Thursday 3rd April 2003


STREET KA

Laurie Vaughn gets behind the wheel of Ford's cute car

It's hard to work out whether people stare at you in the Ford Street Ka because a) they haven't seen one before and find it innovative and interesting, or b) they're looking for a certain small and perfectly formed Australian pop-star. Even if it's the latter, there are certain similarities with its cute proportions and perfectly formed rear.

You don't need me to tell you that the Street Ka is cut from a different cloth when compared to its sibling, the plain old Ka. Sensibly the exterior has been left relatively untouched from the first concept car shown way back in 2001, and we have Pininfarina to thank for the pretty shape.

TT

There are some obvious Audi TT influences in the roll bars and chunky wheelarch blisters, but then imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, and these details fit well with the overall design.

The shape of the new front end is mirrored at the back, which is graced with new lights as well as, obviously, a new boot lid. The reversing light is a nice touch, and I for one thought that was the exhaust pipe (a la Elise) until closer inspection revealed my error.

The boot is of a reasonable size and compared to other convertibles, the roof does not intrude. It's a relatively straight-forward process to stow/erect the roof, although some user participation is required, so its not quite on a par with the fully electric roofs.

Plastic

Inside, the first thing you notice is that (barring the optional leather seats and trim) its pretty much exactly the same as the standard Ka. If I was being optimistic, I could consider this to be an indication of Ford patting itself on the back for having gotten it right first time, but in this case it smacks more of penny pinching. The standard plastic dash and fittings are retained, which means to get out you have to open the door by pulling on a flexible plastic lever. Nice. A few touches of chrome could have raised the ambience inside. Note to Ford - must try harder.

But hey, no-one else can see this while you're on the move, and that's where this car impresses the most. Keen turn-in and firm but composed suspension means that confidence comes quickly in this car.

Go

In this admittedly factory fresh example, there was an obvious lack of rattles or scuttle shakes, which further encourages you to press on. And press on you would if it weren't for the engine. Duratec it might be but it's gutless. Yes it provides a bit of poke, but it would be nice if this 1.6l engine could provide more than its quoted 95PS. Up to a point it makes the right noises (if you listen carefully, but its pretty subtle) and tries well enough, but you just know how much better it could be.

Perhaps that's the point. This car is going to be bought and driven by those people who want to be seen in a convertible, but don't necessarily want (or can afford) an MX5 or 206CC. Its good (bar the inside) and should sell very well; the only downside is that if you've not ordered one yet then you've got a wait on your hands.

Street Ka from 12,495. Street Ka Luxury (tested) 13,645. Kylie is extra.

Thanks to Mr & Mrs Wright for their help.