Ford caused quite the stir when it showed off its brand new Ka city car in 1996 to the public. The design was splitting opinions at the time, but the Ka grew on to be one of the most successful small cars of all time, and even hailed as a 'spiritual successor to the Mini'. Now a decade later from production ceasing, are they still worth buying as a runaround or first car?
Reasons to buy a used Ka in 2018
First and perhaps most obviously, the Ka is a crazy cheap car to buy nowadays. Due to their popularity at the time, the used market is saturated with Kas in all shapes and forms - so you're bound to find one to your liking. You can pick up a clean facelifted example (2003 onwards) with service history and relatively low mileage, and still have change from a grand today.
Following on from the 'all shapes and forms' comment, there really did seem like a Ka for every person out there. Whilst the engine was limited to just a single 1.3l lump (not including the Street or Sport models), customisation was insane. You could be as basic as having plain plastic bumpers and wind up manual windows, or you could splash the cash and have alloy wheels, leather seats and wheel, and even a heated front windscreen.
When a car is described as having 'tried and tested' parts, it's usually a very polite way of saying the car has very outdated, long-in-the-tooth components. The Ka happens to be one of those 'tried and tested' kind of vehicles, with its 1.3l tracing its roots all the way back to - wait for it - 1959. Needless to say, the oily parts of a Ka are well-established, meaning they are easy to work on and cheap to repair, with a good supply of used parts on the market.
Reasons not to buy a used Ka in 2018
Good lord, the rust. No modern car rusts quite as well as a first-gen Ford Ka does. It's down to a fundamental flaw in the way Ford manufactured the little cars; they were supposedly incredibly stingy with the amount of underseal used in the painting process. The worst thing is that this problem was never fixed - even facelifted 2008 models are vulnerable, which unfortunately means it's a case of 'when', not 'if'. If you're looking for a used Ka, you're going to want to make sure the bodywork was looked after, a lot.
That's a pretty damning reason to stay away from Kas in today's times, but if you needed any more reasons, then consider the running costs of a Ka. The engine considerably more inefficient than today's efforts - you'll be lucky to see more than 35MPG in town, and tax is a whopping £190 a year. Insurance also isn't cheap considering the basic city car nature of the Ka. You're looking at a group 10 car, which, for young first-time drivers, will be a huge premium increase of insurance, compared to group 1 cars such as a Toyota Aygo.
Finally, Kas just aren't particularly safe cars. That's not to say the Ka has a fundamental safety design error, it's just that safety has come a long way since the mid-90s, and a Ka with it's single airbag and less sophisticated crumple zones certainly won't protect you admirably by today's standards.
Used Kas are temptingly cheap for people who just want four wheels and something to get them to go from A to B, but the fundamental flaws of the Ka alongside its uncompetitive running costs just mean it will most likely bite your wallet more in the long run, compared to spending a bit more on a modern city car such as the aforementioned Toyota Aygo.
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