The Ford Ka was launched in the UK in 1996. Its futuristic looks were greeted with a mixture of surprise, admiration and ridicule and it has since become, in its own small way, a motoring icon.
Originally it was only made available with Ford's reliable Endura-E 1.3 litre engine, taken directly from the Fiesta. The base Ka and higher-spec Ka 2 were offered, the Ka 2 having an adjustable driver's seat, a rear seat head restraint and, most notably, power steering. All versions were supplied with driver's air bag, tinted glass and stereo. In 1997 power steering was made standard across the range although it could be omitted upon customer request.
In June 1997 the even plusher used Ford Ka 3 was added to the range, this model featured alloy wheels, CD player, air conditioning and metallic paint. Several special editions were also released, for instance, the Green and Copper versions, both based on the Ka2 and the Black, based on the Ford Ka 3, released in 1999. The rather garish yellow Millennium variation was released in 2000.
Also in 2000, the second hand Ford Ka 2 disappeared and was replaced by the Ka Collection defined by its bright colour choices and painted bumpers. In 2001 the cheap Ford Ka 1 became the Ford Ka Now.
In late 2001, the approved Ford Ka Style was released and the Ka Now was no more. At the same time the basic Ka became £500 cheaper. 2002 saw the introduction of the 1.6 litre Ford Sportka.
The range then remained largely unchanged until 2008 when the marque was totally revamped by Ford and the second generation new Ford Ka was released. For this version Ford teamed up with Fiat to use their very highly-regarded diesel engine. The new range offered a 1.2 litre petrol engine and 1.3 litre diesel version. The trim levels were known as the Ka Style, Style+ and Zetec. Much emphasis was placed on the opportunity to personalise your used Ford Ka with several styling packs and colour schemes available.
In 2010 the trim levels were re-jigged, starting with the entry-level Ford Ka Studio followed by the Edge, Zetec and Titanium.
Bang for your buck
The original approved Ford Ka is all about charisma. It looks good and it drives better than most superminis. Even all these years on, no other car looks like a Ka. The same cannot be said of the second generation Ka which resembles a slightly more elegant Fiesta. Inside however, it is much improved and feels like the kind of interior you would expect to find in a much more expensive car. The later Ford Ka models are also supplied with an impressive range of features as standard: MP3 compatible CD stereo system with an auxiliary input, twin air bags, power steering, adjustable steering wheel and ABS brakes. The most popular choice is the Zetec which added alloy wheels, fog lights and a more racy appearance.
What you'll pay
A used Ford Ka for sale can be picked up for as little as £900 for a 1997 model. An 05-plate Luxury will set you back around £4200. A 2008 Style will still command £5000, with a Ford SportKa from the same year coming in at £6000.
Second generation Ford Ka's for sale start at around £7000 for a petrol Style from 2008. A diesel from the same year will be around £8500.
What to check
First generation second hand Ford Ka cars should be checked mainly for cosmetic damage, headlamps being particularly expensive. 1.3 litre versions should be checked for tappet noise. Like the original, the later Ka has an extremely reliable engine so mechanical issues shouldn't be a worry.
Replacement parts are plentiful and inexpensive. A clutch for the original Ka is around £75; about the same as a replacement headlamp. For the newer models you will find front brake pads for £30, rears for £20 and a door mirror for £50.
How it drives
Original Ford Ka cars for sale are not speedy but they handle well and are great for urban driving. There's plenty of room in the front but passengers in the rear won't want to travel far.
The second generation feels much less like a city car than its predecessor. Its rear anti-roll bar, missing from the original, braces the chassis and stabilised the Ka when cornering.
The diesel version is noisier than the petrol but not too bad at all if you keep the revs in check. Obviously the diesel is the more efficient of the two, coming at 67.2 miles per gallon compared to the petrol's 55 miles per gallon.