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Best and worst older cars for reliability: family cars

We name the most dependable (and most troublesome) used cars from six to 15 years old, based on owners’ experiences...

Mazda 3

The most reliable family cars

1. Mazda 3 (2014-2019)

Reliability rating 99.1% 

What went wrong? Non-engine electrics 5% 

Big brother to the 2, the Mazda 3 is the epitome of dependability. Only 5% of cars suffered any sort of glitch and all issues were sorted out in a day or less. Even better news for owners is that none of them had to pay more than £50 to get their cars fixed.

Owner comment: It’s provided reliable, stress-free motoring for five years, and I can see it giving me another five at least.”

Save money on a used Mazda 3  >>

2. Honda Civic (2012-2017)

Reliability rating 96.0%

2015 Honda Civic - pricing, engines, spec and on-sale date

Civic owners can rest assured they won’t have to spend too much time in service departments. Diesels were slightly more prone to problems than petrols (9% versus 6%), but all of the affected cars could still be driven and were put right swiftly. The only downside is that 75% of owners had to pay bills of £751 to £1500.

Save money on a used Honda Civic >>

Hyundai i30 (2012-2017)

Reliability rating 93.3%

Although 18% of i30s went wrong, the most common issues were minor bodywork niggles. Some 43% of the faulty cars were fixed for free, and the same percentage were back on the road in a day or less. Big repair bills aren’t a concern, either, with no owner paying out more than £300 for the work.

Save money on a used Hyundai i30  >>

The least reliable family cars

1. Vauxhall Astra petrol (2009-2015)

Reliability rating 37.9%

Vauxhall Astra

What went wrong? Air-con 16%, brakes 16%, engine 16%, battery 11%, bodywork 11%, engine electrics 11%, exhaust 11%, gearbox/clutch 11%, non-engine electrics 11%, steering 11%,fuel system 5%,suspension 5%

Owners told us more than half (53%) of petrol Astras of this generation had gone wrong; diesels weren’t as bad, with a 30% fault rate. Although a third of issues were remedied on the same day, repairers landed 20% of owners with bills ranging from £751 to £1500.

Owner comment: “My car has had endless faults and breaks down so often that I’m worried every time I go out in it.” 

2. Volkswagen Golf diesel (2009-2013)

Reliability rating 62.3%

Used Volkswagen Golf Estate 2009 - 2013

Almost half (47%) of older Golf diesels went wrong, according to our survey respondents, with steering issues being the main bugbear, accounting for 21% of faults. Only 10% of cars spent more than a week in the garage, but 25% of owners were faced with bills of £501 or more; some paid at least £1500.

3. Ford Focus diesel (2011-2018)

Reliability rating 73.6%

Ford Focus

Diesel Focus models are more fault-prone than petrols, with 36% going wrong (versus 23%). Major areas were cited as faulty, too, including the fuel system, gearbox/clutch, steering and suspension. Four out of five cars could still be driven, but 30% took more than a week to put right and 36% cost more than £500.