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Most (and least) reliable family cars

The last thing you want when you've got the family in the car is to be left stranded by the roadside, So, here we take a look at the most and least dependable models...

Most and least reliable family cars 2021 - BMW 1 Series

Family cars have to be able to withstand the many punishments young children can unleash upon a car, and give parents the confidence that they won’t have a stressful breakdown with their little ones in tow. However, it can be a bit of a minefield trying to figure out whether your next vehicle will be dependable or not.

That’s where our 2021 Reliability Survey comes in. We asked more than 16,000 of our readers to let us know if they'd suffered any faults with their cars over the past year, and if so, how long the car was off the road and how much the repairs cost.

Overall, family cars scored quite well, achieving an average of 93.0%. Nonetheless, to give you that extra slice of peace of mind, we’ve taken a closer look at the data so we can reveal the most and least reliable family cars up to five years old.

The 10 most reliable family cars

10. Seat Leon petrol (2013-2020)

Seat Leon hatchback 2019 front cornering

Reliability rating: 95.1%

Petrol versions of the previous-generation Seat Leon have been more reliable than their diesel counterparts, but that’s not to say they were perfect. Twenty-one per cent of Leons suffered a fault, mainly due to issues with the non-engine electrics and the bodywork. 

Thankfully, every car could still be driven, but just over a quarter (26%) took more than a week to repair. Additionally, 9% of the faults cost between £101 and £200 to fix, while the rest were sorted out under warranty.

Read our used Seat Leon (2013-2020) review >>

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9. Kia Ceed diesel (2012-2018)

Deal of the day: Kia Ceed

Reliability rating: 95.3%

The Kia Ceed features on this list several times, but the previous-generation diesel-powered cars come in lowest. Seventeen percent went wrong, mostly because of the gearbox and/or clutch. 

While 87% of Ceed diesel owners could still drive their cars despite faults, the remaining 13% couldn’t and had to wait more than a week for repairs. In fact, it took Kia more than a week to fix 38% of all problems. While 75% of repairs were covered under warranty, a quarter of owners had to pay – and half of them were charged between £751 and £1000.

Read our used Kia Ceed (2012-2018) review >>

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8. Skoda Octavia petrol (2013-2020)

Skoda Octavia front cornering

Reliability rating: 95.5%

It’s no surprise that the previous-generation petrol Skoda Octavia scored similarly to the Leon, which is in 10th place, because they’re based on the same underpinnings. However, fewer Octavias ran into problems (14%). Most issues were related to the electrics (of the engine and otherwise).

Furthermore, 18% that suffered a fault were taken off the road by it, and 35% of owners waited longer than a week for their cars to be repaired. Twelve per cent were billed after their cars were mended, although none paid more than £200.

Read our used Skoda Octavia (2013-2020) review >>

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7. Kia Ceed (2018-present)

Kia Ceed 2021 front cornering

Reliability rating: 95.7%

Petrol and diesel versions of the current Kia Ceed come in seventh place, with 12% of cars suffering a fault. Issues with the engine electrics account for more than half of the faults, but the exhaust, fuel system, engine, bodywork and interior trim also proved problematic for some.

Hardly any owners had to pay for remedial work (just 13% paid up to £50), although a disappointing 75% of owners waited more than a week to get their cars back.

Read our full Kia Ceed review >>

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6. Ford Focus petrol (2011-2018)

Ford Focus

Reliability rating: 96.0%

Much like last year, the previous-generation Ford Focus has proven more reliable than the current model. Fourteen percent of owners required repairs to the bodywork, engine electrics, interior trim, and the non-engine electrics, but none of the faults prevented cars from being driven.

Even better, 75% of Focuses were fixed on the same day they went into the garage, while the remaining 25% were fixed within a week. As you’d expect with a car up to 10 years old, only 25% of cars were covered by a warranty, but it wasn’t too bad for owners who weren’t because half only paid up to £50, and the remaining 25% paid between £101 and £200.

Kia Cee'd

Reliability rating: 96.1%

The petrol version of the previous-generation Kia Ceed has proven better to live with than the diesel, and only 16% of cars had an issue. Problems with the bodywork were most common, but the non-engine electrics and the engine itself were also problematic for some. 

Just 6% of cars were rendered undriveable, and 55% of cars were fixed within a day. However, 25% took longer than a week to fix, including all those that broke down because of their faults. Whereas 25% of previous-generation diesel Ceed owners had to pay for remedial work, all petrol owners had their repairs covered under warranty, proving their cars’ value over a long ownership period.

Read our used Kia Ceed (2012-2018) review >>

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4. Kia xCeed (2019-present)

Kia XCeed PHEV 2021 front right tracking

Reliability rating: 96.3%

The SUV-styled xCeed has proven the most reliable version of the current Ceed, inconveniencing just 6% of owners, with bodywork, engine electrics and exhaust troubles. While no one had to pay for repairs, they did have to wait longer than a week to get their cars back – regardless of whether or not they could still be driven with their faults.

Read our full Kia XCeed review >>

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3. BMW 1 Series petrol (2019-present)

BMW 1 Series long-term front tracking 2

Reliability rating: 96.9%

Petrol-powered BMW 1 Series models claim a spot on the reliability podium, having developed issues with either the brakes or the fuel system for just 10% of owners. None of these issues prevented cars from being driven, nor did owners have to pay for any repairs. However, BMW did take more than a week to carry out all remedial work.

Hyundai i30 2020 front

Reliability rating: 97.4%

The current Hyundai i30 is a new entrant on this list, and it’s coming in at a strong second place. While 13% of owners suffered issues with either the gearbox and/or clutch, or the brakes, none of the issues prevented cars from being driven.

Hyundai fixed 67% within a day, taking less than a week to repair the rest. All repairs were covered under warranty, which makes the i30 a convincing long-term ownership prospect. 

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1. BMW 1 Series petrol (2011-2019) 

Used BMW 1 Series front

Reliability rating: 99.0%

BMW’s slogan is 'Sheer Driving Pleasure', and owners of the previous-generation 1 Series can experience it without any major interruptions. Just 6% of 1 Series suffered faults with either the air con, exhaust, non-engine electrics, or the suspension, and none of these issues stopped them being drive.

BMW also managed to return every car to its owner on the same day it went in, at zero cost, giving the previous-generation 1 Series a near-perfect score. 

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