MOT test fail rates: the best and worst models

We’ve used new government data to find the best and worst MOT test fail rates in each car class and reveal the top 10 items that let motorists down.....

For many motorists, putting your car through its annual MOT test is one of the most nerve-wracking days of the year.

MOT technician

Once you’ve delivered the car to your local garage or dealer, you keep your phone next to you, waiting as anxiously as an expectant parent for the call to say if your car has passed and, if not, how much it’s going to cost to rectify the problems.

The MOT test is required every year for cars between three and 40 years old. But a car won’t necessarily sail through the test each year just because it’s relatively new, especially if you don’t check its basic items regularly.

According to the Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA), nearly 50% of all faults found during MOT tests could have been avoided if the car’s owner had carried out regular checks on the most common MOT fail items, such as bulbs, tyres and wipers.

Its data reveals that more than 7.5 million of the 28.9 million cars and light commercial vehicles that underwent an MOT test in 2017 failed at the first attempt; that’s around 35% of those taking it. Lighting and signalling problems are the most common reason for failure, followed by suspension, which speaks volumes about the state of Britain’s roads. However, other easy-to-check items, such as tyres and wheels and anything that impairs the driver’s view of the road, together account for 27% of failures.

"Proper maintenance is key"

MOT technician

Neil Barlow, the DVSA’s head of vehicle engineering, said: “The MOT plays a key role in making sure the vehicles on our roads are safe to drive and meet high environmental standards. Vehicles fail their MOT for a variety of reasons, but proper maintenance is key to making sure a vehicle passes its MOT first time and remains safe to drive. By checking their vehicle all year round, motorists will also reduce the risk of causing an accident that kills or seriously injures someone.”

What Car? also regards a car’s MOT history as an important indicator of how well it has been looked after and how many components have developed faults or worn out. Both of these factors are extremely important if you’re looking for a dependable older car as a second family motor or a first car for a new driver.

To make it easier to pick the best used car, we’ve examined the data for all the cars that were tested across the country during 2017, splitting them into makes and models and calculating the percentage that failed their
test at the first attempt.

Our tables rank the best and worst cars for passing the MOT in nine classes, ranging from city cars to sports and performance cars.

Best city cars for passing the MOT test:

Skoda Citigo

The Skoda Citigo claims the top spot here by just 0.04% ahead of the Peugeot 108, demonstrating that many current city runabouts are able to sail through the annual test. Some older models do well too, in particular the previous-generation Hyundai i10, which was superseded in 2013.

Make and model                                % MOT fails

Skoda Citigo 2012-present:                    6.0%

Peugeot 108 2014-present:                     6.0%

Volkswagen Up 2012-present:              6.7%

Kia Picanto 2011-2017:                            9.8%

Vauxhall Adam 2013-present:              10.6%

Seat Mii 2012-present:                             10.8%

Suzuki Alto 2009-2015:                          11.7%

Hyundai i10 2008-2013:                         12.5%

Ford Ka 2008-2016:                                 13.5%

Smart Fortwo 2007-2014:                     14.4%

Worst city cars for passing the MOT test:

Worst city cars for passing the MOT test:

Budget models from the late 1990s are now really struggling, most prominently the Daewoo Matiz. But although there are some ancient models in the basement, the poor performance of the 2004-2009 Suzuki Alto demonstrates that youth doesn’t always guarantee reliability.

Make and model                                % MOT fails

Citroën C2 2003-2009:                       28.1%

Chevrolet Matiz 2005-2010:             28.1%

Seat Arosa 1997-2005:                         28.3%

Fiat Seicento 1998-2004:                   31.1%

Peugeot 106 1996-2003:                     31.7%

Hyundai Amica 2000-2003:             32.1%

Suzuki Alto 2004-2009:                      32.7%

Ford Ka 1996-2008:                              34.6%

Suzuki Alto 1997-2004:                       36.4%

Daewoo Matiz 1998-2005:                 38.8%

Best small cars for passing the MOT test:

Mitsubishi Mirage

Japanese cars have always been known for their dependability, so it’s no surprise to see the Mitsubishi Mirage atop the pile and the Toyota Yaris and Honda Jazz in the top 10. That the Mini and the bargain Dacia Sandero defeat several other Japanese cars shows how good they are, too.

