GRAN TURISMO CAR REVIEWS

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Ford Ka

yellow_ka.jpg

SPEX

Years Represented: 1999-2001
Class: City Car
Type: 3-door hatchback
 
Country: England
Hosts: GT2 & GT5

Price: $15,000 (GT2), $12,256 (GT5 used lot)

GT5 mileage: 6,423.1
 
Length: 142.5" // Width: 64.0" // Height: 54.0"
Wheelbase: 96.4"
Overhang: @3' 11"
Track: 54.9" [F] 55.6" [R]
Weight: 1,929 pounds
Wgt. Distribution: 66/34

Tires: 165/65R-13
Brakes: vented disc / drum
F. Suspension: MacPherson strut / coils
R. Suspension: semi-independent twist beam

Layout: Front Engine / Front Drive


*The GT5 car was not given oil change or engine rebuild, since its power matched from quoted to garage
 
Engine: 1.3 liter SOHC inline-4
Aspiration: normal
Fuel Syst: EECV fuel injection

```````````````````````````````GT2````````````````````````GT5`````````
Horsepower:
60 @ 5,400 rpm           59 @ 5,700
Tstd. Torque:
77 @ 2,500 rpm           75 @ 2,500

Valves / Cyl: 2
Compression: 9.5:1
Bore x Stroke: 2.91 x 2.97"

````````````````````````````GT2````````````````````````GT5`````
Credits per HP: $250.00                     $190.78
Pounds / HP:       32.15                        36.05
Hp per Liter:        46.2                        45.4

GT2 Redline: 6,500 // Rev Limit: 7,000

GT5 Idle: 750 // Redline: 6,500 // RPM Limit: 7,000
 
Transmission: 5-speed manual
 

0-60 mph:
GT2: 17.1 seconds              
GT5: 17.784

0-100mph:
GT2: 1:32.36                    
GT5: 1:56.xxx

400 M:
GT2: 21.085 @ 65 mph
GT5: 21.113 @ 67 mph

1 KM:
GT2: 38.867 @ 83 mph
GT5: 38.493 @ 85 mph


Test Track: 2:38.503                  1:28.792 (Daytona)
 
GT2 Top Speed at Rev Limit
1st: 32 mph
2nd: 55 mph
3rd: 85 mph
4th: 104.47 @ 6,300 rpm
5th: Nil

GT5 Top Speed at Redline
1st: 29.3 mph
2nd: 48.9 mph
3rd: 74.5 mph
4th: 102.5 mph @ 6,500 (would not redline in this gear)
5th: 104 mph @ 5,250 rpm
 

---------------------EXTERIOR----------------------
 
The Ford Ka. In America, it would be defined as a subcompact. In its native Europe, it's classed as a "city car". Yet just because it's a city car doesn't mean it has typical city car traits.

 The word "Ka" has several meanings when we look it up in the encyclopedia. I'm thinking Ford chose to name this city car "Ka" in reference to a letter from the Cyrillic alphabet. Cyrillic is similar to Greek and Latin. This seems the best theory, and I have yet to find a better one after surfing the 'net for three minutes. The Cyrillic alphabet seems cryptic, does it not? I've certainly never heard of Cyrillic. Perhaps Ford wanted it this way...a bit of mystery as to what possessed them to choose this odd name for this somewhat odd car.  

Anyways, the Ford Ka. In my opinion it's the perfect car for an absolute beginner...I mean this is a GREAT car for someone who's never touched a racing game before.

It's got front-wheel drive, a body with only 4 feet of overhang, and features a weak 1.3 liter powerplant. This makes the Ka slow (true), but also very easy to control. And actually, the Ford Ka isn't as slow as a lot of the subcompact Kei-cars clogging up portions of our games. The buggy style of the Ka is somewhat unique, and its low price tag will eventually put this car in anyone's budget, unless they're totally sucking and losing every race.
 
So here's some fun. It's not fast, not especially suited for racing; but the Ka is distinctive-looking, aerodynamic, nimble, and one hell of a good time. Too bad the $15,000 (GT2) price tag prohibits those who just got Gran Turismo 2 from trying a Ka immediately, but at just under $13,000, one can be had from Day 1 in GT4, if he or she also transferred that $100,000 from GT3. The Ka shows up again in GT5 as a used car, yet is seeming to hold its value. Even with several thousand miles on my first GT5 Ka, its price clings just above $12,000, despite being a 2001 model in the year 2011. Do Kas really not depreciate?   

My very first Playstation car game (Ford Racing from Empire Interactive) features the Ka as the first in a series of cars and trucks you can race. Unlike Gran Turismo, one is forced to race all these cars in succession during Ford Racing (unlocking them, really). It's sort of a combination between GT's Arcade and Simulation modes. First you drive the Ka for 4 races, then the Fiesta...then the Escort, and so on. Finally after many races (but not nearly as varied as Gran Turismo), you can race a top of the line Ford GT90. If it weren't for this build-up from slowest to fastest, I wouldn't have learned the art of using dual-shock controllers or Playstation racing in general. It all started with the Ka in my case.
 
