Best and worst older cars for reliability: family cars

How dependable are cars as they get older? Here’s what the owners of family cars between five and 20 years of age have told us...

Seat Leon 1.4 ECOTSI 150 FR

Most reliable Seat Leon diesel (2013-2020)

Reliability rating 98.7% 

What went wrong? Brakes 5% 

If you’re after a diesel-powered family car, the Leon is the most dependable option, with just 5% of those we heard about going wrong. All cars could still be driven and were back on the road in a day or less. A third of the work was done for free and no repair bills topped £200. 

Owner comment: “The best things about my Leon are its reliability and the overall high level of build quality.”

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Volvo V40 (2012-2019)

Reliability rating 95.6%

Volvo V40

Faults were reported by nearly a quarter (23%) of V40 owners, with issues split evenly between the bodywork, engine electrics, exhaust and suspension. However, all cars could be driven and 75% were put right in a day or less, with the same proportion being fixed for free. The rest cost between £101 and £200 to put right.


Honda Civic (2012-2017)

Reliability rating 95.6%

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

Honda has a solid reputation for durability, and this is upheld by the previous-generation Civic. Only 10% of cars had a problem, with issues split evenly between air-con, battery, engine and engine electrics. All cars remained driveable and 75% were fixed in a week or less, with repair bills ranging from £101 to £500. 

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Least reliable Skoda Octavia (2004-2013)

Reliability rating 54.4%

What went wrong? Engine 24%, fuel system 18%, brakes 12%, suspension 12%, gearbox/clutch 6%, infotainment 6%

Used car of the week: Skoda Octavia

A whopping 53% of Octavia owners told us their car had suffered a fault and almost a quarter of those related to the engine. On the bright side, three-quarters of the cars could still be driven and were back on the road in less than a week, but half of the owners paid out £501 to £1500 for repairs. 

Owner comment: “Catastrophe struck after I’d owned my diesel Octavia for less than a week. It needed a new engine and injectors.” 

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Mercedes-Benz A-Class (2005-2012)

Reliability rating 56.3%

Mercedes-Benz A-Class MPV (05 - 12)

A high percentage (40%) of older A-Classes developed issues, with the brakes being the most common trouble spot, followed by the air-con, engine and suspension. Most of the affected cars remained driveable, but a third lingered in the workshop for more than a week. Repair bills ranged from £51 to £750.

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Volkswagen Golf diesel (2003-2009)

Reliability rating 74.9%

Volkswagen Golf (09 - 13)

Far more diesel-engined Golfs suffered faults than petrols (37% versus 8%). The exhaust and suspension were the most common problem areas, followed by the bodywork, brakes and engine. All cars could still be driven, though, and just over half were fixed on the same day. Most owners paid out £51 to £300, but 11% faced bills of more than £1500.

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