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What Car? Reliability Survey: Most and least reliable family cars

In our annual Reliability Survey, we ask readers to rate the dependability of cars aged up to five years old. Here we list the most and least reliable family cars in the UK...

Family car reliability header

Family hatchbacks are the bread and butter of the car world. They remain popular with private and company car drivers, despite the rise in demand for SUVs.

That means there are plenty of used examples to choose from, but as our Reliability Survey data shows, not all family cars will provide problem-free motoring. In fact, this class had the lowest average score of all 11 classes in this year's survey, with a score of 90.1% for cars aged up to five years old. 

How we compiled the survey

The latest What Car? Reliability Survey, conducted in association with MotorEasy, is the result of a massive data-crunching exercise. We gathered ownership information from 21,732 motorists, by asking them to tell us about any faults their cars had suffered in the previous 24 months. 

For every car that went wrong, we asked how much it cost to repair and how long it was off the road – using these two pieces of information we created reliability ratings for 178 models from 32 brands. 

To add more detail for each model and warn potential buyers about common faults, we also noted where the faults occurred, asking owners to choose from one of 14 different component areas. 

For this story, we've pulled out all the data is for family cars aged up to five years old. 

The 2024 What Car? Reliability Survey is live, tell us about your car now

Most reliable family cars

1. BMW 1 Series (2011-2019)

BMW 1 Series front - red

Reliability rating 100%

What went wrong? Nothing 

The 2011-2019 BMW 1 Series is proving remarkably dependable. None of the owners who completed our survey reported their cars as having suffered any faults at all over the previous 24 months.

Owner’s view: “The build quality is great and it’s been faultlessly reliable.”

2. Hyundai Ioniq Hybrid (2017-2022)

Electric Car of the Year Awards 2021 - Hyundai Ioniq PHEV

Reliability rating 99.2%

A mere 3% of examples of the 2017-2022 Hyundai Ioniq reported on for our survey had any problems. Bodywork and the sat-nav/infotainment system were the only areas of concern, with all issues dealt with swiftly at no cost to owners. All cars remained driveable, and remedial work took a day or less, with Hyundai and its dealers covering the cost of all work required to sort things out.

3. Mini Clubman (2015-2024)

Mini Clubman 2019 front tracking

Reliability rating 97.9%

The Mini Clubman is one of the more expensive family cars to buy, but its impressive durability means it should be affordable to live with. Only bodywork issues were reported, affecting 11% of cars. All could still be driven and two-thirds were repaired in a day or less. Two-thirds were fixed for free, while the rest cost £100 or less.

4. Toyota Corolla (2018-present)

Blue Toyota Corolla front cornering

Reliability rating 97.1%

While the vast majority of Toyota Corollas were fault-free, 12% of owners told us their cars had been troubled by a trio of issues: problems with their 12-volt battery, bodywork and the sat-nav/infotainment system.  These things didn't cause too much upset, though. Just over half of the affected cars were fixed in a day or less and 82% of work was paid for by Toyota. And those who were presented with bills didn't have to pay more than £200 per repair. 

5. BMW 1 Series (2019-present)

BMW 1 Series 2022 front right tracking

Reliability rating 97.0%

The latest BMW 1 Series can't beat the flawless dependability record of its predecessor, but a fault rate of 15% is pretty good. The only frequently cited problems related to a range of non-engine electrical systems. Although all issues were fixed for free, only 40% of cars were put right in a day or less, and 40% spent more than a week in the workshop.  

6. Hyundai i30 (2017-present)

Hyundai i30 2020 front

Reliability rating 96.2%

The Hyundai i30 is generally a robust car, and when things do go wrong they are dealt with efficiently by Hyundai. i30 owners told us that 17% of their cars had a glitch, with the battery, engine, electrics and suspension the most common faults. All cars could still be driven and half of them were repaired within a day. Even better, all remedial work was covered by Hyundai. 

