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It was a bad week last week. I knew it was going to be a bad week by Sunday morning. Going out to load the car with garden rubbish (enough ivy for a university), we discover a Sainsbury’s To You van has hit my Megane. It didn’t just bruise it. Nope – it took the entire front moulded bumper off. I was, to say the least, less than impressed (especially with Sainsbury’s attitude, which was along the lines of ‘not our problem, talk to the van owner’s insurance company – but that’s another op).
ANYWAY, nothing could be done on Sunday. On Monday, my car was towed, and I was lent, as it’s replacement, an 02 registered Ka, with just under 5,000 miles on the clock. For five days I drove the Ka to and from work, and a bit more. And this is the result.
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ Size and Space ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ It's OK - but tiny! Having said that, the interior is roomier than you'd expect - there's plenty of headroom – My husband’s head was NOT brushing the ceiling – impressive given my husband is 6’5” tall - even my nearly 12 year old daughter in the back seemed reasonably comfortable - though that was on a short journey. Also, for such a tiny car, the driving position is quite high - I can still see over the tops of many other cars. I took no long journeys, but the seating position was reasonably comfortable - I had no back pain, nor discomfort once I made all the appropriate adjustments.
I didn’t actually use the boot, since my journeys were, as mentioned earlier, mostly to and from work. But the boot IS small – we would REALLY struggle to get our weekly shop in there – and forget putting a large pushchair easily into the boot.
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ The Drive ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ The brakes are mushy, but the gearbox is very good - responsive and easy to shift accurately. It's kind of strange driving a car where the tyres are at each of the four corners of the car - I mean almost exactly at the four corners. I felt very silly, as it should be easy to park such a small car, but because the ‘feel’ of it is so different as a result of its shape, I struggled (but I am a lousy parker anyway…).
It's a 'basic' model - 1.3 litre engine, but for all that, it's quite nippy, since it's a very light car. Apart from the weirdness of manoeuvring mentioned above, the steering was easy – it was responsive, yet didn’t over tax my feeble muscles.
Again, surprisingly for such a small car, there are some quite nasty blind spots – the main mirror is really too small (I couldn’t see the whole rear windscreen through it), and I had to really stretch to turn around sufficiently when reversing, so that the largish rear pillars didn’t impede my view.
The pedals (particularly the accelerator) are dinky and too close together - when my husband drives it, he struggles not to press two at once. Annoyingly, there is nowhere specific to rest your left foot when it’s not depressing the clutch.
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ Nifty Bits ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ Well…as I said, this was a basic model. Whilst it did have metallic paint (as if I care about things like that), it had no flashy digital readouts, no buttons to press (except on the radio).
The windows are windy windows - no electric doodads - not even central locking - though, of course, there are only two doors (three if you count the boot.) It took me AGES to work out how to lock the passenger door from the inside – there’s no obvious button or toggle. It turns out (through trial and error), that you push, instead of pull, the lever that opens the door. Gee, I hope that makes sense!
On the plus side, the radio was good - it has a much better sound system than my Renault does. The speakers were better, and the search facility to find stations was easier to use than it is on my Renault (which is just as well). I did, however, miss the steering column radio controls that my own car has. Sadly, the car wasn't supplied with an instruction manual ), so there are still buttons on the radio whose functions are a mystery to me.
The dash is very clear, and again, basic - no rev counter - just a slightly cluttered speedo and an old fashioned odometer, and a clock that is, apparently, ‘unique’ to the Ka – I dunno – it was an analogue clock. I struggle to get enthused about such things.
Despite the lack of manual, I had no trouble finding the controls for the lights – like on many other cars I’ve driven; the lights were controlled from a dial on the indicator stick (left hand side of the steering column). The wipers were a wee bit trickier – to turn the rear wiper on, you pull the right hand stick towards you – on many other cars I’ve driven, that action washes your windscreen. But you get used to things like that.
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ Techy Bits ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ Right – please remember here that I only drove the Ka for a working week. So, apart from fuel consumption, I’ve needed to do a bit of research for this section. For a full, anorak rundown of the technical specifications, check out http://www.carsource.co.uk/ka - I guess every car type has its fanclub…
From my own experience, I can tell you that it seems reasonably economical (as you'd expect) - the place I rented it from works on an 'empty to empty' policy - so I got the car with a bit under a quarter tank of petrol, put £10 in it - that got it to half full - I've done around 150 miles and haven't had to add any more juice. (Just as well I looked before setting off to the petrol station - the petrol tank is on the other side from the Renault's.)
