Ford Ka Hatchback 1996-2008

Ford Ka Hatchback 1996-2008

Review by it
Monday, May 16, 2016


  • Great handling and driving experience
  • Good quality and reliability
  • Fuel-efficient engines
  • Great exterior design, especially with body-painted bumpers
  • An easy car to drive in the city


  • The pre-2000 engines are not that great
  • It is quite small and crammed, offering limited boot space


The Ka was launched in 1996 as a production version of a Ghia Saetta concept car. It was a bold little car establishing the 'New Edge' design fascia adapted by Ford in the mid 1990s. During its 12 years of production, the 1st generation Ka won many accolades for its design, practicality and reliability. It is one of the most popular mini cars in the world and it does deserve its popularity.

Exterior and Interior

As one of the first experiments at mastering the 'New Edge' design, many expected that the Ka would remain an experiment and disappear very soon. Exactly the opposite happened. The Ka established itself as one of the longest running success stories of the European Ford. Although the Ka looks very modern, it's actually based on the 4th generation Ford Fiesta, which is quite difficult to comprehend because the cars feel very different. It's exterior design is catchy and novel. The Ka is cool and recognisable. The only thing that the critics couldn't drop was the bulky black bumpers. The Ford designers claimed that those were put in place to avoid parking damage in the tight urban car parks. The specially made plastic is very sturdy and scratch resistant. Eventually, three years in the production, the designers finally yielded to the public pressure and replaced the ugly black plastic bits with similar shape bumpers nicely painted in the body colour. Although the car looks small, it can accommodate four adult passengers and a small amount of luggage. It will feel rather confined, but as a city car it is perfect. The Ka is well equipped and assembled with quality in mind. Although the interior materials are not expensive, the overall impression is good and the bits don't come off even on older Kas. The driving seat is comfortable and for the unbeatable price it offered as a new car, the Ka was indeed a great buy.

Performance and Economy

The car is very affordable and it will meet even the tightest of budgets. The tiny 1.3-litre engine returns 43mpg, which is a great fuel economy. Despite its small size and power output, the engine is good enough for what is expected of it. The Ka is a light car and it doesn't feel as if it needed a bigger engine. The only time it slightly struggles is when it is fully loaded with 4 people and baggage. For a higher spec and better driving experience you can choose a 1.6-litre petrol version. This engine was installed on SportKa and StreetKa models. The engine offers 37mpg and is much more fun. Although it is cheap to run, you often find that maintaining the Ka is more expensive than other mini cars. It might be a good idea to avoid the Ka's made during the first couple of years of production. They come with an out-dated version of the 1.3-litre engine.

Like to Drive

Thanks to its compact size and long wheelbase, it's an interesting car to drive. Being a light car, it will accelerate quickly. Its handling is superb, comfortable drive is offered even on bumpy surfaces. There is a bit of body roll because of the rear suspension but it's not something that bothers the driver too much. All in all, it's one of the easiest cars to drive, it mingles perfectly in city traffic and is very convenient to park. The only let down is the interior noise as there is not much insulation, this can lead to the car feeling tinny.

Faults and Repairs

It does require frequent servicing to keep the car in good shape. That's probably where you'll be spending the most of money. If maintained properly, the car has the potential for a hassle-free experience. Its engines and mechanical gearboxes are sturdy and reliable.