46mpg and the 1.6 is good for just over 35mpg.

Trade view

James Ruppert

Strong market for these, especially late plate models and 1.3 Collection

James Ruppert
Used car guru

These are tough little cookies. The mechanicals were well proven, largely in Fiestas, before they were pressed into service in the Ka, and they give little trouble.

Suspension faults are by far the most common problem, according to data held by Warranty Direct, but the independent warranty provider also reports that repairs on Ford Kas are about as cheap as it gets.

Electrical problems are the next most likely fault, although there's little to go wrong, since the Ka avoids complicated electronic kit.

Check, too, for rust on older cars - the lower edge of the doors and around the wheelarches particularly.

It's also worth being aware that changing a front light bulb is a really time-consuming, fiddly job. That clearly shouldn't stop you buying a car with a blown light - but make it a condition of sale that the seller changes it before you hand over your cash.

Trade view

Duncan McLure-Fisher

One of the most reliable cars, with few failures and small repair bills

Duncan McLure-Fisher
Managing Director,
Warranty Direct
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