Ford Ka - Car Info
Ford Ka (pronounced "Ka", "car", or "K.A.") is a city car from the Ford Motor Company marketed in Europe and elsewhere. The European version is produced at Ford's Valencia plant in Southern Spain.
The car was introduced on September 11, 1996 as a small and low-cost follow-on to the Fiesta and Escort. The Ka is based on the same platform as the Fiesta, but with a radically different design. When the Ka was first introduced to the public it provoked mixed reactions due to its original and striking "New Edge" ovoid design, created by Jack Telnack. The car sold well, and the model range was expanded with the higher specification Ka2, and Ka3 (for the UK market).
Later on these models were given more appealing names: the Ka2 was renamed Ka Collection and the Ka3 was renamed Ka Luxury (later LuxuryKa). The Luxury version came with practically unheard of refinements in this sector, including a Quickclear heated windscreen, leather seats and standard air conditioning. There was also a Ka Sun Collection with a full-length fabric folding roof.
Besides the styling, the Ka, like its brethren Fiesta and Puma, was lauded for its nimble handling. Under Richard Parry-Jones' supervision, the suspension and steering settings allowed for spirited cornering not unlike the original Mini. Like Renault's Twingo, the main drawback was the Ka's 1300 cc OHV 4-cylinder Endura-E engine, a design dating back to the 1960s Kent engine used in the Ford Anglia. Although not very modern, it provided enough torque to allow relaxed if not spirited driving. In 2002 the Endura-E was replaced by the overhead cam Duratec engine based on the same block.
The Ka did not sell that well at first, largely due to its radical styling, but it did go on to sell very well, outliving the Fiesta and Puma. The Ka has also proved highly profitable for Ford, despite its low-selling price, largely due to the lack of spending required in its development.
In 2003 the Ka brand was diversified, with the addition of a new SportKa featuring a sporty body kit and a convertible called StreetKa, launched with the help of pop singer Kylie Minogue. Both of these came with a new 1.6 L 8-valve Duratec engine producing 95 hp.
The Ka today
A decade on, the Ka continues to be one of the best selling vehicles in the competitive European sub-B segment market. The StreetKa is sometimes dubbed as "the poor man's Audi TT" due to its resemblance to that car. However, the StreetKa will be phased out in 2006.
In Latin America, the Ka got a facelift in 2003 and is now slightly different externally and more aggressive than the European model; the main noticeable difference is on the rear, with taller lights. The other difference from the European model is the lack of soundproofing, gradually removed each year since 2000 as a way to cut down costs, following what other Brazilian car makers previously did. The engine is a Zetec Rocam 1.6 L with 95 hp.
There is an urban legend, once printed by the UK's Practical Classics magazine, that the original concept of the Ka was to have a modern two stroke engine, and that the venerable Kent Crossflow unit was the only appropriately-sized engine available at short notice when the two stroke idea proved unworkable.
Until 1999, bumpers were only available in black plastic, with something of a tendancy to fade to a blotchy grey.
The Ka Collection from 1999 offered colour-coded bumpers of a smoother material and facelifted design resembling Ford Focus wheel arch bumps. Other Ka models took on these bumpers since, which helped to modernise the appearance of the car. Power steering has always been standard on the Ka, but it could be opted-out offering a small discount to the buyer. Very few such vehicles are likely to exist. The radio mount is sculpted to take the original equipment Ford radio, probably built by Philips. Replacement bezels are available to allow fitment of standard mounting stereo equipment.
In order to change the headlamp bulb on the right-hand side of the vehicle, the bumper must be removed, followed by the headlamp unit itself. This is a relatively common design failing in modern cars. The taper-fit sparkplugs are notorious for rusting into the cylinder head. Frequently the head has to be removed and sent to a machine shop when the time comes to change the plugs. The plastic bumpers were clearly in part intended to prevent wheelarch rust, but instead the Ka is known to rust in the welds under the bonnet and tailgate, and where the outer sills are shaped around the doors. The black painted metal supports for the rear windows shed their paint and develop surface rust almost from new.
A 2005 survey by the UK women's insurance company Diamondfound that the StreetKa was three times more likely to be driven by hairdressers than by workers in any other occupation.