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heycar review

      Launch year
      2009
      Body type
      City car
      Fuel type
      Petrol, Diesel
heycar editorial team

Written by

heycar editorial team

00/10
heycar rating
“Tiny, tinny, cheap city runabout ”

Best bits

  • Very compact and easy to park
  • Decent to drive on faster roads
  • Cheap running costs

Not so great

  • Low-rent interior plastics
  • Tinny cabin is poorly isolated
  • Cramped rear seats and small boot

Read by

Ford Ka Exterior

Overall verdict

Ford Ka Interior Side

On the inside

Ford Ka Driving Back

Driving

Ford Ka Side

How much does it cost to run

Ford Ka Exterior

Prices, versions and specification

Overall verdict

"The Ford Ka is a three-door city car that is based on the popular Fiat 500. It doesn’t have the chic styling or wide range of personalisation options of its Italian sibling but is nicer to drive, and a lot cheaper to buy used."

Ford Ka Exterior

It was never as popular (or recognisable) as the cutesy original Ka, but it also had a lot of talented rivals to compete with, especially grown-up city cars like the Volkswagen Up, and roomier rivals from both Hyundai and Kia.


It was made for younger drivers, so it was very affordable (even when new) but the most basic specifications came quite poorly equipped as a result. In fact, they're so meagrely specced we'd avoid them altogether. Yet even higher grades miss out on infotainment essentials like Bluetooth and USB connectivity, showing its age.


Limited by its three-door design, the cabin feels quite cramped. The tall roofline means headroom is ok, but a distinct lack of legroom and narrow body mean it's pretty poor for carrying adults in the back on a longer trip. The boot is average for this type of car at 224 litres, but again plenty of rivals can squeeze in more luggage.


It came with a choice of two engines. There's a 1.2-litre petrol with 69PS, and or a rarer 1.3-litre diesel with 75bhp that was more economical but no quicker. Neither engine is particularly quick or modern in design, and both struggle to cope on faster, more flowing roads or the motorway, becoming strained and boomy at high speed.


The 1.2-litre is our pick. It may not be very fast, but pulls eagerly throughout the rev range, and send less buzz and vibration into the driver's seat and pedals at idle than some thrummy three-cylinder alternatives. It claims to return over 50mpg, but mid-forties is more realistic, quite poor for such a light and compact vehicle.


A five-speed manual gearbox is standard, with a nice positive shift, and the gear lever mounted close to the steering wheel. The Ka was never available with an automatic; even as an option, unusually for a small car. If you want to avoid changing gear yourself (both engines require fairly constant shifting) it won't be for you.


On the road, the Ka is good fun. The steering has decent feel, the body doesn't lean too much, and there is just enough grip from the skinny front tyres to make it engaging to find out where its limits lie. A tight turning circle and light controls keep things breezy when you're just pootling from A-to-B, but it can be quite jiggly.


Apart from its low price, there are not many reasons to pick a Ford Ka over any number of five-door city cars with a better safety record, plusher ride or increased practicality. Its flimsy interior trim and totally outmoded infotainment system will be major turn offs for some buyers, and there are plenty of rivals that are just as fun. 


Is the Ford Ka right for you?

The Ka is a super-compact three-door city car in the classic mould. So it's designed to transport two people and not much luggage over short distances in suburban settings, and it does that particular job pretty well.


Try and exceed those set parameters and you'll quickly expose its limitations. Motorway journeys are noisy affairs, the engines are short on puff, and the rear seats and boot are cramped and uncomfortable for adults.


As long as you don't mind having a runabout that works in town but gets out of its depth on quicker roads, it'll suit you fine. Buyers who also need some occasional practicality, or the added assurance of proper safety kit would do well to look elsewhere though, and while it's affordable to buy it also feels pretty cheap to sit inside.


It'll be a good car for first-time drivers who need to find their feet on the road in something easy to drive. The low running and maintenance costs, and decent fuel economy should help with this, but the lack of modern connectivity may be a deal-breaker for anyone who doesn't want to unplug when they step behind the wheel.

What’s the best Ford Ka model/engine to choose?

We would recommend you follow the herd and stick with the 1.2-litre petrol. This engine is certainly no firecracker, but provides adequate performance around town, and can return more than 50mpg in mixed driving. 


Yes, the diesel is more frugal, returning close to 70mpg, but used examples can have issues with their Diesel Particulate Filter (DPF), which is quite expensive to fix, so are best avoided on the used market.


Likewise, unless you're a real masochist, we can't see a reason to subject yourself to the discomfort of the stripped out Studio models. In fact, we'd skip straight to a Zetec, which at least has most essentials. You'll still need to closely check the spec list to see if the model you're looking at comes with Bluetooth or ESP.


The special edition Grand Prix and Metal trims are very highly equipped and look appealing inside and out, but their larger wheels do not do the jiggly low-speed ride many favours, and we'd avoid them as a result.


What other cars are similar to the Ford Ka?

These days the three-door city car is a dying breed. You can still get the Fiat 500, Peugeot 108 and Citroen C1 in this format though. The Fiat has more style and character than the Ford, but it's not as good to drive.


Meanwhile, the French duo have kept up with the times, with big touchscreen infotainment systems, proper smartphone connectivity, and vital safety equipment, such as electronic stability control and curtain airbags.


For a more grown-up and refined small car, we'd recommend the Volkswagen Up or Hyundai i10. These cars shine on the motorway and in town, with hushed cabins that isolate you from road and wind noise, and big boots. They're also more efficient than the Ford, and feel a bit more urgent, with a wider range of engines to pick.


If practicality is really important, we'd be tempted to look at this car's replacement the Ford Ka+, or move up a class and check out the cheaper versions of the Skoda Fabia or Hyundai i20, both have heaps of space.


Learn more

Ford Ka Interior Side

On the inside

Ford Ka Driving Back

Driving

Ford Ka Side

How much does it cost to run

Ford Ka Exterior

Prices, versions and specification