Best small cars for reliability (and the ones to avoid)

Small cars are bought because they're affordable, but they also need to be dependable. The What Car? reliability survey reveals the gems of the small car world and the clunkers that spend too muc...

Best small cars for reliability (and the ones to avoid)

Best small cars for reliability

Small cars are often bought as a second family runabout or as a first purchase for a new driver, so it's important that they don't let their users down. An unreliable car that breaks down regularly could put you off a brand altogether.

You're unlikely to remain loyal to a brand that regularly leaves you stranded by the roadside. To save you from finding out the hard way, we asked the owners of 14,208 cars to tell us if their vehicles had suffered from any faults in the past 12 months.

Read the full What Car? reliability survey results

We classified the faults into 14 groups encompassing a wide range of components from the battery and bodywork to engines and suspension. For each fault, we asked owners to tell us how long the car was off the road and how much it cost to fix. We used this data to create a reliablity rating for each model.

This enabled us to rate 32 brands and 169 models for reliability. Click through the slideshow to find out which are the most – and least – depandable small cars aged up to three years old.

Best small cars for reliability (and the ones to avoid)

Honda Jazz

1. Honda Jazz

Score 100.0%

Not one Jazz owner who completed our survey reported any faults with their car, giving the little Japanese hatchback a perfect reliability score. Click through the slides to find out how dependable the previous model is.

Read our full review of the Honda Jazz

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Best small cars for reliability (and the ones to avoid)

Toyota Yaris

2. Toyota Yaris

Score 94.2%

The Yaris proves almost as dependable, with no faults reported by owners of the newest cars; only the oldest models suffered from minor bodywork issues.

Read our full review of the Toyota Yaris

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Best small cars for reliability (and the ones to avoid)

Audi A1 Sportback

3. Audi A1 Sportback

Score 93.1%

The five-door Sportback version of Audi’s A1 sits in third place, ahead of the three-door model that went on sale a couple of years earlier. Only 17% of cars had a fault and all cars remained driveable and were fixed in less than a week. Faults were only reported on older cars.

Read our full review of the Audi A1

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Best small cars for reliability (and the ones to avoid)

Honda Jazz 2008-2015

4. Honda Jazz (2008-2015)

Score 91.6%

It's not the newest car here, but the previous-generation Jazz is one of the most dependable. Only 13% of cars suffered from a fault and only a small number had more serious issues with engines and suspension.

Read our full review of the used Honda Jazz

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Best small cars for reliability (and the ones to avoid)

Renault Clio petrol

5. Renault Clio (petrol)

Score 90.1%

Only 7% of petrol-engined Clios had a problem; the most serious related to the suspension. Most were fixed under warranty, although a small percentage of owners paid up to £750 to get their cars fixed.

Read our full review of the Renault Clio

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Best small cars for reliability (and the ones to avoid)

Skoda Fabia

6. Skoda Fabia

Score 88.7%

The Fabia hatchback and estate were largely dependable, according to owners. Only minor issues with bodywork, interior trim and non-engine electrics were reported.

Read our full review of the Skoda Fabia

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Best small cars for reliability (and the ones to avoid)

Ford Fiesta

7. Ford Fiesta (2008-2017)

Score 88.3%

It's easy to see why the Fiesta is such a popular model. Most of the problems owners told us about were minor, including faulty infotainment systems, although there were a few issues with suspension and gearboxes.

Read our full review of the used Ford Fiesta

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Best small cars for reliability (and the ones to avoid)

Hyundai i20 petrol

8. Hyundai i20 (petrol)

Score 88.2%

Just 10% of petrol-engined Hyundai i20s in our study had a problem. Areas highlighted were engine electrics, gearboxes and steering; happily, all cars were fixed for free under warranty.

Read our full review of the Hyundai i20

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Best small cars for reliability (and the ones to avoid)

Suzuki Swift

9. Suzuki Swift (2011-2017)

Score 87.7%

The Swift is a dependable small car – only 10% of owners reported a fault and issues with non-engine electrics were the most common gripe. All faults were fixed for free under warranty, though.

