In association with MotorEasy
2023 What Car? Reliability Survey: Britain's most and least reliable cars
In our annual Reliability Survey, we ask readers to rate the dependability of cars aged up to five years old. Here are the latest results based on the experiences of nearly 22,000 owners...
Reliability is one of the most important factors when choosing a car. Even if it's new, so covered by a warranty for the first few years, it's still frustrating, inconvenient and potentially costly if it breaks down.
The trouble is, for all the lofty manufacturer claims of ever-improving quality, true reliability cannot be fully understood until a new model is out on the road, being driven daily in real-world conditions. The same can be said of the dealers who fix them, and their ability to do the work quickly and to a high standard.
That's where our annual What Car? Reliability Survey – conducted in association with MotorEasy – comes in. Throughout the year, thousands of drivers tell us how their cars performed in a wide range of reliability-related areas. Based on this extensive, real-world data, we're able to deliver the most trusted and authoritative car reliability survey in the UK, and name the most and least dependable models.
We've split our results into different car and SUV categories, with a page dedicated to each one. So, if, for example, you want to find out the most reliable electric car, you can use our most reliable electric cars page. Or if you're curious to know what the least reliable small SUV is, we have a page for that car class, too.
To read the reliability data for other car classes follow these links:
Most reliable small cars
Most reliable family cars
Most reliable executive cars
Most reliable luxury cars
Most reliable small SUVs
Most reliable family SUVs
Most reliable large SUVs
Most reliable seven-seaters
Most reliable electric cars
Most reliable electric SUVs
Most reliable sports cars
Most reliable car brands
Are cars getting more reliable?
We've seen a slight improvement in reliability over the past six years – the percentage of cars aged up to five years old going wrong has dropped from 27% in 2018 to 21% in 2023.
True, the percentage of cars being fixed for free by manufacturers has dropped a little from 87% in 2020 to 83% this year, but that still means the majority of newer cars don't land owners with hefty repair bills.
That's especially pleasing when you consider that there has been a significant shift in the new car market over the past few years, with a huge increase in the number of complicated hybrid and cutting-edge pure electric models being offered by existing brands and some newer ones.
Our data is based on the real-life experiences of 21,732 car owners (including the owners of 29 electric car models), so provides a great indication of which cars are the most dependable and which ones cause the most headaches.
What are the most reliable cars and brands?
This year Lexus and Toyota are the leading brands for reliability, with both posting near-perfect scores. Eight models – five from Lexus and three from Toyota – were in the top three in their respective categories, with the current Lexus NX, the 2014-2021 Lexus NX, the Lexus UX and the 2011-2020 Toyota Yaris all scoring more than 99%.
Mini isn’t far behind in third place. Its overall score has been bolstered by the Mini Electric at the top of the electric car category. Meanwhile, new entries into the top 10 include Tesla and Volvo, with the Tesla Model Y the third most reliable electric SUV and the Volvo XC90 the most dependable seven-seater.
Lots of other electric models stood out this year, too, including the Ford Mustang Mach-E, which gained a 100% rating in the electric SUV category, and the BMW iX3 (99.3%). And an older BMW model, the 2011-2019 BMW 1 Series also gained the top 100% rating for reliability.
In addition, drivers of some Volkswagen Group cars (which include Audis, Cupras, Seats, Skodas and VWs) have had their ownership experience soured by faults with infotainment systems, digital instrument panels and driver assistance systems.
Cupra fared the worst – it’s at the bottom of our brand chart, because although we didn’t have big enough sample sizes to report on many of its models, their combined performance was very poor. That was not helped by the fact that 69% of Cupra Formentor models were out of action for more than a week while being fixed.
There’s better news for Land Rover owners. The brand has upped its game slightly to take 28th place out of 32, with a score of 87.6%. Last year it was in 31st place, and scored just 81.4%.
How the research was carried out
The What Car? Reliability Survey is open to everyone who visits whatcar.com or subscribes to What Car? magazine. Responses were received from car owners around the UK.
We ask them to tell us if their car had suffered a fault in the previous 24 months, and if so what area of the car was affected. We then ask them to expand on this by telling us how much they had to pay to get the fault fixed and how long their car was in the workshop.
We use the information to create a unique reliability rating for each model and brand where we have a large enough response rate. These two factors are more important than how many faults a car suffered, because they determine how much inconvenience and expense a problem caused.
The information about where faults occurred adds depth to our data, with us asking car owners to pick from one of 14 different categories: air-con, battery, bodywork, brakes, engine or motor, engine or motor electrics, exhaust, fuel system, gearbox/clutch, interior trim, non-engine or motor electrics, sat-nav/infotainment, steering and suspension.
