Japanese firm Lexus makes the most reliable motors, though budget brand Dacia is hot on its heels for producing ultra-dependable cars, according to the latest survey of drivers.
Fiat was rated worst for dependability, while Britain’s most-bought make – Ford – also slid toward the bottom of the table, the poll of more than 16,000 motorists in Britain revealed.
What Car?, which conducts its Reliability Survey annually, ranked 30 brands and 178 models in total for how well they survive the test of time.
Want to know which are the most (and least) reliable cars on the market today? What Car?’s latest survey has revealed all, with these cars all scoring top marks (front: Audi TT, background left to right: Mazda CX-3, Mini Convertible, Dacia Duster, Mitsubishi Eclipse Cross)
The survey was for drivers of vehicles up to five years old. It means the results can provide accurate reliability information for buyers of both new and nearly-new cars.
Lexus reclaimed its spot at the top of the reliability charts, with the Japanese brand historically dominating the top end of dependability rankings like What Car?’s survey for years.
It scored an manufacturer rating of 98.7 per cent and – impressively – none of its models scored lower than 98.4 per cent individually.
While Lexus’ appearance at the top of the charts will come as little surprise to those in the know, the brand on its coat tails could cause a few jaws to hit the floor.
Dacia, the Romanian budget brand that’s owned by Renault, ranked just behind the Lexus with a 97.3 per cent manufacturer rating.
Left: Lexus topped the manufacturer standings with an overall score of 98.7%. Right: Dacia was on the Japanese brand’s coattails with a respectable brand rating of 97.3%
Cars like the Sandero – which is the cheapest new model on sale in the UK – and the Duster SUV are marketed as no-frills, affordable motors, which are often confused for being flimsy products.
However, What Car? says its survey performance ‘demonstrates that you don’t have to break the bank to buy a dependable model’, with the budget vehicle maker shaming more premium brands like Mercedes, Porsche and Jaguar – all of which appear in the list of 10 least reliable makes.
Toyota, which is usually a top performer in manufacturer reliability studies only managed fifth spot – and not a single one of its cars was listed as the best in category (see more below).
Most and least reliable car brands
MOST RELIABLE CAR BRANDS
1. Lexus – 98.7%
2. Dacia – 97.3%
=3. Suzuki – 97.1%
=3. Hyundai – 97.1%
=5. Toyota – 97.0%
=5. Mini – 97.0%
7. Mitsubishi – 96.9%
8. Mazda – 95.9%
9. Kia – 95.8%
10. MG – 95.7%
LEAST RELAIBLE CAR BRANDS
1. Fiat – 82.0%
2. Land Rover – 82.5%
=3. Ford – 86.2%
=3. Nissan – 86.2%
5. Alfa Romeo – 86.5%
6. Porsche – 89.4%
=7. Mercedes-Benz – 89.6%
=7. Vauxhall – 89.6%
=7. Peugeot – 89.6%
10. Jaguar – 90.1%
Source: What Car? Reliability Survey 2021 based on feedback from 16,328 UK drivers
The foot of the table was a similar story to the peak, with one budget-friendly and one luxury car brand propping up the standings.
Bottom overall in the list was Fiat, gaining an 82 per cent rating from owners.
The Italian brand marginally spared the blushes of upmarket Land Rover, which avoided the embarrassment of last place with an 82.5 per cent score.
Worryingly, Britain’s most-bought car brand, Ford, rated third from bottom, with an 86.2 per cent score from drivers – which was also the rating given by drivers of Nissan models.
The report didn’t put Fiat in a great light. Its customers gave their cars an overall reliability rating of 82% – the lowest of all 30 marques reviewed
Land Rover’s blushes were spared by Fiat, though the premium car brand won’t be happy to be so low in dependability reports from owners of its offroad motors
The reliability ratings are generated from a number of feedback points provided by owners who completed this year’s survey.
Drivers were asked whether their car had gone wrong in the past 12 months, how long repairs took and how much they cost, with the overall score expressed as a percentage.
Of the 16,328 drivers surveyed, one in five experienced a fault with their car in the past year, the data shows.
That said, 85 per cent of all faults recorded were repaired free of charge, mostly because the majority of motors up to five years old are covered under a manufacturer’s warranty.
Though not everyone was spared a sizable receipt from a mechanic.
For seven per cent of motorists who completed the survey, repair bills came to between £101 and £500, while two per cent of very unlucky car owners had to fork out more than £1,500 to get their motor back on the road.
A third of cars remained driveable and were fixed within a day, while a quarter could be driven but took more than a week to repair, What Car? found.
Most reliable fuels, vehicle types and models revealed
The report suggests car makers are producing more dependable motors, with a record six models achieved a score of 100 per cent: the current versions of the Audi TT, Mazda CX-3, Mini Convertible and Mitsubishi Eclipse Cross, and the previous-generation Dacia Sandero and Honda HR-V.
Hybrids were rated as the most durable fuel type, with an average class reliability score of 96.9 per cent.
The best performing hybrid was the on-sale Lexus NX, which managed a near-perfect 99.8 per cent score. Even the lowest-rated hybrid – BMW’s latest X5 – achieved a relatively impressive 89.7 per cent score.
In comparison, electric cars on average score a rating of 92.9 per cent.
Luxury SUVs performed the worst in the study, achieving an average class rating of 88.8 per cent, although the Porsche Macan bucked the trend, managing a creditable 97.9 per cent.
Land Rover’s existing – and expensive, starting from £53,150 – Discovery model received the lowest score in the class and contributed to the brand’s second-from-bottom placing, having been rated 72.1 per cent for reliability by owners.
The current Ford Fiesta, which has been the best-selling new car in Britain every year it has been on sale (and dating back the last 12 years) was the lowest rated small model, achieving just 74.9 per cent.