Read our full review of the used Suzuki Swift

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Best small cars for reliability (and the ones to avoid)

Audi A1 3dr

10. Audi A1 3dr

Score 86.9%

The three-door A1 went on sale a few years before the five-door version, so it's had longer for problems to develop. It hasn't fared too badly, though, with 25% of cars suffering from a fault, spanning a range of areas including the engine, steering, suspension and electrical components.

Read our full review of the Audi A1

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Best small cars for reliability (and the ones to avoid)

Renault Clio diesel

### 11. Renault Clio (diesel)

Score 86.4%

The little Clio bucks the usual trend for diesel-engined models to prove more problematic than their petrol siblings. Only 16% of cars had faults with non-engine electrics. All were fixed for free.

Read our full review of the Renault Clio

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Best small cars for reliability (and the ones to avoid)

Mini hatchback

12. Mini hatchback (diesel)

Score 85.9%

Diesel-engined Minis outperform the petrols for dependability, according to owners. Less than 20% of cars had a fault – the most serious related to the fuel system – and all were fixed under warranty.

Read our full review of the Mini hatchback

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Best small cars for reliability (and the ones to avoid)

MG 3

13. MG 3

Score 83.4%

There aren't that many MG 3s out there, but those that are on the road are proving good to live with. Less than 20% of cars had faults and all were fixed for free.

Read our full review of the MG 3

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Best small cars for reliability (and the ones to avoid)

Dacia Sandero

14. Dacia Sandero

Score 82.2%

The Sandero may be cheap to buy, but that doesn't mean it's badly built – less than 20% of the cars we were told about had problems and they included engines and gearboxes. All were fixed under warranty.

Read our full review of the Dacia Sandero

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Best small cars for reliability (and the ones to avoid)

Mini hatchback petrol

15. Mini hatchback (petrol)

Score 80.5%

The petrol Mini isn't quite as robust as the diesel, suffering from faults in a number of areas including bodywork and trim, engines, engine electrics, non-engine electrics, gearboxes and suspension. All remedial work was covered by warranties, though.

Read our full review of the Mini hatchback

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Best small cars for reliability (and the ones to avoid)

Hyundai i20 2009-2015

16. Hyundai i20 (2009-2015)

Score 78.7%

The previous i20 is proving relatively tough – just 23% of cars had problems, with interior and exterior trim and bodywork the most common. All cars were fixed under warranty in less than a week.

Read our full review of the used Hyundai i20

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Best small cars for reliability (and the ones to avoid)

Seat Ibiza

17. Seat Ibiza (2009-2017)

Score 68.0%

More than 30% of Ibizas were problematic, according to owners, with the main issues concerning steering, suspension and air conditioning. All cars took more than a day to fix and some owners had to foot bills of up to £300.

Read our full review of the used Seat Ibiza

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Best small cars for reliability (and the ones to avoid)

Mini Clubman

18. Mini Clubman

Score 64.6%

The Clubman isn't as durable as other Mini models, with 25% of car suffering problems. Most concern interior and exterior bodywork and suspension, and the majority of issues were fixed for free.

Read our full review of the Mini Clubman

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Best small cars for reliability (and the ones to avoid)

Volkswagen Polo

19. Volkswagen Polo (2009-2017)

Score 58.8%

Just over 20% of Polo owners reported faults on their cars; the most common complaint was non-engine electrics (15%), with air-con accounting for half of those issues. Other problematic areas include the engine stop-start system, reversing camera and infotainment screen.

Read our full review of the used Volkswagen Polo

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Best small cars for reliability (and the ones to avoid)

Mazda 2

20. Mazda 2

Score 52.7%

Petrol-engined Mazda 2s also had more than their fair share of non-engine electrical issues, many of them relating to the air-con system. In addition, more than 10% of cars had fuel system problems.

Read our full review of the Mazda 2

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Best small cars for reliability (and the ones to avoid)

Nissan Note

21. Nissan Note

Score 48.6%

Almost 36% of Notes had a fault. Engine and engine electrics were problematic on 10% of petrol versions and, overall, almost 18% of all Notes had non-engine electrical faults and more than 14% reported suspension issues.

Read our full review of the Nissan Note

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