The last two decades have seen cars become much better value.
While there’s virtually no ceiling to how much you can pay for a car, a number of budget brands have sprung up to make motoring much cheaper.
Dacia, Hyundai and Kia have all specialised in low-cost cars that still drive well and have all the equipment you’d expect in this modern age.
Their success has prompted more established manufacturers to up their game as well.
Nowhere has the improvement in the quality of cars been more apparent than in the city car and supermini sectors.
The Ford Ka tested here is a case in point. First launched in 1996, the first generation Ka was great fun to drive but lacked both the practicality and refinement that this third generation model – now called the Ka+ – has in spades.
When it was launched the Ka had very few rivals but now it has some superb opposition, including the Volkswagen Up and Hyundai i10.
In a bid to offer something a bit different, Ford has come up with the Active version of the Ka+, with a ride height raised by 23mm and SUV styling touches.
Prices for the Ka+ Active start from £13,245, which puts it at the top end of the city car market, although it comes with a lot of equipment for the price
You get the updated Ford interior seen in the new Fiesta, with its 6.5in touchscreen, Apple/Andoid compatibility and two USB sockets.
It’s available with a 1.2 litre petrol engine or a 1.5 litre diesel for those who do higher miles. And you can do higher miles in a Ka+ quite easily, as it’s remarkably comfortable.
Although it’s designed for city driving, it can easily handle longer distances. On the motorway from Dundee to Edinburgh it cruised nicely at 70mph, feeling very stable at the speed.
It’s remarkably spacious inside too – there’s as much space in the back as a Ford Fiesta, making it great for young families on a budget. At 270 litres, the boot is among the biggest of any city car as well.
I drove a different variant of the Ka+ Active in the autumn, then spent two weeks with this petrol model over Christmas. The plummeting temperatures proved the value of heated seats and particularly Ford’s Quickclear windscreen, which melts frost in a few seconds.
It’s a crowded field but Ford has one of the most refined and practical city cars.