08 March 2011

DRIVEN: Ford Ka Collection

If you’re a cash-strapped keen driver. Does the Ford Ka fit the bill?

WHEN Ford launched the original Ka in 1996. It was a breath of fresh air to the conservative Euroboxes from the 1990s. It was also one of the cars that earned the Blue Oval a reputation of building fun-to-drive cars.

The Ka did not look like a typical Ford with its adventurous styling. Its toy-like appearance and curvaceous shape with the wraparound bumpers penned by Ford's then-chief designer, Claude Lobo, who pioneered Ford's New Edge design language. He also designed the equally radical Focus and Puma models that later followed on.

No other cars looked quite like the original Ka, which divided many peoples opinions. It was small but perfectly formed with a love or loathe affair on the looks. Which has matured well over time and still retains that cheeky, youthful image.

Considering that it was in production for 12 years virtually unchanged. That's a testament to the car's design in my eyes. My Ka Collection I drove, with the colour coded bumpers and alloy wheels doesn't look like a ten year old car. As you'll see with the pictures.

Inside, the original Ka is just as distinctive. With curvaceous shapes mimicking the outside. With an oval shaped dashboard, door panels and analogue clock. Some models had them quirky flip-round gloveboxes. The example I drove (being my car) didn’t have one - not sure whether to call it a glovebox as it's ridiculously small.

You’ll also notice how minimally upholstered the Ka's interior is; especially with the amount of painted metal on show in the cabin. Which still looks modern but very much in its time. Even though the Ka looks tiny on the outside. As long as you're not sitting on the rear bench - especially behind taller drivers because it's cramped in the rear.

Adding insult to injury is the lack of storage. Like no proper glovebox for storing CDs and the door bins are thin. But there is a storage compartment in the rear - which is bigger than the so-called glovebox stupidly enough.

After all, I shouldn't be too harsh on Ford's town toddler here as it's a small car at the end of the day. In its defence, the Ka is actually quite airy and spacious up front. It's bigger inside than you'd first think on the outside before stepping in. The Ka also has split folding rear seats to increase boot space.

Under the skin, the Ka is very much a conventional motor. As it's based on a Fiesta - something you would be hard pressed to believe. The Ka sits on a shorter platform, with the wheels pushed at each corner. Like most Fords, the Ka should have the mechanical simplicity of a door hinge.

All standard Kas had only one engine on offer. The Ka I drove has the humble 60bhp, 1.3 litre, 8 valve Endura-E (nee Kent) engine. That was also used in the Fiesta and the Escort. Cue the noisy tappets...

Ford did later update the Ka by replacing the old Endura-E overhead valve, pushrod engine in 2002. With the 70 bhp, overhead camshaft Duratec unit being smoother, quicker and more refined than the old unit. Having said that, the Duratec engine is really a new head on an old engine block. With its archaic roots stemming back to the old Ford Anglia.

If you wanted more oomph, Ford did make a faster SportKa. Often known as the Ka's Evil Twin. They also made an open-top StreetKa if you want the wind in your hair. Which Kylie Minogue famously modelled alongside the Ka's topless sister on Ford's advertising campaign for the Ka's topless sister.

Out on the road, the Ka is capable of holding its own. The Ka's good on urban roads for setting off and zipping through traffic in towns and cities. On the open roads, the Ka doesn't feel out of depth and it doesn't struggle to keep up with the traffic. Though it does get noisy at higher speeds - like on motorways. Mind you, they weren't designed to be motorway cruisers were they?

What the Ka lacks in grunt, space and refinement. It more than makes up for in other areas. Out on the country roads is where you can get the best out of the baby Ford. Take the Ka out on a B-road blast, you'll discover on what a great chassis this car has.

The Ka's pin sharp, direct and nicely weighted steering is involving and rewarding for the keen driver. With lots of communication and feedback from the steering inspires confidence. It darts round corners with little bodyroll and has plenty of grip from the relatively skinny tyres.

Adding sweetness to the sugar is the smooth and relatively slick gearbox. It gives a short and positive throw, with a light clutch adds to the joy of driving. Where you can do heel and toe gear changes. Add the rather nippy and spirited engine. Happily working together with the clutch and steering like footy team-mates rather than work colleagues. Feeling part of the action when driving the Ka, which engages and entertains the driver. It has an overall feel-good factor about it.

I don't know if it's just this car I drove, but what I'm not too keen on when driving the Ka is the brakes. They're far too soft and lack any bite or feel. It was like I was stepping on porridge, and they don't feel like they'll come to a halt quickly enough - even though it does - from the numb braking, right up until the last metre.

Another criticism is the turning circle. It's pretty wide for a small car, as you can get from lock to lock in about three full turns. However, these are only minor gripes, so it's not enough to spoil the fun behind the wheel.

As you'll be having fun, hurling the Ka down the country lanes like a go-kart. It won't be at an expense of your mates on board being sick, or having a bad back. The soft suspension and anti-roll bar set up gives the Ka a rather supple ride. That helps with the relatively soft, round seats providing plenty of support which makes it comfortable to travel in on longer journeys.

To sum it all up, the original Ford Ka is a cracking little car. They're cheap, cheerful cars that are fun to drive. The original Ka has become something of a cult icon with Kas gaining a loyal following.

They make a great first car for young, cash-strapped keen drivers. Or for those who want a cheap and unpretentious little runaround as a second car. Image conscious "macho" young lads here should take note: the Ka is a bit like ice tea on wheels. Don't knock it until you've driven one. You might surprise yourself...


2000 Ford Ka Collection

  • Engine: 1.3 litre OHV 8 Valve 4 Cylinder
  • Transmission: 5 Speed Manual
  • Power: 59bhp
  • Torque: 105nm
  • 0-62mph: 14.3secs
  • Top speed: 96mph
  • Economy: 42mpg
  • CO2: 154g/km
  • Equipment: Electric windows, Central locking, airbag, alloy wheels, colour coded bumpers, power steering, internal boot release, full-size spare wheel


  1. Well written review. Fun cars they are but Ford Kas also rust for fun.

    1. Rust is the Ka's worst enemy. That was one of the very reasons I had to get shot of the one I owned.


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