Make and model                               % MOT fails

Mitsubishi Mirage 2012-present:       4.8%

Mini 3dr/5dr 2014-present:                  5.0%

Toyota Yaris 2011-present:                   6.3%

Dacia Sandero 2013-present:               6.7%

Honda Jazz 2008-2015:                         7.0%

Toyota iQ 2008-2014:                             7.2%

Nissan Note 2013-2017:                         7.7%

Audi A1 2010-2019:                                  8.1%

Suzuki Swift 2010-2017:                        8.5%

Peugeot 208 2012-present:                   8.8%

Worst small cars for passing the MOT test:

Renault Clio

The surprise entrant in the lower half of this league is the 2002-2008 Seat Ibiza, which chocked up 2% more fails than its 1995-2002 predecessor. The Peugeot 206 and Fiat Punto of similar vintage also perform poorly, although that’s not as surprising as the lowly record of the Mk2 Nissan Micra. However, the worst performer here is the old Renault Clio.

Make and model                               % MOT fails

Peugeot 206 1998-2009:                   30.0%

Fiat Punto 1999-2010:                        30.0%

Seat Ibiza 2002-2008:                        30.1%

Kia Cerato 2004-2007:                       30.2%

Nissan Micra 1992-2002:                  31.3%

Vauxhall Corsa 2000-2006:             32.7%

Rover Streetwise 2003-2005:          32.7%

Ford Fiesta 1995-2002:                       33.7%

Citroën Saxo 1996-2003:                    35.3%

Renault Clio 1998-2005:                     35.8%

Best family cars for passing the MOT test:

Nissan Leaf

The electric Nissan Leaf has the lowest MOT fail rate of all cars tested in 2017, banishing any concerns potential buyers might have about saying goodbye to engines. The appearance of Mercedes and Volkswagen Group models in the top 10 should provide reassurance about those brands as well.

Make and model                               % MOT fails

Nissan Leaf 2011-2018:                       3.7%

Mazda 3 2013-2019:                             4.8%

Honda Civic 2011-2015:                     6.5%

Volkswagen Beetle 2012-2018:      6.9%

Skoda Rapid 2012-2019:                   7.1%

Lexus CT 2011-present:                       7.4%

Toyota Auris 2013-2019 :                  7.4%

Toyota Prius 2009-2016:                  8.0%

Mercedes A-Class 2013-2018:        8.2%

Skoda Octavia 2013-present:           8.3%

Worst family cars for passing the MOT test:


Older French and Italian models account for nearly half of those in the bottom 10, along with two British cars: the MG ZR (a performance-focused version of the Rover 25) and the Rover 400 Series. In contrast, it’s perhaps a surprise to see a Mitsubishi near the bottom of this league.

Make and model                             % MOT fails

Citroën Xsara 1997-2004:              30.4%

Vauxhall Astra 1998-2004:            30.4%

Ford Focus 1998-2004:                    30.7%

MG ZR 2001-2005:                             30.9%

Renault Mégane 2002-2008:         31.9%

Alfa Romeo 147 2000-2010:           31.9%

Peugeot 306 1997-2002:                   32.6%

Rover 400 Series 1995-1999:          34.8%

Mitsubishi Carisma 1995-2005:    35.3%

Fiat Stilo 2001-2007:                          37.5%

Best small and family SUVs for passing the MOT test:

Subaru Forester

This is the category with the lowest overall MOT fail rate. While the Japanese Subaru Forester comes out on top, half of the SUVs in this category are from German brands. Vauxhall should be commended for the strength of its Mokka X, and more so Dacia for the performance of its cut-price Duster.

Make and model                             % MOT fails

Subaru Forester 2008-2012:         4.6%

Mercedes GLA 2014-present:         4.8%

Vauxhall Mokka 2012-present:      5.4%

Audi Q3 2011-2018:                             6.1%

Skoda Yeti 2009-2017:                       6.6%

Mini Paceman 2013-2017:                6.8%

Nissan Qashqai 2014-present:         7.1%

Peugeot 2008 2013-present:             7.1%

Dacia Duster 2013-2018:                    7.6%

Mini Countryman 2010-2017:         8.6%

Worst small and family SUVs for passing the MOT test:

Jeep Patriot

With three models in the bottom 10, Suzuki has the weakest record in this category. The Jimny and Grand Vitara are ancient in relative terms, admittedly, but the SX4 isn’t. Meanwhile, the 2002-2007 Subaru Forester is four times more likely to fail its test than the stellar 2008-2012 version.

Make and model                              % MOT fails

Suzuki Jimny 1998-2018:                21.1%

Suzuki SX4 2006-2013:                    22.1%

Subaru Forester 2002-2008:         22.5%

Jeep Compass 2006-2016:              23.8%

Daihatsu Terios 1997-2006:           25.2%

Honda HR-V 1999-2005:                  25.5%

Toyota RAV4 1994-2000:                 27.0%

Land Rover Freelander 1997-06: 28.0%

Suzuki Grand Vitara 1998-2006: 28.7%

Jeep Patriot 2007-2014:                   39.1%

Best large and luxury SUVs for passing the MOT test:

Honda CR-V

The Honda CR-V isn’t the most expensive large SUV, but it’s certainly one of the most rugged, because it beats all of the premium brands for passing the MOT test first time. Range Rovers often perform poorly for reliability, but the current Sport bucks this trend by ranking in seventh place here.

