Best and worst older small cars for reliability

Small cars and city cars are often bought by new drivers or as family runabouts, so dependability is a top priority. Here we reveal the most and least reliable aged 4-10 years...

18 April 2019
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City cars and small cars are mostly bought by new drivers or as a second family runabout. Therefore they need to be not only cheap to buy but also reliable, so that they don't regularly land owners with sky-high repair bills.  

The good news is that these cars aren't laden with high-tech gadgetry, so there's less to go wrong than there is on a luxury barge. But there's still a big difference in the durability of the best and worst. With data from more than 18,000 car owners across the UK, that's where the 2018 What Car? Reliability Survey can help you sort the good from the bad. 

Looking exclusively at the results for used cars aged four to 10 years old, we've rated all the city cars and small cars we were told about. Those with more faults and costly repair bills get a lower score than those that provide problem-free motoring. Here, we reveal the 11 most reliable and the 11 that are best avoided. 


Top 10 older city cars and small cars for reliability

11. Citroën C1 2005-2014

Citroën C1 (05 - 14)

What Car? reliability rating 82.0%

A shocking 43% of Citroën C1 owners reported a fault, with the most common areas of concern the exhaust and fuel system, followed by the bodywork, non-engine electrics and exterior lights. The vast majority of cars remained drivable, though, and most were fixed the same day. A third were fixed for free and no repair bill exceeded £500. 

Read our full review of the used Citroën C1

See how much you could save on a new Citroën C1


10. Nissan Note 2006-2013

Sportier Nissan Note planned

What Car? reliability rating 82.6%

Fewer Notes suffered a problem (33%), but suspension was the culprit 10% of the time. Other problem areas included the air conditioning, battery, bodywork, brakes, engine electrics, fuel system and gearbox. Nearly half were rendered undriveable and some took more than a week to repair. A small percentage of cars were fixed for free, but a small proportion of owners faced bills of more than £1500.

Read our full review of the used Nissan Note


9. Volkswagen Polo 2009-2017

Five reasons to buy a Volkswagen Polo

What Car? reliability rating 86.90%

Only 20% of Polo owners reported a fault with their car, with the air conditioning the biggest bugbear. However, other more serious areas had faults too, including the brakes, engine, engine electrics, steering and suspension. Around two thirds of cars could still be driven; some were fixed under warranty, but a small percentage of owners were landed with repair bills of more than £1500.

Read our full review of the used Volkswagen Polo

See how much you could save on a new Volkswagen Polo


8. Peugeot 107 2005-2014

Peugeot 107

What Car? reliability rating 87.8%

Only 11% of Peugeot 107s had a fault, with the problem areas split evenly between the battery, bodywork, engine electrics, non-engine electrics and exterior lights. Three quarters of cars became undriveable, though, and half took more than a week to fix. Repair bills ranged from £51 to £200.

Read our full review of the used Peugeot 107

See how much you could save on a new Peugeot 108


7. Toyota Yaris 2006-2011

Toyota Yaris Hatchback (06 - 11)

What Car? reliability rating 88.2%

More than 26% of previous-generation Yaris owners reported a fault on their car, with the biggest areas of concern the battery, bodywork, engine, engine electrics and fuel system. Three quarters of cars could still be driven and were fixed in less than a day. Half were fixed for free and no repair bills topped £200. 

Read our full review of the used Toyota Yaris

See how much you could save on a new Toyota Yaris


6. Volkswagen Up 2012-present

Used Volkswagen Up 2012 - present

What Car? reliability rating 89.4%

Nearly 24% of Ups developed a problem, with the biggest areas of concern the brakes, followed by the gearbox and non-engine electrics. A small percentage of owners also reported issues with the bodywork, engine and exhaust. Most of the cars could still be driven and a third were fixed for free, while other repair bills ranged from less than £50 to £1500. 

Read our full review of the Volkswagen Up

See how much you could save on a Volkswagen Up


Next: the top five city cars and small cars for reliability >

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