Ford Ka - Small Is Beautiful review

".size is very much on the Ka's side"

We're not just talking about the chaos of major city centres here. These days, every moderately sized town has congestion problems of one sort or another and if you do most of your driving in or around one, a city car like the Ford Ka is purpose-built for the role. If you have three kids, play the Double Bass or are a degenerate shopaholic, the space inside a vehicle like the Ka might be a problem. It isn't particularly roomy but get over that and real advantages start to present themselves. Like any good city car, the Ka pushes its wheels out to the four corners of its body shell. This maximises the interior space it's possible to achieve within a small footprint but it also enhances handling and manoeuvrability. If not quite a sixpence, the Ka can turn on a manhole cover, opening up endless possibilities for cheeky U-turns and wriggles into parking bays that it would be inadvisable to attempt in a larger vehicle. When trying to execute a tricky parallel park with a seemingly endless row of other cars waiting and glaring, your margin for error is so much wider in a small, nimble vehicle like the Ka. You're far more likely to squeeze in at the first attempt and that in itself can take the pressure off. It's a similar story when nipping into gaps in the traffic. It's easy to judge the Ka's extremities and Ford has built in decent visibility to help the driver further.

The diesel engine in our Ka is a 1.3-litre common-rail unit was purloined from Fiat along with the chassis (the Ka rides on the same underpinnings as the Fiat 500 and Panda). It's an impressive unit with a power output of 74bhp and a very linear power delivery that irons out any trace of turbo lag. It's perfectly possible to see how the diesel option could be preferred over the Ka's 1.2-litre petrol alternative. It's got extra muscle in the shape of 145Nm of torque that's produced from 1,500rpm, which makes for a relaxed drive with decent in-gear acceleration. This is ideal when you need to pull out of a junction and get up to speed quickly. The diesel is noisier than the petrol but not too noisy if you forgo the upper reaches of the rev range. The Ka sits you in quite an upright position behind the wheel, which is great for getting in and out as well as for seeing where you're going but keen drivers may want a lower, sportier set-up. The same goes for the suspension which feels softer than we've come to expect from modern Fords. Ride quality is very impressive for a small car and speed humps are taken in the Ka's stride but this model doesn't quite match the fun factor of the iconic original Ka. Ford has come up with a vehicle that seems very well judged for the mainstream city car customer but which might prove less involving for buyers expecting the marque's usual dynamic driving experience. As we've said, space inside isn't particularly generous but we've also found the Ka to be quite practical for a three-door city car. There's an airy feel inside, with an abundance of headroom for front seat occupants and space for a couple of six footers to occupy the rear without doing themselves a major mischief. The array of storage options has been very well thought out, with useful door pockets, numerous small cubbies and an unpromising glovebox flap that opens to reveal a prodigious area behind. The boot too is of a useful size for a city car but 224 litres won't go that far after a major supermarket splurge. Fold the rear seats and 747 litres is opened up. Looking good is as important as getting around town effectively to some buyers and the Ka can do the job here too. The styling is certainly generic Ford, in stark contrast to the original Ka which took a flame thrower to the rule book with its riot of curves. That said, it's still a great looking little car with the Ford 'Kinetic' design themes giving it a sporty modern flavour. It's in contrast to the retro approach favoured by the MINI and the Fiat 500. The Zetec trim level helps here too. This supposedly sporty specification level adds front fog lights and alloy wheels to enhance the look of the car. We managed to resist the urge but it's also the Zetec trim that can be ordered with the Ka's various customisation packages. For small and not so small premiums, it's possible to select all kinds of fruity colour schemes which are applied to the inside and outside of the Ka. They won't be to everyone's taste but if you want your Ka to stand out, they'll do that for you and then some. We got ours in black. The Ka isn't called a city car for no reason. Its compact dimensions and nimble handling make it a breeze to pilot through the urban jungle. It's affordable and economical, keeping the costs down too. The interior isn't massive and although the Ford will tackle long journeys without too much drama, motorists covering higher mileages or with larger families may want something larger. In town, however, size is very much on the Ka's side.

Facts at a Glance

Facts At A Glance CAR: Ford Ka 1.3 TDCi PRICE: £11,445 - on the road INSURANCE GROUP: 2 CO2 EMISSIONS: 112g/km PERFORMANCE: [1.3 TDCi Duratorq] 0-60mph 13.1s / Max Speed 100mph FUEL CONSUMPTION: [1.3 TDCi Duratorq] (combined) 67.3mpg STANDARD SAFETY FEATURES: Twin front & side airbags WILL IT FIT IN YOUR GARAGE?: length/width/heightmm 3620/1658/1505mm