Ford Ka - Long Term Test review

"That it puts a grin on your face when all around are losing theirs probably says all...."

The car has had a demanding workout so far, first on our company fleet and then into the hands of the most demanding family known to man: namely, mine. Step forward my wife Katie and our two daughters Caris, who is 10, Ellie who is 7 and Amy who is 3. All four have developed an extremely acute perspective on what they like and don't like about modern cars. Both older girls are picked up every day from school with snacks and (hopefully healthy) treats, so reduce the interior of any school run transport to that of an urban bus shelter within minutes. Crushed crisps, sticky fingermarks and soft drink spillages are par for the course. In vain, I've asked my wife to stick to fruit - but that's another story. Anyway, what did they make of the Ka, day-in and day-out? Well things got off to a bad start by dint of the fact that this model only comes with three doors. Still, that's how it is and in any case, merit points were regained when a cursory inspection was made of the extras included on the Zetec-trimmed TDCi model available for test (electric windows, power steering, alloy wheels and air conditioning). Even in standard form, this sporty Ka looks a comprehensive package for buyers seeking an economical citycar with a sporty edge and though in this form, it isn't cheap (at around £10,500), if we'd gone for the petrol version that most customers choose, we would have paid from around £8,000. Not that the Crouch family were interested in all this detail. They were more bothered about the performance of the Ford-fit CD stereo (very satisfying for a loud rendition of 'With Love From Me To You' - they're into the Beatles at present). My wife wasn't hugely gripped by the performance of the 1.3-litre TDCi diesel engine (13.1 seconds from rest to sixty) but she loved the regular 68mpg return at the pumps.

The interior trim and plastics didn't look that impressive at first glance but they did prove easy to wipe clean - which is far more important. The car has a purposeful stance with clean bold lines around the front end and a tidy rear where the light clusters are positioned high up out of harm's way. There's nothing fussy about the detailing with the designers obviously preferring to keep things solid and chunky, two themes that are echoed on the inside of the vehicle. You might mistake this Ka as a shrunken version of the Fiesta supermini from the outside but inside, it's very much its own car - and much more avant garde, with what Ford like to call a 'kinetic' design philosophy. One thing that the old Ka wasn't was roomy and practical. The second generation car isn't huge of course (there's only so much you can do with a bodyshell this small and you still only get three doors) but it is a huge improvement. 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 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 citycar but 224 litres won't go that far after a major supermarket splurge. Fold the rear seats and 747 litres is opened up. And safety? Well, at the heart of the vehicle is a tough bodyshell, which has been developed to provide a strong, stable crash structure to protect passengers in case of an accident. This has been combined with an Intelligent Protection System (IPS), which integrates airbags, restraint systems and seating technologies to provide what Ford claims is a highly effective occupant safety system. At the wheel, my wife found that the driving position was excellent and that there was good scope for adjustment so that passengers of varying shapes and sizes had no problem getting comfortable. She awarded plus points to the leather-covered steering wheel ("which has a nice feel to it") and the positioning of the gear lever ("perfectly placed quite high on your left side"). On the road, both of us agreed that the steering had a reassuringly weighty feel and thought the gearchange to be superb with its precise short-throw action. The 1.3-litre TDCi engine generates 75bhp and puts a decent about of low down urge at the driver's disposal. This TDCi is quite refined when cruising: you just get that gruff oil-burning engine note when accelerating up to speed. The main sound inside the car is the road roar and this can become intrusive over time but the engine certainly doesn't make its presence felt too overtly. Overall, we've concluded that the second generation Ka is a worthy successor to the original, though whether it will repeat that car's sales success in these more difficult times is another question entirely. What's certain is that this is a car designed precisely for those times. That it puts a grin on your face when all around are losing theirs probably says all.

Facts at a Glance

Facts At A Glance CAR: Ford Ka 1.3 TDCi PRICE: £10,595 - 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

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