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Ford Sport Ka review (2003-2008)
Model: Ford Sport Ka
Bodystyle: 3-door hatchback
Engine: 1.6-litre four-cylinder petrol
Transmission: five-speed manual, front-wheel-drive
Date of Test: January 2006
What is it?
One of the most ancient models on Ford's price lists - at least in standard form. Don't write it off though, it's been the biggest selling sub-supermini sized car pretty much since it was introduced in 1996 and this is the Sport Ka, the range topper with a rorty little 1.6-litre engine in it and chunkier, less cutesy looks. Injecting a bit of life into the Ka might seem ridiculous, but even in standard form the Ka is a tidy handler, meaning the faster Sport Ka is an absolute giggle to drive.
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Where does it fit?
It may be one of the oldest models at Ford's forecourts but it's still the baby of the range. It slots in under the Fiesta as an inexpensive run around for city dwellers not needing anything more than two useable seats, a tiny rear passenger bench and a similarly dinky boot. Seriously though, unless you're the sort of person who needs to haul loads of gear around all the time or have a big family then the Ka could well be just what you're after. Competition comes in the form of a range of eastern alternatives from the budget makers and the triplet Citroen C1, Peugeot 107 and Toyota Aygo combo, though few rivals really offer such a sporting model with such diminutive proportions.
Is it for you?
Almost certainly, as the huge sales underline. Really, the Sport Ka is a touch niche, but it's a hugely entertaining drive and as a result very attractive indeed. If you're city bound and need compact transport and want it to put a big grin on your face out of town too the Sport Ka is just the thing. Even around town its eager nature makes racing away from the lights fun and allows you to exploit gaps in the traffic that bigger car drivers wouldn't dare attempt. It's tiny enough to always be able to find a parking space for, looks great and has a rambunctious character that makes it fantastically entertaining to drive.
What does it do well?
Make you smile. The Sport Ka is one of those cars that just feels right behind the wheel. Its snappy, precise gearbox and quick throttle response from the grunty 1.6-litre engine and sharp steering make it a fun drive. The engine makes a great noise yet is refined on the motorway and copes well with high speed cruising. Its compact dimensions ensure there's always a parking space for it, and visibility is good too when manoeuvring it into a space. Alloy wheels, driving lights the leather interior and the beefier styling makes it look a bit tougher, too.
What doesn't it do well?
As enjoyable as it is there's no denying the Ka's advancing years - it's been around forever and its packaging underlines this. Most rivals can offer more interior space for the same sort of road space and many also offer the option of two additional doors if you need to use the back seats for passengers. The boot is tiny, the driving position a touch sit-up-and-beg and the interior materials lacking in the sort of tactility that we've come to expect from the competition. Oh, and the stereo is rubbish.
What's it like to live with?
Of all the Kas the Sport Ka should be the easiest to live with. Obviously, you'll pay a bit more to insure it compared to the ordinary car, but the performance and the benefits it offers - primarily making the Ka a more useable companion on motorways and longer drives - is worth it. It still looks good and servicing should be trouble-free with a Ford dealer/specialist on just about every street corner. You might tire of the lack of bootspace and the pretty hopeless rear seats but you're unlikely to ever be anything but impressed by its huge charm.
How green is it?
Ah, a small stumbling block. The Sport Ka is has a quoted combined consumption figure of 37.2mpg. That's not nearly good enough given that's an ideal world figure rather than the reality. That and every single Fiesta (including the 2.0-litre ST and the 1.6-litre auto) can offer a better mpg figure and CO2 emissions output. Part of this is due to the age of the engine, the high 182g/km fairly shocking in the city car market. Plant a few big trees in your garden to soak up some of that CO2 it's producing if you want to drive it with a clearer conscience.
Would we buy it?
Oh yes. Emissions, economy and its advancing years aside the Sport Ka completely won us over. Hugely entertaining to drive and full of character its 95bhp engine might not grace it with lightening performance, but extracting what it does have is a real joy. Ignore the list prices too, as Kas are always available with big discounts if you're prepared to hunt around a bit. Others might be more spacious and benefit from the latest safety advances in their design, but we'd still recommend a test drive of one of these before you commit to a rival.
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