Looking for the most reliable cars in Britain? The annual Which? Car Survey has the answers, revealing the cars that are most likely to get you from A to B with the minimal amount of fuss.
The survey also reveals the most satisfying cars to own: as you’ll see, the two are not necessarily the same thing.
Which? claims the survey is the biggest in the UK and is based on feedback from almost 60,000 UK car owners.
It takes into account breakdowns, repair costs, the number of days off the road and the most common fault types for each model. And so, onto the winners and losers.
The most reliable cars in Britain
1: Lexus – 5 stars
There’ll be plenty of smug faces at Lexus HQ today, with the news that it’s the only manufacturer to be awarded a maximum five-star rating. Ewan Shepherd, Lexus director, said: “Which? is respected worldwide for the accuracy and thoroughness of its product testing and investigations, which makes this result especially rewarding for us.”
2: Toyota – 4 stars
Good news for Lexus’ sister brand, Toyota, which finishes second with a four-star rating. Paul Van der Burgh, Toyota GB president and managing director, said: “It is hugely rewarding that our customers have delivered such positive opinions about the lasting quality of our cars and the service we provide”.
3: Honda – 4 stars
You may have noticed a theme developing here, with Honda making it a one-two-three for Japanese carmakers. Names such as the Jazz and Civic have become synonymous with dependability and reliability, while new models such as the Civic Type R and NSX add some much needed spice to the range.
4: Dacia – 4 stars
This is a shot in the arm for all those who enjoy running a new car on a budget. Owners awarded Dacia a top 90% satisfaction score, placing the value driven brand higher than many more illustrious names. Speaking about the result, Richard Headland, editor of Which?, said: “The ultra-cheap Dacia Sandero shows that a reliable runaround need not break the bank, while some pricey Land Rover models could put you on first-name terms with your local mechanic.” Ouch. More on Land Rover shortly…
5: Suzuki – 4 stars
We’re big fans of Suzuki, so it’s heartening to see the Japanese carmaker finish fifth in the Which? survey. Across the range, Suzuki builds good, honest vehicles, such as the budget Celerio, Swift supermini and really-rather-good Vitara. The Swift Sport is also our favourite junior hot hatch.
The least reliable cars in Britain
1: Saab – 2 stars
At the opposite end of the table we find the defunct Saab brand. The famous Swedish carmaker was declared bankrupt in 2011, after many failed attempts to rescue the failing company. We miss Saab’s eccentricity and quirkiness, but the Which? survey suggests Saab owners might not share our sentiment.
2: Chevrolet – 2 stars
Another dead brand – at least in the UK – although it’s still possible to place a special order for a Camaro or Corvette. Chevrolet has a poor track record in reports such as this, with its cars, most notably the Spark, often finishing close to the bottom of satisfaction surveys.
3: Smart – 2 stars
Buy a Smart Fortwo and you’ll spend upwards of £11,125. Buy its sister car – the Renault Twingo – and you can fork out just £9,495 for the Expression with the SCe 70 engine. Just goes to prove: spending more doesn’t necessarily secure better quality. On this matter, Richard Headland said: “Our survey reveals that spending more on a car is no guarantee of reliability, and sometimes quite the opposite.”
4: Land Rover – 2 stars
It’s a miserable result for Land Rover, which finishes with a two-star rating for the second consecutive year. Based on the opinions of Which? readers, a £9,495 Dacia Duster might present a better ownership prospect than a £30,600 Range Rover Evoque. You pays your money, you takes your choice.
5: Alfa Romeo – 2 stars
Sadly, it comes as no surprise to see Alfa Romeo languishing near the foot of the table. It doesn’t help that the MiTo and Giulietta are ageing products in highly competitive sectors. The Italian carmaker will be hoping the all-new Giulia has what it takes to provide a better result in 2017.
The most dependable cars in Britain
Most dependable city car: Toyota Aygo (2014-)
From car makes to car models – according to Which? readers, these are the most dependable cars in the UK. The best city car is the Toyota Aygo, which shares its platform with the Citroen C1 and Peugeot 108.
Most dependable small car: Honda Jazz Hybrid (2011-2015)
It’s no surprise to find the Honda Jazz Hybrid finishing top in the small car category. The survey suggests cars aged up to three years could suffer from problems with the in-car entertainment system and air conditioning, while owners of older cars highlighted problems with the battery.
Most dependable medium car: Lexus CT 200h (2011-)
Looking for the most dependable medium-size car? You could do a lot worse than the Lexus CT 200h. Checking the details of the Car Reliability Check reveals a low frequency of faults across the board, although some owners of older cars complained about paintwork and rust issues.
Most dependable large car: Mazda 6 (2013-)
It’s a strong finish for the Mazda 6, although closer inspection reveals potential problems with the on-board computer software. These faults include interior switches, central locking, dashboard, electric windows, sat nav, parking aids and tyre pressure sensors – irritants that are unlikely to result in a breakdown.
Most dependable estate: Toyota Avensis Touring Sports (2009-)
It might not be the most exciting estate car on the planet, but it’s likely to be the most reliable. Interestingly, ‘non-engine electrics’ is listed as the top fault group, with a 20% frequency of issues. Windows and parking sensors/camera were noted as the most severe problems.
