11 August 2011


How small changes can make a big difference to an already cracking small car.

YES, I am behind the wheel of yet another Ford, it also happens to be another Ka (it’s NOT pronounced Kay-Ay by the way). Compared to the last Ka I drove, this one is a 2003 example with the newer Duratec engine.

In late 2002, Ford updated its town toddler. The old pushrod Endura-E (nee Kent) engine was replaced with the single, overhead cam Duratec engine. In the following year, the warm SportKa and open-top StreetKa models were added to the Ka range. But we're concentrating on the standard Ka here.

One thing the older Ka was crying out for was a new engine. The old Endura-E engine was an ancient unit by 2002. Nevermind when Ford pensioned it off, it was already long tooth in 1996 when the Ka came onto the streets.

The Endura-E engine was a bag of nails. Harsh, noisy and wheezy. It's an asthmatic powerplant that runs out of breath at speed. The noisy, rattling tappets made it sound like a tractor. The old Endura-E (nee Kent) engine has its archaic roots stemming back to the Anglia from 1959.

So what's the Ka like with the newer engine it needed in the first place? The Duratec powerplant is a 1.3 litre single camshaft unit. Which is the same size as the Enudra-E engine - well it is a new head on an old block. The power has been uprated from 59bhp to 69bhp.

It may not sound like much more power with ten extra horses. But believe you and me, it's noticeable when you accelerate and get it up to speed.  The extra power in the Ka also makes its a lot more bearable when on the move - even on the motorway. Prior to this, fuel consumption is reduced and that should make the Ka even cheaper to run.

Let's put this plainly, the Duratec engine is a superior powerplant to the Endura-E unit. It's smoother and more refined because it's quieter on the move with (thankfully) the absence of noisy tappets. It's also a quicker and livelier engine, with a sharper throttle response and power delivery. Even though the changes are small, the differences are huge.

The newer engine further stimulates the driving experience. The Ka from the start, has always been a decent handling car. Light, nimble and agile that darts round corners with little body roll. The sharp and nicely weighted, compact steering is a delight to behold from your hands on the steering wheel. You are involved and part of the action with the communication and feedback you get. It inspires confidence that puts a smile on your face. The Ka is very much at home on a rural B-road as it is on the urban backstreets.

Besides the new engine in the Ka. Ford also did some minor changes to the Ka - mainly cosmetic. With the induction of body coloured door mirrors on all models except the base ones with matt black bumpers.

The eagle-eyed will notice the very subtle change to the dials and the analogue clock. Oh and it has also has a digital trip meter and odometer, which should stop them falling victim to being clocked.

Maybe it's just the particular car I drove, but the gearbox is even better. I can feel a more mechanical connection when slotting through the gears.

On my old Ka, the gearbox feels numb in comparison to this one. But it weren't notchy or rubbery when going up or down the cogs. As well as decent handling, the ride is good too. Whereas my car sits on 14" alloy wheels. This Ka is on 13" steel wheels and the ride's less crashy over bumps and potholes.

However, the Ka still has its flaws. For starters, it will be cramped for passengers sitting in the back. The boot is tiny and there's not really any storage. The doorbins are thin, and it doesn't even have a proper glovebox - though Ford did redesign the Ka's dashboard in 2005 when it finally got a glovebox.

This Ka I drove is more basic than my Ka Collection. It doesn't have alloy wheels, central locking, electric windows and an internal boot release. Though it's not always a bad thing with less equipment on board. Meaning there's less weight, less to go wrong and less to break or fall apart. Though, these are the only gripes I have with it and I shouldn't. But that means I can appreciate the Ka's basic shape.

To sum it all up, Ford built on the Ka's strengths. With the newer engine, it really makes a big difference to the Ka. It's perfect for suiting whatever mood you're in behind the wheel. It's thrifty when you're wanting to get enthusiastic, and it's a lot more bearable without the intrusive tappets when you're not. Altogether makes the Ka a much better all-rounder.

Many thanks to my stepfather Paul on lending me the Ka whilst mine if is off the road. It is very much appreciated.


2003 Ford Ka 1.3i

  • Engine: 1.3 litre OHC 8 Valve 4 Cylinder
  • Transmission: 5 Speed Manual
  • Power: 69bhp
  • Torque: 106nm
  • 0-62mph: 14.1secs
  • Top speed: 104mph
  • Economy: 45mpg
  • CO2: 154g/km
  • Equipment: colour coded bumpers, power steering, airbag, full size spare wheel

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