The UK's most and least reliable cars


Updated on 16 September 2021 | 9 Comments

We all want to own a car that rarely breaks down. Now you can find out if your car, or one you are considering buying, will go the distance with a new analysis of the nation’s most and least reliable cars.

Reliability is a big factor when it comes to selecting a new car.

After all, it’s one thing to have a comfy ride or great fuel efficiency, but if you end up having to go to the garage every couple of days in order to get something fixed, then you will end up stressed and out of pocket.

But how can you work out how reliable a car is likely to be before you actually pick up the keys?

The reliability survey from the experts at WhatCar? is a good place to start, as it is based on polling of car owners across the country, breaking down the most and least reliable motors in a host of categories, based on factors like how often they’d had to get their motor fixed in the previous 12 months, and the cost of putting things right should issues arise.

Here’s how the results look for each of those categories from the most recent survey.

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Small cars

The Dacia Sandero took top spot here, with a flawless 100% rating. 

As the WhatCar? team pointed out, the latest version is the cheapest car to buy new in the UK and the old version is one of the most dependable around, showing that the Sandero is a cracking car all round. Two-thirds of Sandero owners told WhatCar? that the motor’s overall reliability was the best thing about it.

At the other end of the scale, the Ford Fiesta took bottom spot with a rating of just 74.9%.

Overall a third of Fiesta’s went wrong, with the suspension most commonly the issue. More than 40% took a week to put right, though it’s worth noting that in each case the repairs were carried out for free.

Family cars

In the family category, the winner was the BMW 1 Series, which scored an impressive 98.7%.

It’s notable that the petrol version is the more consistent performer, with only 6% of models developing an issue, compared to 30% of diesels.

All of the cars were put right for free, with the work done in under a day.

By contrast, the Mercedes A Class  (pictured above) scored 84.8% in this division, leaving it in last place.

A big factor here was the cost of repairs; while 86% were sorted for free, 11% of owners paid between £201 and £750, and 3% shelled out more than £1,500.

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Executive cars

The Skoda Superb is evidently well named, as it scored a massive 99.2% in the reliability tests. Again there’s a big difference between petrol and diesel though; only 7% of petrol models suffered a fault, compared to 28% of diesels.

Even though many of the cars were out of warranty, Skoda paid for all of the repairs, with the service reported to be exemplary.

At the bottom end, the Mercedes C-Class diesel scored 80.9%, with 40% of models developing a problem. Again, it’s a costly car to put right as well, with more than one in 10 (11%) bills pushing past the £1,500 mark and only 6% being repaired for free.

Luxury cars

The BMW 5-Series won out in this category, with a score of 96.9%. Petrol models suffered around half as many faults as diesels here, with only 16% going wrong. BMW covered the cost of all of the repairs, with half the cars spending less than a day in the garage.

The Audi A6 was the worst luxury car for reliability, with a score of 82.1%. WhatCar? pointed out that the previous generation of the A6 isn’t ageing well, with 40% of owners reporting an issue.

A similar proportion had to pay for those repairs, with the bill stretching up to as much as £750. The battery was the most common problem, accounting for 15% of issues.

Small SUVs

The Peugeot 208 was named the least reliable, with a score of 81.8%.

While only 16% developed an issue ‒ most commonly with the suspension ‒ it was the cost of putting things right that hit its overall score. Just a third (38%) were put right for free, while the repairs also took a while ‒ 63% were in the garage for up to a week.

We have joint winners here, as both the Honda HR-V and the Mazda CX-3 boasting flawless records.

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Family SUVs

The Mitsubishi Eclipse Cross won in this category, scoring a flawless 100%. As WhatCar? noted it’s not one of the best-known motors, but perhaps should be given its performance.

By contrast, the Range Rover Evoque scored just 77.1%, with a fault rate of a worrying 40%. While just over 80% of the repairs were carried out for free, some owners had to cough up as much as £750. What’s more, the majority spent more than a week being fixed.

Large SUVs

Look away now drivers of the Nissan X-Trail. The motor scored a disastrous 59.7%, with more than a third reporting at least one fault.

It’s a costly car to fix, with a quarter of drivers having to cough up more than £1,500, while one in four took longer than a week to put right.

As one owner damningly put it: “It's a lovely car when it’s all working as it should. Unfortunately, in my case, that was only the first week of ownership.”

Ouch.

By contrast, the BMW X3 Petrol scored a whopping 97.7%, with all of them repaired for free. Around three in five (60%) were back on the road the same day, as well.

Electric cars

The Nissan Leaf was named the most reliable electric car, scoring an impressive 98.6%. Though 12% of drivers reported an issue, they were all put right for free by Nissan dealers, with the work carried out in less than a day.

Even the lowest scoring electric motor, the Jaguar I-Pace, notched up a score of 86.3%. Almost a third (30%) suffered a fault, and in three-quarters of cases they spent more than a week being fixed. Some took longer than a month. 

On the plus side, all of the remedial work was carried out under warranty.

Hybrid

The top hybrid was the Lexus NX, scoring 98.6%. Just 2% developed an issue, and even those were minor.

Again this is a pretty strong category, with the worst performer ‒ the BMW X5 ‒ scoring 89.7%. A quarter of cars had an issue, though they were all fixed for free.

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MPV

The winner in this category was the BMW 2 Series Active Tourer, which scored 98.8%. Only 7% of cars developed a problem, and they were all fixed for free and back on the road in under a week.

Bottom of the table is the Volkswagen Touran, which scored 74.1%, More than half of Touran owners reported a fault, and putting them right was costly with one in five having to pay upwards of £1,500. What’s more, 40% took more than a week to be repaired.

Coupes, convertibles and sports cars

We've got joint winners here, with both the Audi TT and the Mini Convertible scoring a flawless 100% rating. 

At the other end of the scale, the Porsche Boxster scored an awful 73.5%, with the bodywork responsible for more than a quarter of the reported faults.

More than half of the motors went wrong, and a third of drivers had to pay the repairs, in some cases of more than £1,500. 

*This article contains affiliate links, which means we may receive a commission on any sales of products or services we write about. This article was written completely independently.

 

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