1 Nov 1999
The smallest Ford ever sold in Australia was never going to be a success. It didn’t offer five doors or an automatic option, only sat four people and didn’t have much boot space.
Its only engine was an ancient 43kW/100Nm 1299cc lump that can be traced back to the 1959 Ford Anglia 105E, and it had very funny styling.
So it was no laughing matter for Ford that Australians ignored the little Ka to death, especially as it had to hold the fort after its (inexplicably) popular, Korean-built (by Kia) Festiva supply died soon after Hyundai took control during 2000.
But if you cherish driving, individual design or value for money, the Ka is already a coveted classic.
A superbly balanced steerer and handler, with a sporty gearshift many “sports” cars would kill for, the Spanish-assembled Ka shone dynamically, even if its eager and spirited 1.3 couldn’t really keep up with rivals that were often 50 per cent more powerful.
And it offered plenty of space for four adults, a reasonably versatile load area, dual airbags, power steering, air-conditioning and – until December 2000 – a sunroof and CD player.
After that, Ford deleted the roof and added a second model, the Ka2, with everything plus keyless entry, power windows and painted bumpers, leaving a base entry-level model that was then pitched (still unsuccessfully) at under $14,000.
In many ways the verve and style of the Ka lives on in its larger, five-door, auto-optional German-built Fiesta successor, which shouldn’t be a surprise since the 1995-2002 version provided the platform from which the Ka was created.
Ironically, it still sells very strongly in Europe and South America today.