It was put to shame by the just-replaced Dacia Sandero, which cost from £6,995 from new when on sale, and its 100 per cent record. It was replaced earlier this year by a new and improved version, though with a £1,000 entry-price hike.
Mercedes-Benz’s A-Class has become one of the most popular family cars in Britain since the latest generation model hit the market 2018, but it scored worst in the rankings for its class. To add salt to the wound, rival German maker BMW topped the standings in the category with the 1 Series.
Steve Huntingford, editor of What Car? said: ‘The UK’s used car market is currently booming, making it all the more important that people know which models will be reliable.
‘With feedback from more than 16,000 owners, the latest What Car? Reliability Survey highlights the brands and models with the best and worst records.
‘Our latest study also shows that a high price tag isn’t always a guarantee of reliability, because some of Britain’s cheapest cars are among the most reliable.’
Below, we’ve listed the best and worst performers for reliability in each vehicle category. This can help buyers make an informed decision about which models to consider – and which to avoid.
Ford is Britain’s best-selling car make, and the Fiesta (pictured) has been the nation’s most-bought model for 12 years running. However, it ranked third lowest in manufacturer reliability standings and the Fiesta was rated worst of all small models
Most and least reliable cars by type
HYBIRD CARS – 96.9% CLASS RELIABILTY RATING
Hybrid cars were deemed the most reliable of all, with this Lexus NX topping the standings
Most reliable: Lexus NX (2014 – present) – 99.8%
Least reliable: BMW X5 (2018 – present) – 89.7%
SMALL SUVS – 95.2% CLASS RELIABILITY RATING
Honda has recently replaced its HR-V. If you’re looking for a small used SUV, the previous generation car (pictured) and Mazda CX-3 are both sold second-hand options
Most reliable: Honda HR-V (2015 – 2020) & Mazda CX-3 (2016 – 2019) – 100%
Least reliable: Peugeot 2008 (2013 – 2019) – 81.8%
MPVS – 93.7% CLASS RELIABILITY RATING
The 2 Series Active Tourer made headlines for being BMW’s first front-wheel-drive car as well as a step into the MPV market. Customers who have one seem impressed
Most reliable: BMW 2 Series Active Tourer (2014 – present) – 98.8%
Least reliable: Volkswagen Touran (2015 – present) – 74.1%
FAMILY SUVS – 93.6% CLASS RELIABILITY RATING
The Japanese brand has always performed well in reliability standings, but Mitsubishi is due to slowly disappear from the UK market. Its Eclipse Cross SUV scored a 100% reliability rating
Most reliable: Mitsubishi Eclipse Cross (2017 – present) – 100%
Least reliable: Range Rover Evoque (2011 – 2019) – 77.1%
LARGE SUVS – 93.6% CLASS RELIABILITY RATING
While a petrol BMW X3 is the most reliable of all large SUVs, the Nissan X-Trail was least dependable. A new version was due to be built in the UK, though the Japanese brand has now ditched these plans
Most reliable: BMW X3 petrol (2018 – present) – 97.7%
Least reliable: Nissan X-Trail (2014 – present) – 59.7%
FAMILY CARS – 93.0% CLASS RELIABILITY RATING
The Mercedes A-Class (pictured) is now among the most popular new cars in Britain. However, reliability appears to be a bit of an issue while BMW’s since-replaced 1 Series is proving more dependable
Most reliable: BMW 1 Series petrol (2011 – 2019) – 98.7%
Least reliable: Mercedes-Benz A-Class (2018 – present) – 84.8%
ELECTRIC CARS – 92.9% CLASS RELIABILITY RATING
With electric cars in huge demand right now, buyers will be keen to know that the Nissan Leaf is – according to owners – performing best for reliability
Most Reliable: Nissan Leaf (2011 – 2018) – 98.6%
Least reliable: Jaguar I-Pace (2018 – present) – 86.3%
COUPES, CONVERTIBLES & SPORTS CARS – 92.8% CLASS RELIABILITY RATING
While Audi has models listed in other categories as the least reliable, the TT (pictured) is said to be the most dependable of all coupes, convertibles and sports cars
Most reliable: Audi TT (2014 – present) & Mini Convertible (2016 – present) – 100%
Least reliable: Porsche 718 Cayman (2015 – present) – 73.5%
EXECUTIVE CARS – 92.8% CLASS RELIABILITY RATING
When you think of an executive car, a Skoda might not be top of your list. But based on the Superb’s 99.2% reliability rating, maybe it should be
Most reliable: Skoda Superb petrol (2015 – present) – 99.2%
Least reliable: Mercedes-Benz C-Class diesel (2014 – present) – 80.9%
SMALL CARS – 91.9% CLASS RELIABILITY RATING
The Dacia Sandero has recently been replaced with a much-upgraded version this year. However, if you want a cheap and reliable second-hand supermini, look no further
Most reliable: Dacia Sandero (2013 – 2020) – 100%
Least reliable: Ford Fiesta (2017 – present) – 74.9%
LUXURY CARS – 90.4% CLASS RELIABILITY RATING
BMW has beaten rivals like Audi, Mercedes, Lexus and Jaguar to the top of the standings for the most dependable luxury model. The award went to the 5 Series
Most reliable: BMW 5 Series petrol (2017 – present) – 96.9%
Least reliable: Audi A6 (2011 – 2018) – 82.1%
LUXURY SUVS – 88.8% CLASS RELIABILITY RATING
Porsche’s Macan topped the charts as the most reliable luxury SUV, though only if you buy one with a petrol engine
Most reliable: Porsche Macan petrol (2014 – present) – 97.9%
Least reliable: Land Rover Discovery (2017 – present) – 72.1%
Source: What Car? Reliability Survey 2021 based on feedback from 16,328 UK drivers
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