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Ford Ka hatchback (2009 – ) expert review

By Andy Pringle, 10th April 2014

The verdict

The Ford Ka offers great economy and reliability while its light steering makes it perfect for the city.

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Expert rating:

3.4

Pros

  • Very economical
  • Easy to park
  • Smart interior

Cons

  • Fussy styling
  • Lacks drivability of previous Ka
  • Lairy exterior options

Full Review

1. Exterior

The Fiesta and Mondeo may wear Ford’s ‘Kinetic Design’ well, but it’s not quite so successful on the Ka. That said, it is not a bad-looking car in any respect, and even the most basic models have body-coloured front and rear bumpers. From Edge trim upwards, the mirror housings are body-coloured, too; and, from Zetec upwards, you also get front foglights and alloy wheels. Higher up the range, Titanium, Grand Prix and Metal models are very smart, but the Ka doesn’t offer the same degree of personalisation you would get on, say, a Fiat 500 or even a Renault Twingo.

Our rating: 3

2. Interior

The interior has a bit more of the character the exterior is lacking, and is put together with Ford’s typical quality. However, it’s not all good news, as the gear stick is positioned close to the steering wheel, which has forced a compromise on the layout of the entertainment system: we quickly tired of reaching to grasp the controls for the radio/CD player. On top of that, the steering wheel can’t be adjusted for reach, and the basic Studio models don’t have a height-adjustable driver’s seat, so not everyone can get comfortable at the wheel. As you would expect, the more you spend, the smarter the interior of the car, but some of the combinations may well appear garish to some eyes.
Our rating: 3

3. Practicality

There’s plenty of room in the front of the Ka, and a couple of adults could cope with sitting in the back – but probably only for a short trip, as it’s a little more cramped than the best in the class. The boot, likewise, has a capacity of 224 litres, which isn’t too bad, but still some 25 litres or so short of the best in this class. Every model has folding rear seats, which drop down to leave a capacity of 747 litres, but again this is well short of the best, and in Studio- and Edge-trimmed cars, the rear seat is a one-piece affair, rather than being 50/50 split, as in the other models.
Our rating: 3

4. Ride and handling

Behind the wheel you find the steering is light – almost excessively so – making driving that bit less tiring, especially when slotting in and out of city traffic, and in and out of tight parking spaces for that matter. The Ka shares its underpinnings with the Fiat 500, and the ride comfort is generally good, with only larger potholes able to unsettle it. The Ford also feels more enjoyable to drive than the 500, being sharper through the bends thanks to its superior body control.
Our rating: 4

5. Performance

There is a diesel engine in the Ka, but it’s hard to make a case for it over the 1.2-litre petrol unit. Yes, the diesel has more pulling power and better economy than the petrol engine, but the Duratec petrol revs happily and gives the car more than enough performance for the kind of use a Ka can expect. The problem with the diesel engine is not the way it performs – on the contrary, it’s more flexible than the petrol – but how much it costs.
Our rating: 4

6. Running costs

One of the Ka’s problems is that its list prices look quite dear compared to some of its rivals, particularly those from the Volkswagen Group. On the other hand, no Ka will be expensive to run, with the petrol-engined model averaging the best part of 60mpg and the diesel some 10mpg better than that. However, the trouble with the diesel is that it costs considerably more to buy than the petrol unit, and you almost certainly won’t recoup that difference in better fuel economy or stronger residual values when you come to sell it. Unless you’re expecting to cover some serious mileage in your Ka, the petrol is likely to be the cheaper car to run.
Our rating: 4

7. Reliability

Potential owners should have little to worry about. Figures from Warranty Direct show that the Ka’s reliability is better than average, while most of the owners on our website are happy with their car’s reliability.
Our rating: 4

8. Safety

The Ka scored a four-star rating from Euro NCAP when it was tested back in 2008, but in other respects, Ford’s smallest car is rather off the pace. Above all, it only has two airbags fitted as standard, and if you want side airbags or stability control – which are standard on several rivals – you need to start ticking boxes on the options list, making the car even more expensive to buy.
Our rating: 2

9. Equipment

There’s a huge range of trims available in the Ka range, but we think it’s worth ignoring the basic Studio in favour of something a little more luxurious. Just stepping up to Edge, for example, adds air-conditioning, remote central locking and a height-adjustable driver’s seat. Zetec gives the Ka a sportier look, with alloy wheels, body-coloured mirrors and front foglights, while Titanium is the luxury option, with climate control, an advanced music system and smarter trim inside and out. Beyond that, the Grand Prix and Metal editions give the car a more bespoke look, but lift the price to an uncomfortably high level.
Our rating: 4

10. Why buy?

We have little doubt that the main attraction of the Ka will be its looks, but beyond that, it’s also a nice little car to drive and should suit the needs of most city car drivers.
Our rating: 3

Expert review 3.4stars

  • Exterior3
  • Interior3
  • Practicality3
  • Ride and handling4
  • Performance4
  • Running costs4
  • Reliability4
  • Safety2
  • Equipment4
  • Why buy?3

Our recommendations

Pick of the range:
Ka 1.2 Studio
The base model Ka still gets decent kit
Most economical
Ka 1.2
All models get the same engine, and as such, identical fuel consumption
Best avoided:
Ka 1.2 Titanium
Comes with plenty of kit, but it’s just too pricey for a Ka

The Ka shares its underpinnings with the Fiat 500, and the ride comfort is generally good, with only larger potholes able to unsettle it.