7. Seat Leon (2013-2020)

2019 Seat Leon front

Reliability rating 95.9%

The 2013-2020 Seat Leon is proving far less prone to faults than the latest Leon. A reasonable 15% of previous-generation model owners said their cars had gone wrong, compared with 49% of current versions. Air-con and sat-nav/infotainment system issues were the biggest headaches, followed by concerns about the bodywork, electrics and suspension. While 86% of cars were fixed for free, owners of the remaining vehicles had to find up to £750 to get their cars rectified. And, although most cars could still be driven, 28% were out of action for more than a week. 

8. Skoda Octavia (2013-2020)

Skoda Octavia vRS

Reliability rating 94.8%

It's a similar story of two extremes when it comes to faults with the 2013-2020 Skoda Octavia. While Skoda covered the cost of 90% of repairs, that left 10% of owners with bills in excess of £1500 each. And, although most cars were fixed in less than seven days, one in five was stuck in the workshop for more than a week. Overall 14% of the cars reported on had a problem, with the air-con, engine and sat-nav/infotainment system the main gripes. 

9. Ford Focus petrol (2018-present)

Ford Focus 2023 driving

Reliability rating 94.6%

Petrol-powered Ford Focus models went wrong far less than their diesel counterparts: petrols had a fault rate of 18%, compared with 29% for diesels. The 12-volt battery, bodywork, electrics and gearbox/clutch were the most common complaints. Although Ford covered the cost of all repairs, 50% of affected models were in the workshop for more than seven days.  

10. Volkswagen Golf SV (2014-2020)

Volkswagen Golf SV

Reliability rating 94.0%

The Volkswagen Golf SV MPV rates better than the hatchback version of the previous-generation Golf. Although it suffered more faults, according to owners: 31%  went wrong, compared with 23% of diesel models and 26% of petrols, repairs were carried out more swiftly. Fifty percent of faulty SVs were put right in a day or less, compared with 17% of diesels and 29% of petrols. Best of all, Volkswagen covered the cost of all repair bills; something that can't be said of the hatchbacks. 

Least reliable family cars

1. Audi A3 Sportback (2020-present)

Audi A3 front cornering

Reliability rating 71.8%

What went wrong? Sat-nav/ infotainment 44%, non-engine electrics 22%, bodywork and interior trim 11%, engine electrics 7%, gearbox/clutch 7%, battery 4%

A whopping 59% of Audi A3 owners’ cars went wrong in the two years covered by the 2023 survey, with the majority of faults concerning the infotainment and other electrical systems. The good news is that 97% of issues were resolved for free, and the few that weren’t cost owners less than £300. Remedial work was slow though, and 70% of the faulty cars were in the workshop for more than seven days.

Owner's comment: "I’ve had persistent infotainment issues almost from day one. My car is about to go back for the third time."

2. Volkswagen Golf (2020-present)

VW Golf front right tracking

Reliability rating 76.3%

Forty-eight percent of examples of the VW Golf reported on had a glitch, nearly two-thirds concerning the infotainment or other electrical systems. Repairs were slow, taking more than a week in 40% of instances. VW covered the cost of 89% of repairs, leaving a very small percentage of owners having to pay up to £1500 to get things put right.

3. Skoda Octavia (2020-present)

Skoda Octavia 2021 nose

Reliability rating 77.6%

The latest Skoda Octavia is troubled by a broad spectrum of problems, with 49% of owners citing issues with the air-con, bodywork, engine and non-engine electrics, interior trim or sat-nav/infotainment. Most cars could still be driven, and all faults were fixed for free, but 37% took more than a week to sort out.

4. Mercedes A-Class diesel (2018-present)

Mercedes A-Class

Reliability rating 79% 

Diesel versions of Mercedes’ smallest car, the A-Class, gave trouble for 40% of owners, with the most common fault areas being issues with the non-engine electrics (22%), air con (11%) and engine (6%). The good news is that Mercedes covered the cost of 82% of repairs. The not-so-good news is that the remaining 18% of A-Class owners were faced with bills ranging from £301-£1500 and 36% of the cars were off the road for more than a week.

5. Seat Leon (2020-present)

Seat Leon 2021 nose

Reliability rating 79.1%

Nearly half (48%) of the Seat Leons we were told about had experienced a fault. The sat-nav/infotainment, non-engine electrics and bodywork were the most common areas of complaint. Nearly 60% of cars were still driveable, but took longer than a week to repair. Seat covered the cost of all repairs. 

