Used Ford Ka Hatchback 1996 - 2008 review

Category: Small car

A cracking car for new and keen drivers

Used Ford Ka 1996-2009
  • Used Ford Ka 1996-2009
  • Used Ford Ka 1996-2009
Used Ford Ka Hatchback 1996 - 2008 review
Star rating

What's the used Ford Ka hatchback like?

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.


A cracking car for new and keen drivers

  • The Ka is fun to drive, stylish and cheap to run
  • The engine isn't that refined or frugal
  • The boot is small

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.

Ownership cost

What used Ford Ka hatchback will I get for my budget?

How much does it cost to run a Ford Ka hatchback?

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.

Our recommendations

Which used Ford Ka hatchback should I buy?

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.


What alternatives should I consider to a used Ford Ka hatchback?