The Ford Ka is sold in South City (GT2) or from the American Hall (GT4), which is odd because in real-life it is an exclusively European hatchback. Its only other market happens to be South America, since there is a Ka assembly line in Brazil, but there are absolutely zero Kas in North America. 

The Ka is smaller than many available in North America (except maybe a Geo or the Kia-based Ford Aspire), yet longer than any of Japan's Kei-class cars by a foot or so. Its weight is similarly low at 1,929 pounds (GT5's Ka is a later model and weighs 2,127). Front / rear weight distribution of 66/34, makes the Ka nose-heavy, yet the car possesses agile steering that feels direct and responsive. This is the result of having most of the weight over those front tires. The tires themselves, and the front-end's suspension geometry is why the Ka's steering is so sharp.

Weight can be reduced down to 1,774 pounds (GT2), which is really only recommended if you've got money to burn. Buy the racing kit, and now you're at 1,719 for an ultimate weight to power ratio of 10.05.
 
The unusual body enhancements include flared wheel-wells that mold into the bumpers. This was originally a concept car, which is where its sharp looks come from. Unlike many other concepts, the Ka retained its distinctive looks from show-car to production-car. This, plus a fairly wide assortment of colors (including some hot neons!) set the Ka apart from other boring hatchbacks. The people who created it were obviously having fun.

 
 
--------------------ENGINE / DRIVETRAIN----------------
 
Uh oh. Somebody set out the mousetrap, I think we got a live one running around. Matter of fact, an actual mouse might be a bit quicker than an actual Ka. 

Let's be honest: here we have some problems. 0-60 mph in 17 or 18 seconds? 0 to 100 in a minute and 32 seconds?* Yikes! An absolute beginner (like I was) will be comfortable with these unimpressive figures unless he's impatient, but most experienced drivers will be quickly bored.

*=GT2
 
The Ka tops off at 104 mph in either GT2 or GT5. It can be left in 4th gear when driven stock. At this speed, 5th gear is not a necessity, unless you get a closer gearbox. But what the Ka lacks in speed, it makes up in maneuverability; plus one can modify the engine with 2 stages of turbo-charging in GT2 or 3 steps in the 5th game.

In GT2, the 1st stage pushes power above 100 hp, and the 2nd will bring it up to 171 (assuming all other modifications are in place) which will bring the HP/weight ratio from a whopping 32.15 all the way down to 10.05! The Ford Racing® version of the Ka boasts no such additional engine components, forcing one to race this incredibly slow car for 4 races in a row (with 8 laps of qualifying...2 per race!) topping off at about 74 mph.

...One thing to note is that those who have tried Ford Racing and driven the Ka might notice how similar the engine sounds to Gran Turismo's unmodified Ka. Those 2 valves per cylinder ping and tap as revs get higher, adding realism. It's as if PD and EI both shared the same soundbytes.
 
For gearing: buy the super-close (semi-racing) transmission in GT2. The GT4 or GT5 car will do best with close-ratio gears unless the car's being raced at a track with longish straights and higher echelons of power. It's not that the stock gearbox is too tall, the problem is that the weak engine can't push this car through its speeds fast enough. Closer gearing helps acceleration a lot.
 
 
---------------------CHASSIS / HANDLING----------------
 
It's been said many times that the new MINI possesses "go-kart handling". MINI is very proud of this, as they boast about this trait in their ads quite a bit. But the reality is, it seems they got a few lessons perhaps from Ford's Ka.

This grocery-getting hatchback is very nimble, which is one of its sole advantages. The factory-installed tires (and the sports ones for that matter) are narrow in real-life, and don't seem like they'll offer a lot of grip, but the Ka's front-wheel drive traction and wide stance keep it fully  controllable with minimal understeer at speeds up to 70 mph in GT2, and 90 to 100 mph in GT5.

(GT4's Ka hasn't been tested by me at this date).

This is reflected accurately in real-life reviews of this car, from which it is learned that owners of the Ka love to talk about how remarkably their cars handle in lower-speed situations. Torque kicks in early, braking and steering are both solid and dependable, and the car has a tendency (therefore) to zip around some others with higher horsepower ratings. So in our game....once we find ourselves really pushing this car for all its worth...  
 
GT2
You will find that the Ka will understeer. It will occasionally skate sideways thru hard corners at tracks like Rome. It will spin out if you really push it. The one thing it will NEVER do is oversteer with normal driving.

It's fun to push the Ka thru corners, squeezing through bigger cars with more power, flooring the accelerator around most tracks with little discretion. You can use those brakes sparingly when racing a Ka, another reason why this is a great beginner's vehicle for those who haven't yet mastered braking techniques.
 
