Car of the Year Awards 2021: Reliability Award

In the 2020 What Car? Reliability Survey, owners told us about 12,892 cars from 31 brands, with each given a rating based on the number of faults, and the time and cost of repairs...

WINNER: Reliability Award


Reliability Award Sponsor Logo

Reliability rating 97% (all cars up to 20 years old)

Lexus has dominated our Reliability Survey for the past four years, winning outright in three out of four of them. In 2020, when people relied on their cars more than ever, the Japanese luxury brand posted an exemplary reliability rating of 98.7% for cars up to five years old. Even more impressive was the fact that it scored 96.0% for cars between six and 20 years old, most of which were out of the manufacturer’s warranty period.

Hybrid technology is at the heart of all Lexus models, and it’s reassuring for car buyers to know that these complex systems, which use a petrol engine and an electric motor, are proving so durable.

One stand-out model is the RX luxury SUV (below). The current model scored 99.1% in the newer car category, while the previous version, dating back to 2009, wasn’t far behind with 96.8% in the older car chart. Less than 10% of the RXs we were told about had suffered a fault, and 86% of the older-generation models that did were fixed at no cost to the owners.

Lexus RX L

The highest-scoring Lexus of all was the NX large SUV, which posted a creditable 99.3% in the newer car tables. Again, its siblings in the older car chart were trustworthy too; the CT hatchback had a 98.0% rating and the IS saloon 97.6%.

Only 4% of CTs went wrong; bodywork was the only problem area, and all repairs were done in a day or less. Although 14% of IS saloons suffered electrical issues, all cars could still be driven and they were all out of the garage in less than a week at no cost to their owners.

It’s a testament to the strong performance of Lexus models that the hybrid class was the most dependable for cars up to five years old, with an overall score of 96.5%.

All of this explains why Lexus is the winner of our 2021 Reliability Award, sponsored by

2nd - Toyota

Reliability rating 94.95%

Toyota RAV4 Hybrid

Toyota has three aces up its sleeve when it comes to reliability: the Aygo, RAV4 (above) and Yaris. All three posted perfect 100% reliability ratings, with all owners reporting a fault-free 12 months. While the Aygo and RAV4 achieved their exemplary scores in the table for newer cars, the hybrid Yaris did the same in the older car chart, demonstrating that it ages well. Only the marginally lower scores of the C-HR (95.6%) and Prius (94.6%) in the newer car tables dragged Toyota’s overall score down.

3rd - Mitsubishi

Reliability rating 94.55%

Mitsubishi Outlander 2020 RHD wide front left cornering

In their first five years, Mitsubishi models perform almost faultlessly, giving the brand an overall score of 97.9% and second place in this age group. The plug-in hybrid Outlander PHEV SUV (above) is its strongest scorer, with 97.8%.

Dependability then tails off a little; its older car reliability score of 91.2% puts it in sixth place. While the ASX maintains a commendable level of reliability, the Outlander PHEV is the lowest-scoring older hybrid, with 87.3% in a highly competitive class.

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