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The most (and least) reliable small cars

Small cars are ideal for new drivers, so reliability is key. We reveal the most and least dependable models…...

Most and least reliable small cars - Clio

Buying a new car can be stressful, especially for new drivers who are most commonly looking for a small car that needs to be cheap to buy and run and able to withstand the wear and tear of daily use. These drivers are more prone to accidents and damage than those with more experience, so reliability is key. 

It’s a good thing then, that we have all the answers on which are the most – and least – reliable models from our latest What Car? Reliability Survey, conducted in association with MotorEasy. The data has been collected from more than 16,000 people, who spill all the beans on the durability of their cars. For each model we reveal everything you need to know, including the most common faults, the time taken to repair cars and how much the work cost. 

Read on to find out about the most and least reliable small cars, based on data for cars up to five years old, from 178 different models and 30 brands. 


Most reliable small cars

10. Kia Rio (2017-present)

New Kia Rio vs Skoda Fabia

Reliability Rating 94.0%

Gearbox and air-con issues were the main concerns for the 18% of Rio owners who noticed a fault with their vehicle, followed by a small number of reports with bodywork, battery, engine and sat nav. More than half of these vehicles took up to a week to repair, with 27% also being deemed as non-driveable. The only good news is that 94% of cars were fixed under warranty, with the 6% of owners who were faced with bills, paying no more than £200.

Read our full Kia Rio review >>

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9. Renault Clio (2013-2019)

Used Renault Clio Hatchback (13 - present)

Reliability Rating 94.3%

The Clio suffered faults in five different categories: the majority of issues were with the bodywork and air con, followed by complaints about the exhaust, fuel system and interior trim and seats. All cars were still driveable, but 40% took more than a week to repair. The good news is that all costs were covered by Renault.

Read our full Renault Clio review >>

Find a great deal on a Renault Clio >>


8. Volkswagen Up (2012-present)

Volkswagen Up 1.0 Beats [start stop]

Reliability Rating 94.8%

VW Up owners reported that 13% of their cars suffered faults. The most prevalent problems were areas with the bodywork and brakes, and a massive 75% of these left cars in repair shops for more than a week. The only good news is that the majority (75%) of these cars were fixed for free, but the other half cost their owners between £301 and £500.

Read our full Volkswagen Up review >>

Find a great deal on a Volkswagen Up >>


7. Ford Fiesta petrol (2008-2017)

Ford Fiesta 2008-2016

Reliability Rating 95.0%

Brake and air-con issues affected 16% of the petrol-powered previous-generation Fiesta’s we were told about, but the impact wasn’t too bad for owners. The majority of vehicles (67%) were back on the road within a week, and two thirds of owners were faced with bills of up to £300.

Read our full used Ford Fiesta review >>

Find a great deal on a used Ford Fiesta >>


6. Mini hatchback (2014-present)

New Mini 5dr vs Audi A1 Sportback vs Ford Fiesta

Reliability Rating 96.9%

Mini owners told us that just 7% of their cars had experienced an issue, most of which concerned the bodywork, battery and engine electrics. Of these, 56% of cars were repaired in less than a day, while the rest spent up to a week in repair shops. Luckily, most were fixed for free (89%), leaving an unlucky 11% of owners with bills of more than £1500.

Read our full Mini hatchback review >>

Find a great deal on a Mini hatchback >>


5. Honda Jazz (2015-2020)

5 reasons to buy a Honda Jazz

Reliability Rating 98.1%

The Jazz is one of our favourite small cars and is proving pretty reliable so far, with only 8% of owners reporting a fault with their vehicle. While most problems were to do with the bodywork, there were also issues with the car’s interior trim and seats and suspension. Although 20% cars took more than a week to repair, 60% of them were fixed for free, and the other 40% of owners had to pay, but no bills exceeded £500.

Read our full Honda Jazz review >>

Find a great deal on a used Honda Jazz >>


4. Hyundai i20 (2015-2020)

Hyundai i20

Reliability Rating 99.0%

The previous-generation i20 may not be the most well-known small car, but certainly is proving durable. It was the fourth most reliable small car in our survey with only 5% of owners reporting faults. The sole problem area was the engine, but all issues were put right within a day and Hyundai covered the cost of all repairs. 

Suzuki Swift Sport

Reliability Rating 99.3%

Air conditioning issues were the main concern for the mere 3% of Swift owners who noted a fault. However, all cars could still be driven and were repaired at no cost to the customers, with most of the vehicles we were told about still covered by Suzuki’s warranty. 

Read our full Suzuki Swift review >>

Find a great deal on a Suzuki Swift >>


2. Hyundai i10 (2014-2020)

Hyundai i10

Reliability Rating 99.6%

As well as being an affordable small car, the previous-generation i10 is also a reliable one with only 4% of drivers reporting a problem. Faults were resolved swiftly and at no cost to the owners. Steering issues were the most common problems. 

Read our full Hyundai i10 review >>

Find a great deal on a used Hyundai i10 >>


1. Dacia Sandero (2013-2020)

Dacia Sandero 2019 front left urban tracking

Reliability Rating 100%

The previous-generation Sandero comes in at first place as the most reliable small car, with a 100% reliability rating and an exceptional zero faults recorded by owners over the previous 12 months. That means, as well as being a great value option for new and younger drivers, it’s also a model they can depend on.  

Read our full Dacia Sandero review >>

Find a great deal on a used Dacia Sandero >>