Most (and least) reliable older small cars
More small hatchbacks are sold than any other type of car, so there are plenty of used examples to choose from. But which are the most and least dependable?...
Small cars are usually cheap to buy, but if you pick an unreliable model it could land you 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 nearly 13,000 car owners across the UK, that's where the What Car? Reliability Survey can help you sort the good from the bad.
Here, we're looking exclusively at the results for used small cars aged between six and 20 years old. We've rated each one according to the seriousness of the faults it's suffered and the cost of fixing it.
Top 10 most reliable older small cars
10. Volkswagen Polo (2009-2017)
What Car? reliability rating 85.4%
Owners told us that 28% of older Polos suffered a fault, with the suspension the most common ailment. Problems were also reported with the brake system, air-con, engine, engine electrics, fuel system and steering. Three-quarters of repair bills were less than £500, though, and only 8% of owners paid out between £1000 and £1500. Most cars could still be driven, and 58% were put right in a day or less.
9. Hyundai i10 (2008-2013)
What Car? reliability rating 89.0%
Only 17% of i10s had a problem, with issues split evenly between the air-con, brakes, gearbox/clutch and non-engine electrics. Repair bills ranged from £101 to £1000, but all cars could still be driven and all were repaired in less than a week; 50% were sorted out in a day or less.
8. Mini hatchback (2007-2014)
What Car? reliability rating 89.8%
According to owners, 19% of Minis went wrong, 8% of them with engine issues. There were also a smaller percentage of issues with the air-con, battery, exhaust, fuel system and non-engine electrics. An impressive 43% of cars were fixed for free, and most repair bills were less than £200; only 14% of owners paid out £1000 to £1500. Three-quarters of cars could still be driven and the same percentage were repaired in less than a week.
=6. Audi A1 (2010-2018)
What Car? reliability rating 90.2%
Only 16% of A1s had a problem, with engine electrical systems the main culprits. Owners also told us some cars had issues with the exhaust system, infotainment and other non-engine electrical systems. Repair bills were low, ranging from £101 to £300, while all cars remained driveable and 40% were put right in a day or less.
=6. Toyota Yaris (2011-2020)
What Car? reliability rating 90.2%
The newer Yaris is proving slightly less robust than the previous model (see below). Although 20% of cars had a fault, all cars could still be driven and were fixed in less than a week. The most common problem area was the suspension, followed by gearbox/clutch and steering. No repair bills topped £500 and 60% of the cars we were told about cost less than £200 to fix.
5. Toyota Yaris (2006-2011)
What Car? reliability rating 94.5%
In spite of its age, a mere 13% of Yarises of this generation went wrong, according to owners, with the air-con and suspension the only trouble spots. Half of repair bills cost less than £200 and none of the rest topped £300. Like the newer model, all cars remained driveable and were fixed in less than a week.
4. Volkswagen Up (2012-present)
What Car? reliability rating 95.1%
Only 13% of Up owners reported a fault on their cars, with issues split evenly between the battery, bodywork and brakes. All cars were fixed in a day or less and repair bills ranged from less than £50 to £200.
3. Mini hatchback petrol (2014-present)
What Car? reliability rating 97.3%
Petrol-engined versions of the latest Mini are proving pretty bulletproof, with electrical issues being the only problem reported by owners. Only 5% of cars were affected and all of them could still be driven, but those that were faulty took up to a week to fix and repair bills ranged from £301 to £500.
2. Honda Jazz (2008-2014)
What Car? reliability rating 98.0%
With its double-folding rear seats, the Jazz is one of the most practical small hatchbacks, and it is also proving durable, according to owners. They told us that only 5% of cars went wrong, with the battery and brakes being the only trouble spots. Half of the cars could still be driven and all were fixed in a day or less and none of the bills exceeded £200.
1. Kia Picanto (2011-2017)
What Car? reliability rating 98.5%
The Picanto may not be as agile or refined as the VW Group’s triumvirate of the Seat Mii, Skoda Citigo and Volkswagen Up, but it trounces them for dependability. Only 6% of cars went wrong and the only area affected was the battery. All cars were fixed in a day or less and no bills exceeded £100.
Owner comment: “The thing I like most about my car is how reliable it has been. It comes with a seven-year warranty, but I’ve not needed to use it.”
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