Review: Ford KA

An affordable-to-run and simple-to-drive small car

25 May 15 Tim Barnes-Clay

Pros

  • Economical engine

  • Great for city driving

  • Second hand ones are cheap to buy

Cons

  • Firm drive

  • Lack of room in the rear and boot

  • Not great on long journeys

Our expert rating

The Ford KA looked revolutionary when it was first unveiled in 1996. It came in three forms: a three-door hatchback, a two-door convertible called the StreetKa, and a sportier hatchback version, known as the SportKa.

An all–new, superior KA was launched at the end of 2008, but it lacked the pizzazz of the original.

Performance

The KA Mk 1 will put a grin on your face as you whizz through traffic and squeeze into parking spaces too small for many other cars. The engine is economical and it’s fairly refined too - not something you’d expect from a simple city car first launched nearly twenty years ago.

It’s not suited to long, frequent motorway journeys though. If you want the newer, less fun to drive Ford KA Mk 2, then the well-equipped 1.2 Zetec is the best model for power and efficiency.

Side of Ford KA in blue

Ride and handling

Many KAs have basic kit levels, but grab a newer model and the Ford could offer you pretty much all you need, as long as lengthy commutes aren’t on your agenda.

The car is agile and goes where you point it with arrow-like precision. There’s hardly any lean in bends and the suspension, although firm, is still comfortable.

Interior space

There’s a remarkable amount of head and legroom in the Ford’s front seats. However, the story isn’t the same in the rear.

You have to be flexible to access the back seats, and there's very little space once you’ve shoe-horned your way into a seat. The boot is small too.

Interior of Ford KA

What to know before you buy

For the most part, the Ford KA is one of the most reliable secondhand cars around, with few failures and only minor repair bills. When looking at used cars, keep an eye out for cosmetic damage like poorly-fitted doors and rust.

Also listen out for noise in the older Mk1 engines - if you hear an excessive clatter coming from under the bonnet, it usually means there’s a problem.

A ticking or tapping that gets louder when you rev the engine is, in all probability, “tappet” noise caused either by low oil pressure, or worn or damaged parts. If you like the car, then check its oil level with the dipstick.

If it’s low, get the seller to top it back up to the full mark. If the engine is still making a din when you start it again, then walk away.

Rear of Ford KA

Alternative cars

The KA Mk 2 is still a great city car and rivals include the near-indistinguishable Citroën C1, Peugeot 106, Toyota Aygo and the Volkswagen Up!

The Fiat 500 and Panda, to which the newer KA is closely associated, are also worth a gander. Rivals to the earlier, funkier, KA Mk 1 include the original Kia Picanto, which is cost-effective, roomy and quite fun to drive.

Also look at the older Nissan Micra – an economical, small car with a great reputation for reliability.

Alternative car to Ford KA - Fiat 500

Overall verdict

The initial Ford KA was a tremendously popular model because it was perfect for motorists wanting an affordable-to-run and simple-to-drive small car. The same is true today for people looking for a cheap, used, city runabout.

Its late-2008 replacement is more middle-of-the-road in terms of aesthetics, and offers better comfort, but it does cost a little more to buy secondhand.

On the whole, whether you go for a Mk1 or Mk2, the Ford KA is a cheeky little number. It makes a great first car if you’re new to driving and it will make a second, easy-on-the-pocket family runabout.

Expert rating

Performance

Reliability

Space & comfort

Running costs

Value for money

Overall