Make and model                               % MOT fails

Honda CR-V 2012-2016:                    6.7%

Lexus RX 2009-2016:                          6.8%

Toyota RAV4 2013-2019:                   7.0%

Mazda CX-5 2012-2017:                      7.2%

BMW X5 2013-2018:                            7.6%

BMW X3 2011-2017:                             8.0%

Audi Q5 2008-2017:                             8.8%

Range Rover Sport 2014-present:  8.8%

Porsche Cayenne 2010-2017:          8.8%

Volkswagen Touareg 2010-2018:  9.7%

Worst large and luxury SUVs for passing the MOT test:

Nissan Pathfinder

Jeeps look tough, but their MOT results suggest the opposite; there are two in each SUV bottom 10. The same disparity appears here for the Mitsubishi Shogun, the pick-up truck-based Nissan Pathfinder and the Nissan Terrano II. Surprisingly, the original Lexus RX does far worse than its successors.

Make and model                                  % MOT fails

Lexus RX 1998-2003:                            27.5%

Mercedes M-Class 1998-2005:          27.6%

Ssangyong Rexton 2003-2013:         27.8%

Jeep Grand Cherokee 1999-2005:  27.9%

Jeep Cherokee 2001-2008:                28.1%

Kia Sorento 2003-2010:                      28.8%

BMW X5 2000-2007 :                           28.8%

Mitsubishi Shogun 2000-2007:      28.9%

Nissan Pathfinder 2005-2012:        28.9%

Nissan Terrano II 1993-2007:         36.0%

Best MPVs for passing the MOT test:

Skoda Roomster

Don’t discount the Skoda Roomster for its odd looks; it’s a practical MPV with a great record for reliability. Less than 10% of Ford’s B-Max and C-Max models failed first time too. And if you’re after a larger people carrier, the Volkswagen Sharan and Seat Alhambra both have very strong pass rates.

Make and model                                  % MOT fails

Skoda Roomster 2006-2015:             7.1%

Ford B-Max 2012-2017:                        8.5%

Ford C-Max 2011-2019:                         9.8%

Volkswagen Touran 2010-2015:       10.5%

Mercedes B-Class 2011-2019:             10.7%

Volkswagen Sharan 2010-present:  10.9%

Vauxhall Meriva 2010-2018:              11.1%

Citroën C4 Picasso 2014-2019:          11.1%

Seat Alhambra 2010-present:             11.4%

Toyota Verso 2009-2013:                     11.9%

Worst MPVs for passing the MOT test:

Kia Carens

MPVs that arrived at the peak of the class’s popularity in the 1990s are quickly falling by the wayside; the Citroën C8, Ford Galaxy and Volkswagen Sharan all have MOT fail rates of more than 30%. But they’re not as bad as the original Kia Carens, which alarms with nearly 40% of cars failing.

Make and model                                  % MOT fails

Peugeot 807 2002-2010;                       30.8%

Vauxhall Zafira 1999-2005:                31.4%

Fiat Multipla 1998-2011:                       32.2%

Chrysler Grand Voyager 2001-08:  32.3%

Volkswagen Sharan 1995-2010:       32.3%

Ford Galaxy 1995-2006:                       32.4%

Kia Sedona 1998-2006:                        32.9%

Mitsubishi Space Star 1998-2006: 32.9%

Citroën C8 2002-2010:                        35.2%

Kia Carens 1999-2006:                        39.5%

Best executive cars for passing the MOT test:

BMW 4 Series

BMW’s 3 Series and 4 Series models perform well in their MOT tests, beating their rivals from Audi and Mercedes-Benz. To be expected is the strength of the much cheaper Toyota Avensis, while the surprise entry is the eccentric Citroën DS5, which manages an MOT pass rate of close to 90%.

Make and model                               % MOT fails

BMW 4 Series 2013-present:           8.2%

BMW 3 Series 2012-2019:                11.0%

Citroën DS5  2012-2015:                   11.2%

Toyota Avensis 2009-2018:             11.2%

Mercedes CLA 2013-2019:                11.4%

Mercedes C-Class 2007-2014:         11.4%

Lexus IS 2005-2013:                            11.7%

Volkswagen Passat 2010-2015:      12.1%

Audi A5 2007-2016:                             12.4%

Peugeot 508 2011-2018:                    13.1%

Worst executive cars for passing the MOT test:

Alfa Romeo 156

The latest Afa Romeos are proving brilliantly reliable, but the old 156 is giving credence to the brand’s historic reputation with a fail rate of 35%. Nissan and Renault models also appear prominently, while the products of the dead MG Rover company are fast disappearing from British roads.

