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How to buy a Ford Ka (1996-2008)

How to buy a Ford Ka (1996-2008)

John Evans is a long-time motoring journalist and editor from titles such as What Car?, AutoCar and Practical Caravan.

The first-generation Ka (pronounced with a short ‘a’, like ‘cat’) caused quite a stir when it was launched. Although it shared its underpinnings with the Ford Fiesta Mk4 it looked very different from that car and, frankly, any other on the road.

But while not everyone liked its so-called New Edge styling, most people agreed it was fun to drive thanks to its accurate steering, crisp handling and good levels of grip.

It was quite basic, though, and so cheap to make and develop that over its lifetime it was one of Ford’s most profitable cars.

Early versions were powered by the 1.3 Endura-E engine whose origins can be traced to the Kent engine used in the Ford Anglia of the 1950s. In 2002 this was was replaced by Ford’s newer and more efficient 1.3 Duratec engine, although that, too, was hardly state of the art.

Launch cars did without power steering, an omission rectified within the first year. Limited use of galvanised steel in the body and chassis, together with little in the way of rust-proofing mean few Kas have escaped corrosion.

Basic models were just that, which is why it’s best to seek out higher-spec Ka3 or Zetec Climate versions with electric windows, air conditioning and smarter trim.

Common problems with the Ford Ka

Because it’s based on the tried and trusted Ford Fiesta, and shares much of that car’s running gear, the simple, no-nonsense Ka is very reliable. What’s more, on the few occasions it does need work, repair bills are low (typically around £140).

The number of recalls it’s been subject to amounts to just two, although both are potentially very serious. Check with Ford customer services if your vehicle was affected and has been attended to. For information on official safety recalls, check the DVSA recall website here.

Ford Ka recalls:

  • Reduction in braking efficiency (models built from 30/03/98-30/09/98)
  • Front brake hose retention (models built July 2002)


According to Haynes’ experts, two problems plague both the 1.3 Endura-E and later Duratec engines. They are a high idle speed during gear changes, caused by a faulty throttle position sensor, and a jerky movement accompanied by the engine warning light.

Regarding this last problem, if fault codes P2300 and P2303 are showing on the engine control unit, the cause is probably a faulty ignition coil.

In addition, certain Endura-E engines (codes J4D and JJB) can experience a hesitation when accelerating and, on other occasions, a loss of one cylinder, meaning the engine is firing on three instead of four cylinders.

The first problem affects a cold engine, 30 seconds after starting, and can be traced to a faulty mass airflow meter. The second problem is a caused by a faulty ignition coil.


No problems recorded.

Steering and suspension

No problems recorded.


The brakes were the subject of two recalls. The first, affecting Kas built from 30 March to 30 September 1998, concerned a loss of braking efficiency. This was caused by the loss of one braking circuit due to failure of the brake master cylinder.

The other concerned retention of the front brake hose and a possible leak on cars built in July 2002. The cause was the brake hose chafing on the front wheel rim. Both recalls should have been attended to long ago.

Exterior and interior

No problems recorded.


The only issue reported here is failure of the remote key, caused by the battery running down. Replace it with a new battery, code number CR 2032, remembering to install it with the positive side facing upwards.