BY ANDY ENRIGHT
Find yourself in the market for a used supermini convertible and you tend to be faced with a run of depressing choices. You can either opt for the sort of hatchback conversion that looks like a pram or you can opt for the sort of 'sporting' coupe-convertible car with folding metal roofs that tend to malfunction, leaving you drenched in the throes of the British 'summer'. Most give up on this sector and buy a proper roadster such as an MG TF or a Mazda MX-5 but salvation arrived in 2003 in the pert shape of Ford's Streetka. It was small, it looked the part and it was fun to drive. Was that really so difficult? Tracking down a used example may be a little more difficult than working up the enthusiasm in the first instance. Although the Streetka sold in decent numbers, owners seem strangely unwilling to divest themselves of the baby Ford. Your best bet may well be a low mileage demonstrator from a Ford franchised dealer. Don't expect too many outrageous bargains even if you do choose to buy in the traditional convertible 'dead period' in late autumn.
Models Covered: (2dr convertible 1.6 [Streetka, Streetka Winter Edition])
Quite why it took fully seven years for Ford to realise that a convertible Ka might make hot cakes look a sticky line is anyone's guess. Designs for the Streetka had been circulating within the Ford empire for years before a prototype ever saw the light of day, the Turin Show of 2000 being the first public airing for the design. Fortunately for us, Ford timed the production launch of the Streetka to coincide with the introduction into the Ka range of a decently powerful engine in the form of the 95bhp 1.6-litre Duratec. For years enthusiasts had raved over the Ka's handling prowess and begged Ford to give it more power. The Streetka retains a superb chassis balance and many feel that if a bigger engine would fit beneath that tiny bonnet, the Ka would be more than capable of doing it justice. Winter 2003 saw the launch of the Streetka Winter Edition, a limited run series that included a detachable hard top to keep out the worst ravages of the British elements. The StreetKa disappeared from Ford's new car range in 2007.
What You Get
The standard Streetka is fitted with anti-lock brakes, a cloth roof, remote central locking, twin airbags, a height adjustable driver's seat, 16-inch alloy wheels, an alarm, power heated door mirrors, front fog lamps, a CD based stereo and electric windows. Should you want an even better equipped version, the Luxury Streetka adds leather trim, heated seats, height adjustment for the passenger seats, air conditioning and a heated windscreen. Options include metallic paint, a CD autochanger and a climate pack (air con and the heated screen). With seating strictly for two, the Streetka has an intimate feel to the cabin. Many of the interior parts are standard Ford fare, but the addition of a Puma-style metallic gearknob and some metallic detailing on the dashboard and the steering wheel jollies things up a little. Unlike most of today's state of the art roadsters, the Streetka does without an electric folding hardtop, relying instead on a manually folding soft top that can be stowed in less than 30 seconds. Beneath the roof mechanism is a storage space that can accommodate a golf bag. Another lockable box sits between the front seats giving a total stowage space of 188 litres.
What You Pay
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What to Look For
Mainly cosmetic damage (the headlamps in particular aren't cheap). Inspect the hood carefully for any rips or discolouration. The front tyres will also warrant inspection as an enthusiastically driven Streetka can have a surprising appetite for rubber. The engine and gearbox are both very tough units and little has been reported to go wrong. The seat runners have been known to rattle somewhat but this is an easy fix.
(approx) A clutch assembly is around £75. Front brakepads are around £45, a full exhaust about £90, a catalyst about £200 and an alternator (exchange) around £115. A headlamp is about £95.
On the Road
Powered by that 1.6-litre Duratec petrol engine that's good for 95bhp, the Streetka is much more than a Ka with its head scissored off. With only the bonnet and front light assembly shared with the standard Ka, this city funster is a vastly different proposition. The track is wider at both front and rear and the suspension is a good deal stiffer, giving the Streetka a more solid platform than the Ka. Couple this with the punchy South African-built engine and you have a car that'll be guaranteed to put a grin on the most jaded driver's face. Given that the standard Ka with it's somewhat wheezy 1.3-litre engine is still great fun to steer, the Streetka is quite a blast. A sprint to 60mph in 12.1 seconds may not sound rapid enough to incinerate the trousers of your average bar room petrolhead, but the engine has been engineered for low end torque and boasts a sporty exhaust note. The fuel consumption figure of 36mpg will satisfy all but the most tight-fisted, but the C02 emissions figure of 189g/km isn't the most impressive around. The steering has also been tuned for a sportier feel and now requires just 2.6 turns from lock to lock.
When mediocrity would have sufficed, Ford went the extra mile and created a genuinely fun supermini convertible. If you can prise the keys to one from its owners grasp, consider yourself very privileged indeed.