The sport suspension package is a good deal for most, and racing slicks only become necessary when the engine is fully tuned. But beware: soft tires up front will increase the Ka's tendency to stick too much to the road, making steering too accurate. If you use this set-up, you'll be driving into walls on the INSIDE of corners instead of the outside! It's nice to have a bit of understeer with any FWD car, just to know how far you can push it.
 
GT5
...The Neon Mouse now approaches a Citroen C4 down the backstretch, while flanked left and right by a Honda and a MX-5! It's looking like this could get ugly folks! Can the Mouse do it? She fakes! She brakes! She scoots to the inside, while the Citroen is taking a wider path! How can this be? Does she have the space to make a decent effort! Whoa what's this??? The Ka emerges from this little melee victorious?!? Oh, and what a margin of car-lengths she's got! HOw can this be!?  

Such is the Ka. Painted a variety of day-glo colors, the Ford Ka is as welcome at a rave party just as easily as it is a wedding reception, but don't discount its abilities on the tracks. It lives on in Gran Turismo 5, and only offers more so far as handling goes.

Driving this car is sometimes like playing a high-speed game of Chess, as the Ka has that somewhat uncommon ability to search for various options on-the-spot, finally choosing one but still able to take another if need be. One moment, the Ka's King might be in "check"....a Bishop and a Rook about to do double-damage and end the entire game. But the Ka turns it around, blocking that Rook and stealing the Bishop and placing the opponent's King in check, all in one swoop. The Ka may have the speed of a Pawn, but it often possesses the agility and command of a Queen and a Knight combined.  

Wall after wall can be inched by after placing just a smidge less throttle mid-turn, traffic jams can be navigated in a snap! Only down those straight areas might there be a problem. But...there's always more corners to use to our advantage, right? Ka like corners. She like them very much!    

I described this car has being understeery and 'skatey' during my GT2 days. In GT5, the understeer is still here, but the skating is generally not. The understeer feels genuinely controllable most of the time, though. It can show up on entry or exit, but we always have an option to not have it show up at all. In fact, the entire car feels more solid and confident, even on its stock medium-grade radials. Those tires may be protesting, but they won't just suddenly give out, assuming the driver keeps a firm line.

The problem occurs once the driver gets over-confident. If everything must be taken care of in those corners, it's tempting to push the Ka way too hard. It'll act like it wants desperately to help us, but...it's only a city car.  

Still, a Ford Ka can last quite a while in this game, especially when we also start to factor various Seasonal races to its resume. 

During the Sunday Cup at Grand Valley East, I found myself passing a Volkwagen from the outside of the first big hairpin, but then taking the leading del Sol from the inside towards the end of the turn. Even though steering was fully cranked, the Ka offers up a little extra grip seemingly from nowhere at times, like a lady who has forgotten she's got an extra bit of money in her bank account.

That's how this car is. It seems as though it's on our team, and wants to win just as much as we do.

Braking into turns, the Ka never gets too grippy or grabby on radials, but this can start to happen occasionally with sport tires. Understeer shows up as mentioned, but this is one of those front-drives which generally dismisses such understeer quickly if the driver lightens the throttle. It helps that the Ka is so short and squat, though. Its wide stance helps keep the "Neon Mouse" stable during many cornering situations.
 

-------------------------PROS--------------------
 
1). Cute, unique (New Edge) appearance. Lots of color schemes, too. This car really gots the style.
 
2). Extreme maneuverability. The Ka rates a 10 out of 10 in this department, assuming it's being raced in slower-paced events.
 
3). Engine mods are worth the money, will make the Ka competitive amongst cars it shouldn't be racing against.
 
4). Perfect for a beginner. No oversteer!
 
5). Light weight.
 
6). Low cost.
 
7). You won't need to spend much on suspension or brakes.
 
8). Peak horsepower is commanded near redline, which makes automatic tranny-drivers happy. :) Torquey low-end, too, keeping this car scooting away from many a hairpin with confidence.
 
 
---------------------------CONS-------------------------
 
1). Sucky acceleration. Faltery top-speed. Let's be honest.
 
2). Great tires for low-speed endeavors (like getting to the grocery store) but not so great for racing.. The Ka will understeer and slide once it gets up to speed, just like any other. In GT4/5, it's more about the understeer, less about the slide.
 
3). Tall gearing means one will need the racing or super-close gearbox early.
 
4). Though you can dominate in a Ka, it ultimately will be underpowered in tougher races since power only goes to 171 hp (GT2).
 
5). Some may find the engine annoyingly noisy.
 
6). Some find the Ka ugly, too...even though they have no qualms with Civics or Mirages.
 
7). Exotic services such as engine balancing cost a lot, yet add just a few horses.
 
8). A bit of body roll and unwanted movement shows up above 80 mph, unless you've got a sports suspension or better. This is truest in GT2, not so true in later games. 
 

Originally Published: May 25, 2004
Re-edited: January 10, 2006
Edited for GT5 content: June 27, 2011
 

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