Ranked: The most reliable classes of car

Is a small hatchback more dependable than a luxury saloon? Will an MPV break down more than a sports car? We reveal the classes that are the least, and most, reliable.....

1 Jul 2019 20:05

There's an old saying that if there’s more kit on a car, there’s more to go wrong, but does this apply to different classes of cars?

Reliability survey compilation image

To find out, we've examined data on more than 18,200 of cars supplied by owners who took part in our 2018 What Car? Reliability Survey and split it out into 12 different car classes.

Click on the right arrow above to find out which are the most – and least – dependable car classes.

12: Electric cars

Nissan Leaf

Reliability rating  84.2%

It's a real tale of two halves when it comes to electric cars – the previous-generation Nissan Leaf has an almost impeccable reliability record with a score of 99.7% and just 3% of cars suffering faults concerning the bodywork.

In contrast the Tesla Model S scored a dismal 50.9%, with owners telling us their cars had issues with bodywork, electrics, suspension and interior trim.

These polar opposite performances by different models put EVs at the bottom of the table for dependability.

11: Large SUVs

Toyota Rav4

Reliability rating  86.5%

The previous version of Toyota's RAV4 was the best performing large SUV with a score of 99.6%. Only 4% of owners reported a problem and the only area concerned was engine electrics. 

At the other end of the spectrum, Ford's Edge let the side down with 54% of cars suffering a fault. Bodywork was the most frequently cited problem area, followed by air-con (21%) and non-engine electrics.

10: Luxury SUVs


Reliability rating  87.6%

The 2013-2018 BMW X5 was the most dependable luxury SUV with a score of 98.3%. Only 10% of diesel examples developed a problem, with these split evenly between the engine, fuel system and wheels/tyres.

The full-fat Range Rover didn't fare as well, with around half of owners reporting a fault. Its 67.3% reliability rating reflects the fact that there were lots of non-engine electrical issues and problems with the suspension.

9: Luxury cars

Mercedes-Benz E-Class

Reliability rating  88.7%

When it comes to some luxury cars, it's best to buy a model that's been on sale for a couple of years as previous-generation cars seem to suffer fewer faults than the latest versions. 

The best luxury car for reliability was the 2009-2016 Mercedes E-Class with a score of 92.4%. Non-engine electrics and the battery were the most common complaints.

And the latest Jaguar XF also proved less dependable than the previous version, scoring 81.9% compared with the older model's 91.6%. Again non-engine electrics were the most common problem, this time followed by bodywork and interior trim issues.

8: Family SUVs

Kia Sportage

Reliability rating  91.6%

Some family SUVs had an exemplary reliability rating – best of the bunch was the Kia Sportage with a score of 97.8%. The only problem areas were the brakes, exhaust and sat-nav. 

Diesel versions of the Nissan Qashqai let the side down the most with a lowly 79% reliability rating. Petrols weren't much better, only managing 85.3%.

7: MPVs

Mercedes-Benz B-Class

Reliability rating  91.8%

The Mercedes B-Class only just pipped the Volkswagen Golf SV to first place in the MPV sector, winning by 0.1% with a score of 95.9%. B-Class owners told us a small proportion of cars had problems with the battery, fuel system and gearbox/clutch.

The Citroën C4 and Grand C4 Picasso sits at the bottom of the MPV league. However, its score of 86.2% isn't as bad as the least reliable cars in some other classes; a third of cars had a fault, with electrical issues the main concern.

6: Executive cars

Volvo V60

Reliability rating  92.0%

The Volvo V60 gained the top spot in the executive car class with a score of 99.3%. Only 6% of cars had a problem and bodywork was the only area concerned.

The Mercedes C-Class took the wooden spoon with a reliability rating of 83.1%. Although nearly a third of cars had a problem, most issues were minor involving electrical systems and bodywork.

5: Coupés, convertibles and sports cars

BMW 2 Series

Reliability rating  93.0%

These types of car are bought for fun, so they really need to be dependable. Best of the bunch was the BMW 2 Series Coupé and Convertible, with a rating of 97.0%. Just 8% of cars had a fault, and the only areas involved the exhaust system, exterior lights and non-engine electrics.

The latest version of the Mercedes C-Class Coupé and Cabriolet aren't doing so well. They have a reliability rating of 86.2% with owners reporting issues with interior trim and the engine and its electrical systems.

4: Small cars

Toyota Yaris

Reliability rating  93.2%

With a perfect 100% reliability rating, the Toyota Yaris is one of the two best-performing cars in the survey. It's so dependable that many owners cite reliability as the thing they like most about their car.

At the other end of the chart is the Peugeot 208. Only 15% of cars had a fault, but the problems included some serious issues such as engine and gearbox/clutch problems.

3: Family cars

Hyundai i30

Reliability rating  94.2%

Families depend on these cars for everything from the school run to stay-cation holidays. Those who chose a previous-generation Hyundai i30 weren't disappointed. It scored 98.9% for reliability and just 6% of cars had problems with the gearbox/clutch.

With a score of 81.5% the Peugeot 308 was the least reliable family hatch. Nearly half of the cars we were told about had a problem, with areas affected including electrics and bodywork.

2: Small SUVs

Suzuki SX4 S-Cross

Reliability rating  94.5%

The second car to score a full 100% reliability rating was the Suzuki SX4 S-Cross. Owners told us their cars had suffered no faults in the previous 12 months.

In contrast nearly one in five of the Citroën C4 Cactus cars we were told about had suffered a fault. It chalked up a reliability rating of 82.5% and engine electrics were the most common fault.

1: City cars

Suzuki Celerio

Reliability rating  95.3%

The top performer in the city car class is another Suzuki – the Celerio. It scored 98.0% and only 6% of cars had a fault.

The Fiat Panda doesn't score too badly for reliability – 93.0% – but in this high-achieving class that puts it at the bottom of the league. Owners told us 24% of cars had problems in a few different areas including the gearbox and engine electrics.