6. Mercedes A-Class petrol (2018-present)

Mercedes A-Class side

Reliability rating 82% 

Petrol A-Class’ proved to be more reliable than their diesel counterparts, albeit not by a lot. Slow and sometimes costly repairs were the main bugbears for the 31% of cars that went wrong. And most complaints were surrounding the interior trim and non-engine electrics.

7. Vauxhall Astra (2015-2022)

Vauxhall Astra 2017 right tracking

Reliability rating 83.5%

A total of 32% of Vauxhall Astras we were told about went wrong, mainly with exhaust, brakes and non-engine electrical faults. Vauxhall paid for 88% of repairs, and for those who had to pay, no one faced bills exceeding £300. Only 39% of cars were put right within a day, though, and 7% were out of action for more than a week. 

8. Skoda Scala (2019-present)

Skoda Scala front - red

Reliability rating 87.4%

Almost half (47%) of Skoda Scalas we were told about went wrong. Interior trim and sat-nav/infotainment systems were the main problem areas, followed by bodywork, brakes and non-engine electrics. Almost 30% were out of action for more than a week, and Skoda paid for 88% of repairs, while the remaining owners faced bills ranging from £51-£300. 

9. Mercedes A-Class hybrid (2018-present)

Mercedes A-Class front corner

Reliability rating 87.5%

Hybrid examples of the Mercedes A-Class are a better bet than the petrol or diesel versions.  According to owners, 30% of hybrid models suffered a fault; of these, 9% rendered the affected cars undriveable and took longer than a week to repair. A majority (82%) of owners did get their cars fixed under warranty, although some faced repair bills of more than £1500.

10. Kia XCeed (2019-present)

Kia XCeed PHEV 2021 front cornering

Reliability rating 89.5%

A mixture of issues afflicted Kia XCeeds, including problems with the suspension, interior trim, the engine, engine electrics, bodywork and battery. Luckily, 91% of cars were repaired for free and repair times were fairly quick. Nearly half of cars were repaired within a day, and only 20% of cars were deemed undriveable. 

To read the reliability data for other car classes follow these links:

All cars and SUVs here
Most reliable small 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
Most reliable diesel cars

Reliability of family cars aged up to five years old

Rank Make and model Score
1 2011-2019 BMW 1 Series 100%
2 2017-2022 Hyundai Ioniq petrol/PHEV 99.2%
3 Mini Clubman (2015-2024) 97.9%
4 Toyota Corolla (2018-present) 97.1%
5 BMW 1 Series (2019-present) 97.0%
6 Hyundai i30 (2017-present) 96.2%
7 2013-2020 Seat Leon 95.9%
8 2013-2020 Skoda Octavia 94.8%
9 Ford Focus petrol (2018-present) 94.6%
10 2014-2020 Volkswagen Golf SV 94.0%
11 Ford Focus diesel (2018-present) 93.0%
12 BMW 2 Series Active Tourer (2014-present) 92.6%
13 Kia Ceed (2018-present) 92.5%
14 2013-2020 Volkswagen Golf diesel 92.5%
15 2013-2020 Audi A3 Sportback 91.4%
16 2017-2022 Honda Civic 90.5%
17 2014-2021 Subaru Outback 90.4%
18 2013-2020 Volkswagen Golf petrol 90.4%
19 Mazda 3 (2019-present) 89.9%
20 Kia XCeed (2019-present) 89.5%
21 Mercedes A-Class hybrid (2018-present) 87.5%
22 Skoda Scala (2019-present) 87.4%
23 2015-2022 Vauxhall Astra 83.5%
24 Mercedes A-Class petrol (2018-present) 82.0%
25 Seat Leon (2020-present) 79.1%
26 Mercedes A-Class diesel (2018-present) 79.0%
27 Skoda Octavia (2020-present) 77.6%
28 Volkswagen Golf (2020-present) 76.3%
29 Audi A3 Sportback (2020-present) 71.8%

About the report author

Claire Evans has been a motoring journalist for more than 30 years, and has focussed on consumer issues for much of that time. She was the 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.

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