2020 What Car? Reliability Survey: family cars

In our exhaustive annual survey, we reveal how dependable cars up to five years old are, based on the experiences of 13,000 owners...

BMW 1 Series 118i front

Most reliable family cars

1. BMW 1 Series diesel (2011-2019)

Reliability rating 99.2%

What went wrong? Interior trim 5%

Diesel-engined 1 Series models are twice as dependable as their petrol counterparts; only 5% had a fault, compared with 10% of petrols. Most of the cars could still be driven and were back on the road in less than a week, and all work was carried out for free.

Owner’s view “My car has done more than 85,000 miles and it has been ultra-reliable. It hasn’t missed a beat”


2. Alfa Romeo Giulietta (2010-present)

Alfa Romeo Giulietta

Reliability rating 98.6%

Italian brands haven’t traditionally had a strong reputation for reliability, but the Giulietta shows this is unfair. Only 12% of cars had a fault, with issues split evenly between the braking system and gearbox/clutch. All cars could still be driven and were fi xed in a day or less at no cost to the owners. 


3. Skoda Octavia petrol (2013-2020)

Skoda Octavia vRS

Reliability rating 97.5%

Petrol versions of the Octavia are slightly more rugged than the diesels, with 12% suffering a fault, compared with 14% of diesels. The engine and its electrical system were the main concern, followed by infotainment/sat-nav, and then air-con and bodywork. All cars could still be driven and two-thirds of issues were rectifi ed the same day, with 90% of work done for free and no bills exceeding £200.


Least reliable family cars

1. Seat Leon diesel (2013-2020)

2019 Seat Leon front

Reliability rating 82.7%

What went wrong? Battery 15%, air-con 5%, bodywork 5%, brakes 5%, engine 5%, infotainment/sat-nav 5%, interior trim 5%, nonengine electrics 5%, suspension 5%

Owners of diesel Leons had almost four times as many problems as those with petrol engines, with 40% of cars going wrong. A third of them were rendered undriveable, and although two-thirds of the work was done under warranty, some owners paid out up to £500.

Owner’s view “My car suffered an oil leak, and I’m nding that the interior trim and ttings aren’t as durable as I’d hoped”


2. Peugeot 308 (2013-present)

Peugeot 308 front - 19 plate

Reliability rating 83.3%

A third of 308s went wrong, with non-engine electrical issues, including faulty infotainment and sat-nav systems, accounting for 20% of faults, followed by bodywork, interior trim and suspension problems that each accounted for 6% of problems. Two-thirds of cars could still be driven and were put right in a week or less. However, while 47% of work was done for free, those who paid for repairs shelled out between £51 and £1000.


3. Volkswagen Golf diesel (2013-2020)

Volkswagen Golf front - 67-plate car

Reliability rating 83.6%

Diesel Golfs suffered twice as many issues as petrol models, with 36% of them striking trouble. The most common problems related to the bodywork, followed by the battery, engine, infotainment/sat-nav, gearbox/clutch and non-engine electrics. A quarter of the faulty cars couldn’t be driven and took up to a week to repair. Nearly three-quarters of work was done under warranty, but a small percentage of owners paid out up to £750.


Reliability for family cars aged up to five years old

Rank Make and model Score
1.  BMW 1 Series diesel 2011-2019 99.2%
2. Alfa Romeo Giulietta 2010-on 98.6%
3. Skoda Octavia petrol 2013-2020 97.5%
4. Mercedes A-Class 2013-2018 97.2%
=5. Mini Clubman 2015-on 97.1%
=5. Ford Focus diesel 2011-2018 97.1%
=7. Volvo V40 2012-2019 96.6%
=7. Seat Leon petrol 2013-2020 96.6%
9. Ford Focus 2018-on 96.4%
10. BMW 1 Series petrol 2011-2019 96.1%
11. Skoda Yeti 2009-2017 95.8%
12. Volkswagen Golf petrol 2013-2020 95.4%
13. Ford Focus petrol 2011-2018 95.1%
14. Mazda 3 2013-2019 94.9%
=15. Honda Civic 2017-on 94.0%
=15. Skoda Octavia diesel 2013-2020 94.0%
=17. Hyundai i30 2017-on 93.0%
18. Audi A3 2013-2020 92.7%
=19. Mercedes A-Class 2018-on 91.1%
=19. Vauxhall Astra 2015-on 91.1%
21. Honda Civic 2012-2017 90.2%
22. Volkswagen Golf diesel 2013-2020 83.6%
23. Peugeot 308 2013-on 83.3%
24. Seat Leon diesel 2013-2020 82.7%

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