Ford’s most sensible car of the 1990s, the European-focused supermini known as Ka, is coming up on its 25th anniversary. Which means that while it was not available in the U.S. market when new, it will soon be eligible for import. Which can only mean that we will soon see the city streets of America positively littered with the little bubble-shaped wonder. Come this time next year if you haven’t already imported yours, you’ll be the odd one out!
I’ve always been enamored with the little car. For one thing, I contend that this car takes Ford’s New Edge styling to its absolute zenith. The full Ford lineup was eventually treated to a Ka-esque New Edge redesign, most popularly here in the U.S. market on the Focus. With cutesy bubble-backed architecture, combined with sharp-edged headlights and grilles, the Ka became a late 1990s style icon, even if you had never heard of it.
I first fell in love with the Ka when I was living in Spain circa 2005. I was a foreign exchange student, and my host family had a Ka. My host brother and I would occasionally nip off to town in the Ka, even though neither of us were legal to drive at the time (I had a license, but certainly not an international one). It was large enough to fit four full-sized adults, and sporty enough that we could take many of the town’s roundabouts at flat chat. Luckily the statute of limitations has run out on that, not that Spanish authorities would have cared much anyway.
The Ka’s 1.3-liter Endura-E engine (the final redesign of the Ford Kent engine from 1959!) was enough to shove it around pretty well with 60 horsepower on tap, but it wasn’t a speedy thing unless you caned it like it owed you money. I have a lot of great memories running that pale blue egg through its paces. It was definitely a better car than Renault’s silly Twingo.
Once I moved back home, I tried to recreate the experience by purchasing a busted up Ford Aspire for about 29 dollars, but it just wasn’t the same. The Korean-built Aspire just wasn’t up to my rose-tinted memory of the Ka. And now that the Ka is getting to be old enough, I need to import one. One of the early ones with the unpainted city-spec bumpers. Yeah, that’s the stuff.
Jeremy Clarkson is a positively curmudgeonly ass of an old man these day, but back in 1996 he couldn’t find enough nice things to say about the Ka. He even managed to work a bit of his signature sexism into this review. The Ka would go on to be the best selling supermini in the UK, capturing more than 20% what was then a flourishing market.
The best part of all this is that those early Kas can be had for nearly nothing. A few hundred euros and you could have a Ka of your own. The smart money would be to wait for the later widebody SportKa model, but those didn’t come out until 2002, and I’m not sure I can wait six more years to import one. No, better to do it now, and then upgrade to a SportKa in 2027.