Car Test   R0321
 
March 2003
First Drive Ford Streetka/Sportka
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The first good thing about these new models is that we now know how to pronounce Ka – it’s as in ‘car’, after all. All affectations, such as Café-without-the-fé, or kay-ay are now redundant.
  
   Streetka is a clever two-seater, open-top version of the original three-door, high-style city car. With the advent of the new (larger) Fiesta, Ka has adopted the smaller 1.3/70bhp engine introduced for the Fiesta Finesse. This is a robust unit with five main bearings and a chain-driven camshaft driving eight valves via a single overhead camshaft.
  
   It’s an enlarged version of this engine that, with an extra 25bhp, sits under the bonnet of both Streetka and Sportka, the latter essentially a standard Ka, but with distinctly sporty tweaks to styling and suspension.
  
   Similar power output, but a significant 130kg weight penalty, as well as higher gearing, means that the two-seater roadster is both slower when accelerating and thirstier than the ‘warm’ hatch – not to mention its higher asking price. When you carry out this sort of conversion (executed by Ghia of Turin), the price is always inflated, compared with the standard hatchback; in reality, Streetka is about as cheap as they come.
  
   However, this keen price is achieved by leaving some of the model’s more dated features unmodified, as well as opting for a manual hood, rather than an electric or metal/glass arrangement.
  
   Even so, we got on well with hood erection and stowage and appreciated its having a separate compartment beneath a metal cover, rather than a tonneau cover or sharing boot space. In fact, the luggage well, though restricted, has useful soft holdall capacity and is nicely trimmed. You can only access it by key, however, so don’t absent-mindedly shut them in there!
  
   The driving position should be checked out by the prospective owner; the steering has neither reach nor rake adjustment and only the rear of the seat cushion moves up and down. This results in the longer-legged rubbing their knees on the column or those shorter in the body sacrificing lower spinal support, to see over the wheel.
  
   There’s good lateral location, however, and although the facia is hard plastic, everything works well. The gears feel a bit more heavy-handed than in a Fiesta, however.
  
   The engine is extremely docile at low street-car speed and has strong pulling power from lower revs, too. Streetka is pleasingly quiet and unflurried, hood down, all the way to 60mph, when some hair-disturbing windspill develops. The ride is firm, with some scuttle-shake, too, but the steering and general handling are superb.
  
   It’s a lot harder and rortier in Sportka – Ford has deliberately added a splash of brash to the recipe, together with even sharper responsiveness to steering and accelerator inputs. Personally, we found the purposeful exhaust burble less acceptable when cruising.
  
  
AT A GLANCE
  considering size, price and rivals
Controls/displays
Handling/steering
Comfort
Overtaking Ability
LIKES ...
  • simple, though manual, hood stowage
  • separate (small) luggage compartment
  • remarkably free of wind ruffling below 60mph
  • seats' lateral location
and GRIPES
  • no wheel reach or rake adjustment
  • fixed seatbelt shoulder mount height
  • tinny clang when doors shut
  • opaque plastic rear window in hood
VERDICT
The advent of Streetka has enabled the model to come into its own – to really make sense, as well as merely look different. That distinctive styling blends well with the open-air life, and finding enough room for roof and luggage, instead of small rear passengers, works rather well. Despite the swank, this little trendy also remains a sound financial proposition. It’s got undemanding mechanicals, sensible insurance and (we suspect) excellent depreciation prospects, because not many will be made. The only thing we can’t be sure about is the sunshine.


BRIEF SPECIFICATION
engine 1597cc, 4-cylinder petrol; 95bhp at 5500rpm, 100 lb ft at 4250rpm. Chain-driven single overhead camshaft, 8 valves
drive 5-speed manual, front-wheel drive. Mph/1000rpm in top gear: 20.5 for Streetka, 18.5 for Sportka
suspension front: independent damper/struts, integral coil springs
rear: torsion beam (dead) axle, coil springs
wheels/tyres 6in alloy with 195/45R16 (14in steel spare)
brakes ventilated discs front, drums rear with standard ABS
0-62mph§ 12.1/9.7sec*
official (combined) mpg§ 35.8/37.2
maximum speed§ 108/108mph*
CO2 emissions§ 191/182g/km
* maker's figures  § Streetka/Sportka

THE KA RANGE
body City car (mid-priced) 3-door hatch and cabriolet   trim levels Ka - 4 levels: Ka, KaStyle, KaCollection, LuxuryKa. Streetka: Standard, Luxury, Sportka
engines petrol: 4 cylinder/1.3 litre/70bhp for Ka, 4/1.6/95 for Streetka and Sportka
diesel: none
  drive 5-speed manual, front-wheel drive. No automatic option


SPACE AND PRACTICALITY
  in centimetres (x)
  steering
   
  easy to park/garage?
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