Most dependable luxury car: Mercedes-Benz E-Class (2009-2016)
The Mercedes-Benz E-Class referenced in the Which? survey has been replaced by an all-new model, but the outgoing model is ranked as the best luxury car. Digging deeper into the Which? data reveals some issues, but not enough for other luxury cars to topple its crown.
Most dependable convertible: Mazda MX-5 (2005-2015)
The all-new Mazda MX-5 might be getting all the attention, but when it comes to reliability, the old model remains the convertible to beat. This is like having your cake and eating it: all the fun of a junior sports car with the reliability and reassurance of a Japanese carmaker.
Most dependable sports car: Audi TT (2006-2014)
A terrific result for the Audi TT, which drives away with the award for best sports car. Nearly two decades on from when the TT first hit the market, its image remains as strong as ever, helped in no small part by a reputation for reliability.
Most dependable people carriers/MPV: Nissan Note (2006-2013)
It might be one of the smallest MPVs on the market, but it’s likely to be the most reliable. OK, so you can put aside any thoughts of carrying more than five people, but at least you’ll know the Nissan Note will get you to your destination, even if you are forced to leave two children behind.
Most dependable compact SUV: Lexus NX (2014-)
If it’s good enough for will.i.am, it’s good enough for the rest of us. The Lexus NX is named the best in class for compact SUVs, but this is only the half the story. Dig deeper and you’ll discover a near blemish-free report, with only central locking and ‘other minor’ issues listed as potential faults. Good stuff.
Most dependable large SUVs: Lexus RX (2009-)
There’s further good news for Lexus with the RX named as the most reliable large SUV. In common with the NX, the Which? survey presents a near-perfect school report. Go to the top of the class and give yourself a gold star. Prices start from just shy of £40,000.
Cars to avoid
One to avoid: Citroen Grand C4 Picasso (2014-)
So you know the most reliable cars in each class, but what about the models to avoid? Earning a one-star reliability rating is the current Citroen Grand C4 Picasso, which is named as the least reliable car you can buy.
One to avoid: Citroen Grand C4 Picasso (2007-2013)
The previous generation Grand C4 Picasso doesn’t fare much better, with another one-star rating. The only positive point is that it should be cheaper than the newer version. Every cloud and all that.
One to avoid: Renault Grand Scenic (2009-)
It’s a similar story for the Renault Grand Scenic, which is the third car to be awarded a one-star rating. The message from Which? readers is clear: if you’re looking for a reliable MPV/people carrier, avoid the French.
One to avoid: Nissan Qashqai (2014-)
It might be Britain’s favourite crossover and one of Sunderland’s finest exports, but Which? readers give it a less than glowing report. The new model, released in 2014, is awarded a lowly two-star rating.
One to avoid: Volkswagen Tiguan (2008-2016)
This is a score it shares with the outgoing Volkswagen Tiguan, which is being phased out and replaced by an all-new model. Volkswagen will be hoping Which? readers find the new car easier to live with.
The most satisfying car brands
#1 most satisfying car brand: Tesla
Reliability is one thing, but what about satisfaction? Mick Jagger would do well to get behind the wheel of a Model S, because Tesla is named as the most satisfying car brand. Face it: rolling up to a Tesla Supercharger for a rapid charge must deliver a great deal of satisfaction.
#2 most satisfying car brand: Porsche
Frankly, had Porsche not appeared in the top five most satisfying brands, we’d have asked a few questions. Surely the whole point of Porsche ownership is to enjoy the experience? The Which? survey asks owners to rate (out of five) how satisfied they are with their car, and also how likely there are to recommend it to a friend.
#3 most satisfying car brand: Dacia
Ah yes, but look at this: Dacia is named the third most satisfying brand in the UK. It’s a double-whammy for the budget brand, with satisfaction and reliability (almost) guaranteed.
#4 most satisfying car brand: Jaguar
The Romanian carmaker is flanked by two premium heavyweights, with Jaguar named as the fourth most satisfying make of car to own. Things are likely to get even better with the arrival of the F-Pace. These are good times for Jaguar.
#5 most satisfying car brand: Skoda
It wouldn’t be a satisfaction survey without a reference to Skoda. We’re a little surprised not to find the Czech giant listed in the reliability section, but at least Skoda owners find their cars satisfying to own.
The least satisfying car brands
#5 least satisfying car brand: Smart
From the most satisfying cars we move to the makes least likely to deliver satisfaction. Kicking things off is Smart – which uses its diminutive proportions to crawl into the bottom five.
#4 least satisfying car brand: Renault
We’re guessing there was a bit of split in the Which? survey. While Renault’s more mainstream models might not deliver great satisfaction, we’d suggest the reverse is true for Renaultsport models. We’d happily spend a few months with a Renaultsport Megane, just to see how satisfying it is. You know, for research purposes.
#3 least satisfying car brand: Peugeot
Peugeot has sharpened up its act, with a credible range of new cars. But it would appear owners aren’t finding the ownership experience all that satisfying. Things were different when Peugeot was building the 205 GTI.
#2 least satisfying car brand: Vauxhall
Vauxhall is another company transformed, with the current Astra and Corsa both hugely improved compared with the cars they replaced. Maybe the brand is missing an injection of spice?
#1 least satisfying car brand: Chevrolet
Which brings us to the least satisfying car brand in the UK – Chevrolet. Seriously, you’re probably better off taking the bus. Or staying indoors.