2021 What Car? Reliability Survey: executive cars

We reveal the most – and least – dependable cars up to five years old, based on the experiences of more than 16,000 owners...

2019 Skoda Superb front

Most reliable executive cars

1. Skoda Superb petrol (2015-present)

Reliability rating 99.2%

What went wrong? Bodywork 5%, interior trim 2%

Petrol Superbs are more, well, superb, than diesels, with 7% suffering a fault compared with 28% of diesels. Even though many cars were out of warranty, Skoda paid for 100% of repairs, and service was exemplary, with all faults fixed in a day or less.

Owner’s view "This is the third Superb I've owned in 12 years, and I've yet to be disappointed when it comes to reliability"

2. Kia Optima (2016-present)

Used Kia Optima Sportswagon PHEV 2017-present

Reliability rating 98.4%

Only 8% of Optimas we were told about went wrong, with owners citing the exhaust and gearbox/clutch as the problem areas. All the cars could still be driven, and 50% of cars were back on the road within a week. Kia’s seven-year warranty meant that all repairs were carried out for free.

3. BMW 3 Series petrol (2019-present)

BMW 3 Series front three quarters

Reliability rating 97.3%

Petrol-engined 3 Series models just outrank the diesels, with a 16% fault rate compared with 25% for diesels. Non-engine electrics was the most common area of complaint, followed by bodywork, exhaust and suspension. Although 40% of cars spent more than a week in the garage, all were repaired for free.

Least reliable executive cars

1. Mercedes C-Class diesel (2014-present)

2019 Mercedes C-Class front

Reliability rating 80.9%

What went wrong? Battery 11%, engine 9%, engine electrics 9%, exhaust 6%, non-engine electrics 6%, air-con 3%, interior trim 3%, sat-nav 3%

A diesel C-Class is less dependable than a petrol version, with 40% developing a fault, compared with 25% of petrols. It could also be an expensive car to live with: 11% of bills exceeded £1500 and only 63% of cars were repaired for free. At least most cars were back on the road in less than a week.

Owner’s view “I have been surprised and disappointed at how many faults my car has suffered, especially considering I bought it brand new”

2. Alfa Romeo Giulia (2016-present)

Alfa Romeo Giulia Quadrifoglio 2020 front cornering

Reliability rating 83.1%

Owners told us 26% of Giulias went wrong, with engine, brake system and non-engine electrical faults the most common complaints. Although 56% of cars were repaired for free, a shocking 22% of owners paid out more than £1500 per fault. On top of that, 45% of cars spent more than a week in the garage.

3. Jaguar XE diesel (2015-present)

LT Jaguar XE nose

Reliability rating 87.6%

With a fault rate of 38%, diesel XEs suffered far more defects than petrol models (22%), and 19% of those issues were with the engine. Although Jaguar covered the cost of all repairs, 15% of faults rendered cars undriveable and 31% took more than a week to put right.

Reliability of executive cars aged up to five years old

Rank Make and model Score
1. Skoda Superb petrol 2015-present 99.2%
2.  Kia Optima 2016-present 98.4%
3.  BMW 3 Series petrol 2019-present 97.3%
4.  BMW 3 Series diesel 2019-present 97.0%
5.  Volkswagen Passat 2015-present 95.8%
6. Jaguar XE petrol 2015-present 94.7%
7. Vauxhall Insignia Grand Sport 2017-present 94.1%
8.  Audi A4 petrol 2015-present 93.9%
9. Volvo S60 / V60 2018-present 93.8%
10. Skoda Superb diesel 2015-present 93.4%
11. BMW 3 Series diesel 2012-2019 92.6%
=12. Kia Stinger 2017-present 91.2%
=12. Mercedes C-Class petrol 2014-present 91.2%
14. Audi A4 diesel 2015-present 91.1%
15. Jaguar XE diesel 2015-present 87.6%
16. Alfa Romeo Giulia 2016-present 83.1%
17. Mercedes C-Class diesel 2014-present 80.9%