Therefore, assuming that I paid around 80p a litre for petrol…hang on, let me do the maths…That’s around 12.5 litres I stuck in the car…I THINK (maths is not my strong suit) that I was getting around 12 miles to the LITRE. Now, 1 UK gallon = 4.546 litres apparently. It seem therefore, I put around 2.75 gallons in the car (though didn’t use all of it), which makes for around 54 miles to the gallon (?!) – umm…seems very high, to me, as the official figures, according to carsource.co.uk, are 47.9 mpg combined figure (93/116/EC – hey – doesn’t THAT look impressive), though according to Ford, the combined figure is 45.6mpg.
My driving was mostly to and from work (I work in the armpit of London), around an hour to get about 12 miles each way…which at best could be called combined. However, my husband DID test it on the motorway. And…um…I do have a habit of coasting. Sorry, I digress.
I live in blissful ignorance of details such as 0-60 speeds, service costs and intervals, and all the other techy bits some folks are desperate to see! So some more research is in order. So, in the interests of consumer helpfulness, I’ve had a look at the Ford website (www.ford.co.uk/ie/ka). Apparently, it takes 14.1 seconds to go from a standstill to 62 miles per hour. That may be, but the car FELT nippier, probably because of its size.
Like I said before, I rented this car. So I’ve never had it serviced, clearly, and can’t discuss how often nor how much it costs. This is, however, a Ford, and so finding service centres shouldn’t be difficult. I think.
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ Costs ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ According to Ford’s own website, the car starts at £6,495. Adding extras will, of course, make the Ka more expensive (doh!). As expected, the car falls into a low insurance bracket (2E, apparently…). I suspect it also falls into the lower car tax bracket.
The insurance should pay for the rental. I rented the Ka from the folks who fixed my Megane at £15.00 a day – not the cheapest car rental, but it was convenient (local to me) and an approved courtesy car supplier (since the folks who repaired my car were chosen by the insurance company).
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ Matty’s Verdict ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ As mentioned here more than once, I do not own a Ka. I drove it as a replacement whilst my Megane was being repaired. I'm missing the techy bits (I'm the type of gal for whom the gnomes run REALLY fast when you turn the key)...I can talk about it as a car to, say, rent, but I couldn't recommend nor ‘not recommend’ it to buy, as I have no idea how reliable it is.
OK, now that’s out of the way, what did I think? The Ka was adequate for my needs last week. There were, of course, good points and bad points, which I have mentioned above, but I’ll summarise here:
^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^ GOOD ^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^ Nippy, easy to steer, excellent clutch and gearbox, good radio, very roomy in the passenger cabin (especially for such a tiny car), excellent fuel economy.
^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^ BAD ^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^ Mushy brakes (you should have seen me when I picked up the Megane – I nearly sent myself through the windscreen), no fun gimmicky doodads, no electric side mirror adjusters, no central locking, tiny boot, only three doors (which is a pain when you have a child).
^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^ OVERALL VIEW ^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^ I liked it. However, I wouldn’t personally buy such a small car, as I have a family. Whilst I like gadgets and doodads, once I had driven the Ka for a short time, I only really missed the central locking and electric windows and mirrors. The fact it has an analogue clock and the odometer is of the old fashioned wheeled type (you know, where you can watch the numbers roll over) didn’t really bother me.
In an ideal world, I'd take the radio, gear box and clutch from the Ka and combine them with the size, brakes and doodads from the Megane, and maybe increase the engine size a wee bit - now THAT would be a good car!
The main thing is, though, that if I WERE looking to buy a new or used Ka, I would have a very, very good look at the brakes before making a decision.
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ And Finally ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ Well, I guess that’s it. Were you to visit a Ford dealership, you would no doubt test drive the Ka for yourself. You’d also no doubt enquire about service intervals and the like. No test drive, though, tells you what it’s like to drive for a week. This, I hope I have done.
Are you looking for an ultracompact car? Then I would certainly recommend you consider the Ka, keeping in mind all the points I’ve made above. It’s reasonably priced and seems cheap to run, yet is still fun to drive. Just check those brakes!
Wow, what a brilliant review. I would still not buy a Ka myself though. But, you wrote incredibly well. I love the layout as well.
nikki14 09.04.2005 20:58
i've gt this car, and its my first car and i completely agrre with what you said. the boot is tiny although my friends love being in the back, they think its more roomy than it is. bt i do adore my car, just wish it had more gadgets and cool stuff. nikki xxx
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