Most (and least) reliable family SUVs

Family SUVs may be bought for their style and practicality, but they also need to be robust enough to withstand the rigours of daily life. So, which are the most and least reliable?...

Most and least reliable family SUVs

Family SUVs need to satisfy the needs of all the family. The best are entertaining to drive, have a cosseting interior and are packed with enough features to keep little passengers happy. 

Most importantly, they need to be utterly dependable; after all, it's every parent's worst nightmare to be stuck on a motorway hard shoulder with a carload of tired children waiting for a recovery truck to turn up. 

That's where the What Car? Reliability Survey can help. Using feedback from nearly 13,000 car owners, we've rated 175 models from 31 car brands. Each model was given a unique reliability rating, based on how many faults it suffered in the previous year, how long each problem kept the car off the road for and the cost of any repairs.

Here, we reveal the best and worst family SUVs aged one to five years old. And we're running our reliability survey again at the moment, so once you’ve read the story, please tell us about your own car.

The 2021 What Car? Reliability Survey is open; tell us about your car here


The 10 most reliable family SUVs

10. BMW X1 diesel (2015-present) 

BMW X1 vs Mazda CX-5 vs Volkswagen Tiguan

Reliability rating 95.6%

Diesel X1s are less dependable than petrols, with 25% of owners reporting a fault with their car. Non-engine electrical issues were the biggest concern, followed by the bodywork, engine, engine electrics and exhaust.   

All cars could still be driven, but a third spent more than a week in the garage being fixed. The majority (86%) of work was done under warranty and only 5% of owners paid out more than £1500 in repair bills. 

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8=. Kia Sportage (2016-present)

Kia Sportage

Reliability rating 96.4%

Sportage owners told us 15% of cars had suffered a fault, with the most common problem area being the fuel system. Other areas highlighted included the gearbox/clutch, bodywork, brakes and engine. 

Four out of five cars could still be driven, but two-thirds needed more than a week to put right. The good news is that 82% were fixed under warranty and no repair bills exceeded £100. 

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8=. Volvo XC40 diesel (2017-present)

Volvo XC40 2020 RHD front tracking

Reliability rating 96.4%

Diesel XC40s aren't quite as durable as petrol-engined models, with 16% of those we were told about going wrong. That said, the bodywork was the main gripe, with only a small percentage of owners citing issues with the battery, engine, infotainment and non-engine electrics.   

All cars were put right in less than a week, but 14% of cars couldn't be driven until they were fixed. All work was done under warranty, though. 

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6=. Skoda Karoq diesel (2018-present)

Skoda Karoq driving

Reliability rating 96.7%

Only 9% of diesel Karoqs went wrong, with faults split evenly between the bodywork, engine and non-engine electrics. However, two-thirds of cars couldn't be driven and took longer than a week to repair. The upside is that all work was done for free. 

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6=. Suzuki SX4 S-Cross (2013-present)

Suzuki SX4 S-Cross

Reliability rating 96.7%

On the whole, the SX4 S-Cross is a dependable SUV, with only 12% of cars suffering a fault. Non-engine electrical niggles were the biggest issue, followed by the bodywork, brakes, gearbox/clutch and interior trim. 

All cars remained driveable and four out of five were put right in less than a week; no owners faced repair bills. 

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5. Volvo XC40 petrol (2017-present)

Volvo XC40 D4 R-Design front three quarters

Reliability rating 97.5%

Only 13% of petrol XC40s went wrong and, as with the diesel XC40, the bodywork was the most frequently cited problem area. A small percentage of owners also said their cars had issues with non-engine and engine electrics and the gearbox/clutch. 

Fortunately, all cars could still be driven and two-thirds were put right in less than a week; all work was done under warranty. 

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3=. Mercedes GLA (2014-2020)

Used Mercedes GLA front

Reliability rating 97.7%

Mercedes' smallest SUV is one of its most dependable, with just 12% of owners telling us their car had been faulty. Problems were split evenly between the brakes, engine electrics, fuel system and gearbox/clutch.  

All cars could still be driven and 75% were repaired in a day or less, with all work being done under warranty.  

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3=. Vauxhall Mokka petrol (2012-2019)

Vauxhall Mokka X 1.4T Ecotec Elite

Reliability rating 97.7%

Owners told us that 19% of Mokkas had gone wrong, with engine electrics and the exhaust being the main areas of concern. All of the troublesome cars remained driveable and two-thirds were rectified in a day or less. Even better, all work was done for free.

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2. Skoda Karoq petrol (2018-present)

Skoda Karoq front

Reliability rating 97.9%

Although petrol Karoqs suffered more faults than diesels (14% versus 9%), the petrol versions could all still be driven, unlike two-thirds of diesels. The petrols took less time to repair, too. Engine and non-engine electrics were the main trouble spots, followed by a small percentage of issues with interior trim.

Four out of five affected cars were repaired in less than a week, and all work was done under warranty.

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1. BMW X1 petrol (2015-present) 

BMW X1 front three quarters

Reliability rating 95.6%

What went wrong? Non-engine electrics 5%, air-con 3%, exhaust 3%, interior trim 3%

If you want a dependable X1, pick a petrol model. Just 8% of petrol-engined X1s suffered a fault, compared with 25% of diesels. All of the cars we were told about remained driveable and were fixed in less than a week, and all work was done for free.

Owner’s view “After two years, my car still looks and feels like new. It’s been 100% reliable and the build quality is excellent.”

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