Make and model                               % MOT fails

Rover 75 1999-2005:                           29.2%

Peugeot 406 1996-2004:                   29.5%

Rover 600 Series 1993-1999:          31.4%

Vauxhall Vectra 2002-2008:          31.8%

Volvo S40 1996-2004:                        31.8%

Nissan Primera 1996-2002:            32.5%

Renault Laguna 2001-2007:           33.6%

MG ZT 2001-2005:                               33.8%

Volvo V40 1996-2004:                       34.0%

Alfa Romeo 156 1997-2006:            35.0%

Best luxury cars for passing the MOT test:

Aston Martin DB9

The Aston Martin DB9 appears to be almost trouble-free, with fewer than 5% failing first time. Audi is showing strongly, with the A6, A7 and A8 making the top 10, while Jaguar and Mercedes-Benz each have two cars close to the top. Notably, the former’s XJ is the only current-generation entrant.

Make and model                              % MOT fails

Aston Martin DB9 2004-2016:      4.9%

Audi A8 2010-2017:                             7.6%

Audi A6 2011-2018:                             8.4%

Jaguar XJ 2010-present:                   9.3%

Mercedes E-Class 2009-2016:       10.4%

Audi A7 2010-2017:                             10.8%

BMW 7 Series 2008-2015:               11.0%

Mercedes CLS 2011-2018:                11.0%

Jaguar XK 2006-2015:                      12.1%

Jaguar XF 2007-2015:                       12.6%

Worst luxury cars for passing the MOT test:

BMW 5 Series

Although there are four Mercedes-Benz models in the bottom 10, the MOT fail rates for both the CLS and S-Class are lower than 20%, so not a major cause for concern. It’s only the very oldest luxury cars that rack up a higher percentage of fails, with the ‘E39BMW 5 Series faring the worst.

Make and model                               % MOT fails

BMW 7 Series 2001-2008:               18.4%

Mercedes CLS 2004-2010:               19.1%

Mercedes S-Class 1998-2005:         19.2%

BMW 6 Series 2003-2011:                19.5%

Mercedes E-Class 2003-2009:        20.6%

BMW 5 Series 2003-2010:                21.9%

Jaguar XJ 2003-2009:                        23.5%

Mercedes CL 1998-2006:                   23.9%

Mercedes E-Class 1995-2003           24.2%

BMW 5 Series 1996-2003:                 28.7%

Best sports and performance cars for passing the MOT test:

Porsche 911

The Porsche 911 has taken both gold and silver in this race, with the ‘996’ version only marginally behind the more recent ‘997’. Plus, the German brand’s cheaper Boxster and Cayman aren’t far behind. Three BMWs make it into the top 10, including the M135i hot hatch and M3 super-saloon.

Make and model                               % MOT fails

Porsche 911 2005-2012:                     6.4%

Porsche 911 1994-1998:                      6.7%

Mercedes SLK/SLC 2011-2019:      7.4%

BMW M3 2007-2013:                          8.5%

Porsche Boxster 2005-2012:           9.0%

Porsche Cayman 2005-2012:          10.3%

Audi TT 2006-2014:                             10.7%

BMW M135i 2012-2015:                     11.2%

Mercedes SL 2001-2012:                   13.1%

BMW Z4 2009-2016:                           13.1%

Worst sports and performance cars for passing the MOT test:

Vauxhall Tigra

The Vauxhall Tigra has the worst MOT pass rate of any car tested in 2017; more than half failed first time. Alfa Romeo’s Brera and GT struggle too, with 25% and 38% fail rates. Mazda’s complex, rotary-engined RX-8 and Mk2 MX-5 aren’t enviable, either, with around a quarter of cars failing first time.

Make and model                                  % MOT fails

BMW Z4 2003-2009:                             23.4%

Mazda MX-5 1998-2005:                     24.5%

Alfa Romeo Brera 2006-2011:          25.0%

Toyota Celica 1999-2006:                   25.1%

Audi TT 1999-2006:                               25.4%

Mazda RX-8 2003-2010:                     25.4%

BMW Z3 1997-2003:                             25.9%

Hyundai Coupé 2002-2009:             32.4%

Alfa Romeo GT 2004-2011:               38.0%

Vauxhall Tigra 2004-2009:              58.1%

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