This year, we have data for 178 models (up to five years old) from 32 brands. Where we have a large enough sample size, we separate petrol, diesel and hybrid versions of each model to provide the most detailed analysis of car reliability.
The top 10 most reliable cars
=1. BMW 1 Series (2011-2019)
Reliability rating 100%
This version of the 1 Series is no longer on sale new, but it's worth searching for a secondhand example if you want a dependable car, because not a single 1 Series owner who responded to our survey reported any glitches with their car, making it a great model to live with. Our data includes petrol and diesel-engined models and owners told us both fuel types were fault-free.
=1. Ford Mustang Mach-E (2020-present)
Reliability rating 100%
Many pure electric cars have only been on sale for a couple of years, so their reliability is something of an unknown quantity. However, our data reveals that the all-electric Mustang Mach-E is a great bet if you want a dependable electric SUV. It scored a perfect 100% for reliability in our survey because not a single owner told us their car had gone wrong during the first two years of ownership.
3. Lexus NX (2014-2021)
Reliability rating 99.8%
The previous-generation NX isn't the most involving family SUV to drive, but it's the most dependable. Just 2% of the cars reported on in our survey had any issues and all were resolved quickly and efficiently by dealers. All work was done under warranty and all remedial work was completed in a day or less.
4. Suzuki Swift (2017-present)
Reliability rating 99.5%
The Swift is the most reliable small hatchback you can buy. Just 4% of those who drive one told us they'd had any issues, meaning most had enjoyed a fault-free ownership experience over the previous two years. The interior trim was the only area that had problems, but Suzuki dealers sorted out all issues in a day or less at no cost to owners.
5. Lexus NX (2021-present)
Reliability rating 99.4%
The current NX nudges slightly ahead of the Suzuki Ignis in our top 10. It's What Car's favourite plug-in hybrid (PHEV) because it has strong performance, an impressive range and impeccable reliability credentials. There's also a full hybrid version for those who don't want to plug their car in to charge it up. It's just as good to drive and equally dependable. Only 5% of cars in our survey had any issues with various electrical systems. They were all repaired for free within a day.
6. Suzuki Ignis (2016-present)
Reliability rating 99.4%
Over the generations, the Ignis has evolved from a humdrum MPV-styled hatchback to the latest version, which is a tiny SUV with hybrid engine technology. One thing hasn't changed, though: the fact that it's remarkably durable. In fact, it's the most reliable small SUV you can buy. Just 5% of the models in our survey had a problem with their gearbox/clutch, but issues were fixed for free in a day or less.
7. Toyota Yaris (2011-2020)
Reliability rating 99.3%
The previous-generation Yaris small hatchback is actually slightly more robust than the current model. A mere 3% of older cars went wrong, compared with 6% of the new models. The only troublesome area was the 12-volt battery, and all cars were fixed for free and were in and out of the garage the same day.
8. Lexus UX (2019-present)
Reliability rating 99.3%
The UX may be Lexus's smallest SUV, but it's just as bulletproof as its larger siblings. Just 3% of owners reported any issues with their UXs and the only area to give them grief was the sat-nav/infotainment system. Although all cars could still be driven, they all spent more than a week in the workshop getting fixed. Lexus covered the cost of all repairs, though.
9. BMW iX3 (2021-present)
Reliability rating 99.3%
The iX3 is the electric version of the BMW X3. So far, it's proving far more dependable than its petrol and diesel cousins: the iX3 had a fault rate of 6% compared with 19% for diesels and 29% for petrols. The issues – all with the sat-nav/infotainment system – were resolved within a day and at no cost to owners.
10. Hyundai Ioniq Hybrid (2016-2022)
Reliability rating 99.2%
Family cars are the lowest scoring overall in the latest survey, but the Ioniq bucks this trend with a strong score and an impressive fault rate of only 3%. It's the second most durable family car after the BMW 1 Series. The bodywork and sat-nav/infotainment were the only headaches, and most cars were back on the road in a day or less with the cost covered by Hyundai.
About the report author
Claire Evans has been a motoring journalist for more than 30 years, much of that time spent specialising in consumer issues. She was a troubleshooting advice columnist for Carweek magazine in the 1990s, helping car owners with faulty cars get the right level of reparation from car makers.
She also spent six years working on motoring content for Which?, and it is here she oversaw the running of the charity's annual used car reliability survey.
Claire launched the What Car? Reliability Survey in 2017, and since then has helped thousands of buyers choose the most reliable new cars and SUVs, as well as the most dependable used cars. The survey data is also shared with car makers, who use it to find out more about issues with models and the areas where they could look provide better customer service.
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