The most (and least) reliable small cars

Small cars are often bought for new drivers, so buyers could struggle to afford costly repairs. Our latest Reliability Survey reveals the most and least dependable models...

most and least reliable small cars

Small cars are affordable to buy, but they also need to be durable and cheap to fix, because they're frequently owned by students or used as second family cars.

With that in mind, the annual What Car? Reliability Survey has vital information on which are the best models and which are most likely leave you stranded at the roadside or put a big dent in your wallet.

We asked nearly 13,000 people to tell us what had gone wrong with their cars during the previous year, and how much they had to pay to get each problem put right and how long the car was out of action. We used this data to give each model a unique reliability rating; those with the most expensive faults and that had spent the longest in the garage gain the lowest scores, while those that never put a foot wrong got the highest scores.

Here's our round-up of the best and worst small cars aged up to five years old.

Once you’ve read this story, please tell us about the reliability of your own car for the 2021 survey.

The top 10 most reliable small cars

10. Skoda Fabia (2015-present)

Skoda Fabia

Reliability rating 97.6%

Only 12% of Fabias suffered a fault, with the engine and interior trim the two most common problem areas. There were also a small percentage of issues reported with the aircon, battery, brakes, engine and non-engine electrics and the gearbox/clutch. 

The good news is that all cars could still be driven and all were fixed in less than a week - half were put right in a day or less. Owners told us that 70% of work was done for free and no repair bills topped £300.   

Read our full review of the Skoda Fabia >>

Find deals on the Skoda Fabia with What Car? >>

9. Toyota Yaris (2011-2020)

Toyota Yaris 1.5 Hybrid Icon CVT

Reliability rating 98.7%

Just 14% Yaris owners reported a problem with their car, and 7% of those faults related to the suspension system. There were also a small number of issues with the bodywork, gearbox/clutch and steering. 

More than half of the cars we were told about were put right the same day, and none were rendered undriveable. With many of the cars reported on out of warranty, it's no surprise that only 17% were fixed for free; that said, nobody paid out more than £500 to get their Yaris repaired.  

Read our full review of the used Toyota Yaris >>

Find deals on a new Toyota Yaris with What Car? >>

8. Hyundai i10 (2014-2020)

Hyundai i10

Reliability rating 98.8%

A mere 9% of i10s suffered a problem, with the gearbox/clutch and non-engine electrics the main concerns. Some owners also had issues with bodywork. All cars were rectified the same day and all work was done under warranty.  

Read our ful review of the used Hyundai i10 >>  

Honda Jazz

Reliability rating 99.0%

Just 6% of owners told us their Jazz had gone wrong in the previous 12 months. The main bugbear was the braking system, followed by the battery, bodywork, gearbox/clutch and non-engine electrics. 

Although all cars could still be driven two thirds spent more than a week in the garage. While 50% of work was done for free, the other owners paid out between £101 and £500 for each repair. 

Read our full review of the used Honda Jazz >>

Find deals on a new Honda Jazz with What Car? >>

6. Dacia Duster (2018-present)

Dacia Duster front three quarters

Reliability rating 99.1%

Although 8% of Dusters went wrong according to owners, many of the problems were minor. Three areas were affected: bodywork, the engine and non-engine electrics. 

All cars could still be driven and all were repaired the same day with all work carried out under warranty. 

Read our full review of the Dacia Duster >>

Find deals on a Dacia Duster with What Car? >>

=4. Hyundai i20 (2015-present)

Hyundai i20

Reliability rating 99.3%

Niggles with engine and non-electrics were the only issue for i20 owners; problems affected just 7% of cars. Although all cars remained driveable, half took more than a week to put right; all work was done for free, though. 

Read our full review of the Hyundai i20 >>

Find deals on a Hyundai i20 with What Car? >>

=4. Suzuki Swift (2017-present)

Suzuki Swift Sport

Reliability rating 99.3%

Just 6% of Swift owners reported a fault on their car and the only area involved was the bodywork. All cars could still be driven and all were repaired in a day or less at no cost to the owners. 

Volkswagen Up

Reliability rating 99.4%

The Up is one of a trio of city cars built by the Volkswagen Group. It's not quite as bulletproof as its brother, the Skoda Citigo, but just 3% of cars suffered a fault. The only area that proved troublesome was engine electrics. Although all affected cars were off the road for more than a week, all were fixed for free under warranty.  

Read our full Volkswagen Up review >>

Save money on a new Volkswagen Up with What Car? >>

=1. Skoda Citigo (2012-2020)

Skoda Citigo

Reliability rating 100%

What went wrong? Nothing

Skoda’s sister to the Volkswagen Up is not only slick to drive and great value but also remarkably durable in its original petrol form (it’s now electric only). Even though the earlier examples dating back to 2015 will now be out of warranty, not one owner reported a fault with their car.

Owner’s view “This car is a little gem. It has been utterly dependable over the past year”

Read our full used Skoda Citigo review >>

Save money on a new Skoda Citigo with What Car? >>

=1. Toyota Aygo (2014-present)

2018 Toyota Aygo review – price, specs and release date

Reliability rating 96.9%

What went wrong? Nothing

Very popular among owners, the Aygo shouldn’t leave you stranded at the roadside. Not a single one of the cars we were told about suffered a problem; it’s no wonder that more than three-quarters of people cited reliability as the thing they liked best about their car.

 Owner’s view “It’s the most reliable car I’ve ever owned. I’ve been so impressed with it that I would consider buying another one"

Read our full Toyota Aygo review >>