MOT test fail rates: the best and worst models

We’ve used new government data to find the best and worst MOT test fail rates in each car class and reveal the top 10 items that let motorists down...

MOT test

For many motorists, putting your car through its annual MOT test is one of the most nerve-wracking days of the year. Once you’ve delivered the car to your local garage or dealer, you keep your phone next to you, waiting as anxiously as an expectant parent for the call to say if your car has passed and, if not, how much it’s going to cost to rectify the problems.

The MOT test is required every year for cars between three and 40 years old. But a car won’t necessarily sail through the test each year just because it’s relatively new, especially if you don’t check its basic items regularly.

According to the Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA), nearly 50% of all faults found during MOT tests could have been avoided if the car’s owner had carried out regular checks on the most common MOT fail items, such as bulbs, tyres and wipers. 

Its data reveals that more than 7.5 million of the 28.9 million cars and light commerical vehicles that underwent an MOT test in 2017 failed at the first attempt; that’s around 35% of those taking it. Lighting and signalling problems are the most common reason for failure, followed by suspension, which speaks volumes about the state of Britain’s roads. However, other easy-to-check items, such as tyres and wheels and anything that impairs the driver’s view of the road, together account for 27% of failures.

Neil Barlow, the DVSA’s head of vehicle engineering, said: “The MOT plays a key role in making sure the vehicles on our roads are safe to drive and meet high environmental standards. Vehicles fail their MOT for a variety of reasons, but proper maintenance is key to making sure a vehicle passes its MOT first time and remains safe to drive. By checking their vehicle all year round, motorists will also reduce the risk of causing an accident that kills or seriously injures someone.” 

What Car? also regards a car’s MOT history as an important indicator of how well it has been looked after and how many components have developed faults or worn out. Both of these factors are extremely important if you’re looking for a dependable older car as a second family motor or a first car for a new driver.

To make it easier to pick the best used car, we’ve examined the data for all the cars that were tested across the country during 2017, splitting them into makes and models and calculating the percentage that failed their
test at the first attempt.

Our tables rank the best and worst cars for passing the MOT in nine classes, ranging from city cars to sports and performance cars. 

Best city cars for passing the MOT test

Skoda Citigo

The Skoda Citigo claims the top spot here by just 0.04% ahead of the Peugeot 108, demonstrating that many current city runabouts are able to sail through the annual test. Some older models do well too, in particular the previous-generation Hyundai i10, which was superseded in 2013.

Make and model                                   % MOT fails

Skoda Citigo 2012-present                    6.0%

Peugeot 108 2014-present                     6.0%

Volkswagen Up 2012-present              6.7%

Kia Picanto 2011-2017                            9.8%

Vauxhall Adam 2013-present              10.6%

Seat Mii 2012-present                            10.8%

Suzuki Alto 2009-2015                          11.7%

Hyundai i10 2008-2013                         12.5%

Ford Ka 2008-2016                                 13.5%

Smart Fortwo 2007-2014                     14.4%

Worst city cars for passing the MOT test

Chevrolet Matiz (05 - 10)

Budget models from the late 1990s are now really struggling, most prominently the Daewoo Matiz. But although there are some ancient models in the basement, the poor performance of the 2004-2009 Suzuki Alto demonstrates that youth doesn’t always guarantee reliability.

Make and model                                   % MOT fails

Citroën C2 2003-2009                           28.1%

Chevrolet Matiz 2005-2010                 28.1%

Seat Arosa 1997-2005                           28.3%

Fiat Seicento 1998-2004                      31.1%

Peugeot 106 1996-2003                        31.7%

Hyundai Amica 2000-2003               32.1%

Suzuki Alto 2004-2009                       32.7%

Ford Ka 1996-2008                                34.6%

Suzuki Alto 1997-2004                         36.4%

Daewoo Matiz 1998-2005                   38.8%

Best small cars for passing the MOT test

Mitsubishi Mirage

Japanese cars have always been known for their dependability, so it’s no surprise to see the Mitsubishi Mirage atop the pile and the Toyota Yaris and Honda Jazz in the top 10. That the Mini and the bargain Dacia Sandero defeat several other Japanese cars shows how good they are, too.

Make and model                                   % MOT fails

Mitsubishi Mirage 2012-present        4.8%

Mini 3dr/5dr 2014-present                   5.0%

Toyota Yaris 2011-present                    6.3%

Dacia Sandero 2013-present               6.7%

Honda Jazz 2008-2015                          7.0%

Toyota iQ 2008-2014                             7.2%

Nissan Note 2013-2017                         7.7%

Audi A1 2010-2019                                 8.1%

Suzuki Swift 2010-2017                       8.5%

Peugeot 208 2012-present                  8.8%

Worst small cars for passing the MOT test

renault clio

The surprise entrant in the lower half of this league is the 2002-2008 Seat Ibiza, which chocked up 2% more fails than its 1995-2002 predecessor. The Peugeot 206 and Fiat Punto of similar vintage also perform poorly, although that’s not as surprising as the lowly record of the Mk2 Nissan Micra. However, the worst performer here is the old Renault Clio.

Make and model                                   % MOT fails

Peugeot 206 1998-2009                       30.0%

Fiat Punto 1999-2010                            30.0%

Seat Ibiza 2002-2008                            30.1%

Kia Cerato 2004-2007                           30.2%

Nissan Micra 1992-2002                      31.3%

Vauxhall Corsa 2000-2006                32.7%

Rover Streetwise 2003-2005             32.7%

Ford Fiesta 1995-2002                         33.7%

Citroën Saxo 1996-2003                      35.3%

Renault Clio 1998-2005                       35.8%

Best family cars for passing the MOT test

Nissan Leaf

The electric Nissan Leaf has the lowest MOT fail rate of all cars tested in 2017, banishing any concerns potential buyers might have about saying goodbye to engines. The appearance of Mercedes and Volkswagen Group models in the top 10 should provide reassurance about those brands as well.

Make and model                                   % MOT fails

Nissan Leaf 2011-2018                          3.7%

Mazda 3 2013-2019                                 4.8%

Honda Civic 2011-2015                          6.5%

Volkswagen Beetle 2012-2018           6.9%

Skoda Rapid 2012-2019                        7.1%

Lexus CT 2011-present                          7.4%

Toyota Auris 2013-2019                       7.4%

Toyota Prius 2009-2016                       8.0%

Mercedes A-Class 2013-2018             8.2%

Skoda Octavia 2013-present               8.3%

Worst family cars for passing the MOT test

Fiat Stilo Multiwagon (01 - 07)

Older French and Italian models account for nearly half of those in the bottom 10, along with two British cars: the MG ZR (a performance-focused version of the Rover 25) and the Rover 400 Series. In contrast, it’s perhaps a surprise to see a Mitsubishi near the bottom of this league.

Make and model                                   % MOT fails

Citroën Xsara 1997-2004                   30.4%

Vauxhall Astra 1998-2004                  30.4%

Ford Focus 1998-2004                         30.7%

MG ZR 2001-2005                                  30.9%

Renault Mégane 2002-2008             31.9%

Alfa Romeo 147 2000-2010               31.9%

Peugeot 306 1997-2002                      32.6%

Rover 400 Series 1995-1999             34.8%

Mitsubishi Carisma 1995-2005      35.3%

Fiat Stilo 2001-2007                            37.5%

Next: Best SUVs for passing the MOT test >>

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