Most (and least) reliable types of car
Which classes of car suffer the most breakdowns and which soldier on faultlessly? We examine 12 car classes and reveal the most and least reliable...
Are gadget-laden luxury saloons more prone to going wrong than simple hatchbacks? And more generally, do cars with more electrical features suffer a higher rate of problems?
To find out the answer to these questions and reveal the most – and least – dependable car classes, we've analysed the data for nearly 13,000 cars that owners told us about in our annual Reliability Survey.
We've split the data into 12 different car classes, spanning everything from small cars to luxury SUVs, and ranked them by the average reliability rating for each. Plus, we've included details of the best and worst models to help you choose the most dependable option.
The reliability rating for each car class and model is based on the number and severity of the faults that owners told us about, with the data covering vehicles aged up to five years old from 31 different brands.
And remember, the 2021 What Car? Reliability Survey is now open; you can tell us about your car here.
The most reliable car classes
8. Coupés, convertibles and sports cars
Reliability rating 92.8%
These cars are bought by enthusiasts for their driving enjoyment, so they should be dependable. Those that suffer repeated faults that cost a lot to put right will soon wipe the smiles off their owners' faces. The best of the bunch is the BMW 2 Series and the poorest performer is the Porsche 718 Cayman.
Whether you go for the convertible or coupé, the 2 Series should prove a robust driving partner. It has a reliability rating of 97.4%. Only 13% of the cars we were told about went wrong, and bodywork and non-engine electrics were the only trouble spots. Although three-quarters of faulty cars took more than a week to fix, all work was done for free.
The Porsche 718 Cayman isn't plagued by faults, but a quarter of cars had problems and 10% of them were with the engine. Its reliability rating is 82.5%, partly due to the high cost of repairs for some owners. They told us only 63% of cars were fixed for free and bills ranged from £300 to more than £1500.
7. Family cars
Reliability rating 93.0%
Family cars can have tough lives, used for commuting during the week and as transport for all the family at weekends, so they need to be durable. Pick a good one, like the BMW 1 Series, which is the most reliable family car, and you should get miles of problem-free motoring.
Only 5% of diesel-engined 1 Series cars went wrong, compared with 10% of petrol-engined models, so the diesel is the better bet. Interior trim was the only cause for concern, and all repairs were done for free. Its reliability rating of 99.2% shows just how dependable it is.
The previous-generation Seat Leon (2013-2020) is not the best choice if you're after a diesel. It gained a reliability score of 82.7% and 40% of cars suffered a fault. Two-thirds of cars could still be driven and many were fixed for free, although some owners paid out up to £500.
=5. Electric cars
Reliability rating 93.4%
Electric cars are among the most expensive to buy, so they ought to be reliable. There are a small number of models that let the side down, such as the Tesla Model S, but others like the Model 3 are far more dependable.
The Model 3 is Tesla's newest arrival, and so far it's the brand's most robust. Just 5% of cars suffered a fault and all cars were fixed in a day or less at no cost to owners. Its exemplary reliability rating is 99.4%.
The car that prevented the electric car class from doing better in our reliability league is the Model S. It's the worst-performing electric car and had the highest fault rate of all the cars we were told about, at 61%. The good news is that most cars were put right for free and no repair bills topped £100. It could only raise a reliability rating of 85.7%.
=5. Family SUVs
Reliability rating 93.4%
SUVs are the cars everyone wants to own, because they're stylish and roomy and, in many cases, offer great visibility from a high driving position. There are plenty to choose from, and one thing that sets the best apart from the worst is their opposing rates of reliability.
The current BMW X1 is the hardiest family SUV. It's an exemplary performer for reliability, especially if you pick a petrol model; just 8% of petrol X1s went wrong, compared with 25% of diesels. Electrical and interior trim niggles were the main bugbears, but all cars were put right in less than a week and all work was done for free. Its reliability rating is 98.1%.
On the other hand, with a relatively poor reliability rating of 82.8%, the previous Range Rover Evoque (2011-2019) isn't as tough as it looks. In fact, it's the worst-performing family SUV. Owners told us 35% of cars had a fault and a third were off the road for more than a week. Although 95% of remedial work was done for free, some owners paid out between £300 and more than £1500.
4. Executive cars
Reliability rating 93.6%
Often driven as company cars, executive cars need to remain faultless while piling on the motorway miles. They're mostly a rugged bunch, such as the Skoda Superb, capable of clocking up high mileages without too many issues, although some, including the Mercedes C-Class, suffer more than their fair share of problems.
The current Skoda Superb lives up to its name, especially if you go for a petrol-engined model; only 10% of them went wrong, compared with 24% of diesels. All affected cars were fixed for free and half were back on the road in a day or less. No wonder its reliability rating is 98.3%.
The Mercedes C-Class is the least dependable executive car, with a third of cars afflicted by faults that encompassed a wide range of components from the bodywork to the steering. Four out of five cars were fixed for free, but some owners paid out more than £1500 for repairs.
3. Small SUVs
Reliability rating 94.4%
The car-buying public has fallen in love with small SUVs, with thousands turning away from conventional hatchbacks in favour of something that rides that little bit higher. And the good news is that they're proving pretty dependable so far.
The Mini Countryman is the highest-scoring small SUV for reliability. It was one of the first small SUVs, yet it's remained one of the most durable. It scored 98.3% in our reliability ratings, and owners said only 10% of cars went wrong. Two-thirds of those that did were fixed in a day or less and all work was carried out under warranty.
The fact that the Honda HR-V is the least dependable small SUV is a reflection of the high standard in this class. Its reliability rating of 90.2% isn't bad at all, but a fairly high proportion (23%) of cars suffered a fault. The good news is that 95% of them were put right for free and no repair bills exceeded £200.
2. Value and small cars
Reliability rating 95.5%
Proving the old saying that small, simple cars are less likely to go wrong, two of our city cars scored a full 100% rating for reliability.
Owners of the 2012-2019 Skoda Citigo and current Toyota Aygo told us that their cars hadn't suffered a single fault in the previous 12 months. One Aygo owner said: "It's the most reliable car I've ever owned. I'm so impressed I'm considering buying another one when it's time to replace this car."
There are also two models tying for the title of least reliable small car. The previous-generation Dacia Sandero (2013-2020) and Suzuki Ignis both achieved a reliability rating of only 85.9%. Owners told us 21% of Sanderos went wrong, and that figure rose to 25% for the Ignis. Two-thirds of Sanderos were out of action for up to a week and nearly half of Ignises were in the garage for more than a week.
Reliability rating 96.5%
In spite of their relative complexity, hybrids are the least likely class of car to suffer a fault. Even the least robust models gain reliability ratings of around 95%, which is higher than the top cars in other classes, and the best are almost faultless.
The hybrid version of the Toyota Yaris is the most reliable hybrid, gaining a score of 99.5%. A mere 5% of cars went wrong and electrical glitches were the only issues. All cars could still be driven and all were fixed in a day or less at no cost to the owners.
The Toyota Prius sits at the bottom of the hybrid car league only because its rivals are so dependable. It scored 94.6% and only 14% of cars went wrong. Although some cars were in the garage for more than a week, half were repaired for free and no repair bills topped £50.
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