The most reliable class of car

The most reliable class of car
The most reliable class of car

Are luxury saloons more reliable than sports cars? Is an SUV more dependable than a hatchback? Here are the answers

Buddhists will tell you that the more you have, the more you have to lose. Other people will tell you that the more bits of kit you have on your car, the more likely it is to go wrong. (Buddha may have been talking about cars, the scriptures are unclear.)

Latest research including What Car? data on reliability, covering over 14,000 cars up to a decade old, shows at first glance a bewildering set of numbers. They cover everything from hatchbacks to luxury SUVs but once we’d pored over the data some trends clearly emerged.

Read more: Japanese makers top huge car reliability survey but Alfa Romeo make top 5 over Honda

And, basically, that old saying about ‘more kit more problems’ looks to be true. Look at the table. It clearly shows that the vehicles with the highest percentage of faults were SUVs and MPVs. SUVs are famous for having a lot of space into which manufacturers have loaded a lot of kit, much of it electronic.

These days, most complaints are not about failing camshafts or gearboxes, they’re about the sat nav not working or the air con packing up.

Car faults by class and fuel type

Car class Overall faults Diesel faults Petrol faults
City car 21% n/a 21%
Coupe and convertible 30% 30% 29%
Executive car 28% 29% 25%
Family car 28% 33% 24%
Large and luxury SUV 33% 36% 24%
MPV 37% 36% 32%
Small car 28% 33% 27%
Small SUV 29% 31% 25%

If you follow that logic, that ought to mean that the smallest cars had fewer problems and, lo and behold, city cars, which are almost always on the small side so there’s less space to jam in electronic trickery, have the lowest percentage of faults – 21% overall compared to 33% for luxury SUVs and 37% for MPVs.

A small SUV has fewer issues than a larger SUV. Case proven, so long as you don’t note that a small car has the same number of faults as an executive car. Hmm, let’s look further.

The other trend actually is very easy to spot. These days everyone in authority seems to be telling us that diesel is evil and anyone having the temerity of driving a latest oil-burner is in effect deliberately trying to kill us all. That wasn’t exactly what they said a year or two ago.

Most reliable class of car
The Peugeot 107 was the most reliable car

But in terms of annoying reliability issues, there’s no contest – petrol wipes the floor with diesel, using a lint-free recycled cloth. There isn’t a single category where diesel proved more reliable than petrol. And the worst offender is the MPV class, where a diesel version had 40% with faults, which is the highest on the table.

The lowest, by contrast, was almost twice as good – the 21% scored by city cars. So the most reliable car you can go for is a city car with a petrol engine. A diesel MPV is the worst choice you could make.

Specifically, the city car with the fewest faults was the Peugeot 107 with a petrol engine. The diesel MPV with the most faults was the Ford S-Max.

Read more: 

Driving in Europe: the single offence that could see you fined £5,250

The cheapest cars to insure

Most reliable class of car
The Ford S-Max came last for reliability


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