2021 What Car? Reliability Survey: family cars

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

New Mercedes-Benz A-Class vs Audi A3 Sportback vs BMW 1 Series

Most reliable family cars

1. BMW 1 Series (2011-2019)

Reliability rating 98.7%

What went wrong? Air-con 2%, exhaust 2%, non-engine electrics 2%, suspension 2%

Just 6% of petrol 1 Series models went wrong, compared with 30% of diesels. Still, even though many were out of warranty, all the cars we were told about were put right for free, with 100% of work done in a day or less.

Owner's view “Build quality, inside and out, is second to none, and I’ve not had any reliability issues in six years of ownership”

2. Hyundai i30 (2017-present) 

Hyundai i30

Reliability rating 97.4%

Although 13% of i30s suffered a glitch, Hyundai’s five-year, unlimited-mileage warranty meant all cars were fixed at no cost to the owners. Problem areas included the brakes and gearbox/clutch. All cars remained driveable, and 67% of faults were repaired in a day or less and all in less than a week.


3. BMW 1 Series petrol (2019-present)

BMW 1 Series 118i front

Reliability rating 96.9%

It’s only the lengthy time it took to repair faults with the latest 1 Series that’s a cause for concern. Of the cars we were told about, 10% went wrong and all spent more than a week in dealerships. The brakes and fuel system were the problem areas, and all cars were fixed under warranty with no charge to the owner.

Least reliable family cars

1. Mercedes A-Class (2018-present)

Mercedes A-Class A250e AMG Line front

Reliability rating 84.8%

What went wrong? Non-engine electrics 15%, interior trim 12%, air-con 9%, bodywork 7%, engine electrics 5%, engine 3%, suspension 3%, battery 2%, brakes 2%, fuel system 2%, gearbox/clutch 2%

Hefty repair bills drag the A-Class down; while 86% of faults were fixed for free, 11% of owners paid £201 to £750, and 3% more than £1500. Of the 31% of cars that went wrong, most could still be driven, with repairs taking less than a week.

Owner’s view “Our A-Class and our local Mercedes-Benz dealership have both disappointed us. The car has had electrical faults since we bought it brand new”

2. Vauxhall Astra (2015-present)

Vauxhall Astra

Reliability rating 86.6%

Of the 32% of Astras that went wrong, non-engine electrics accounted for most issues, but there were also complaints about the battery, engine, gearbox/clutch and interior trim. Only 72% of repairs were free, leaving some owners (6%) with bills of more than £1500. In 67% of cases, repairs took more than a week.

3. Honda Civic (2017-present)

Honda Civic

Reliability rating 87.8%

It’s the time and cost of defects that let the Civic down. Of the 25% that went wrong, it took more than a week to fix more than half. And while 90% were repaired for free, the other 10% cost from £50 to more than £1500. Areas affected included the air-con, battery, bodywork, engine and non-engine electrics.

Reliability of family cars aged up to five years old

Rank Make and model Score
1.  BMW 1 Series 2011-2019 98.7%
2. Hyundai i30 2017-present 97.4%
3. BMW 1 Series petrol 2019-present 96.9%
4. Kia XCeed 2019-present 96.3%
5. Kia Ceed petrol 2012-2018 96.1%
6. Ford Focus petrol 2011-2018 96.0%
7. Kia Ceed 2018-present 95.7%
8. Skoda Octavia petrol 2013-2020 95.5%
9. Kia Ceed diesel 2012-2018 95.3%
10. Seat Leon petrol 2013-2020 95.1%
11. Seat Leon diesel 2013-2020 94.9%
12. Volkswagen Golf petrol 2013-2020 94.6%
13. Mini Clubman 2015-present 94.3%
14. Peugeot 308 petrol 2013-present 93.8%
15. Mazda 3 petrol 2019-present 93.7%
=16. Audi A3 petrol 2013-2020 93.6%
=16. Skoda Octavia diesel 2013-2020 93.6%
18. Volvo V40 petrol 2012-2019 93.0%
19. Ford Focus 2018-present 90.5%
20. Volkswagen Golf 2020-present 89.5%
21. Volkswagen Golf diesel 2013-2020 89.4%
22. Honda Civic 2017-present 87.8%
23. Vauxhall Astra 2017-present 86.6%
24. Mercedes A-Class 2018-present 84.8%