The most reliable old cars and the ones you should avoid

A class-by-class rundown of best second-hand models for longevity

Monday, 11th January 2021, 4:25 pm
Some of the best-in-segment models for reliability

We all know that as cars get older they tend to develop problems and become less reliable.

But new data shows that even as cars reach an age where third-party warranty companies don’t want to know, some remain more dependable than others.

What Car?, which regularly rates cars up to five years old, has extended its research to find out which older models - those between five and 20 years old - have stood the test of time and which are storing up a history lesson’s worth of worries for owners.

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Korea and Japan lead the way in the supermini segment, joined by the British-built Mini. Kia Picanto (2011 - 2017) 98.5%; Honda Jazz (2008 - 2014) 98.0%; Mini hatchback petrol (2014-) 97.3%

Polling more than 12,000 owners to find out the frequency, severity and cost of breakdowns, the research revealed that Lexus remains the most reliable brand overall, but also looked at individual models across a range of vehicle segments.

Here we’ve broken down the best and worst performers in each category, each given a reliability rating out of 100.

Bad news for a couple of best-sellers, with Vauxall and Ford among the least dependable small cars. Vauxhall Corsa (2005-2014) 73%; Seat Ibiza (2008-2017) 82%; Ford Fiesta diesel (2008-2017) 82.3%
The best family cars have an international flavour, with Spain, Sweden and Japan represented. Seat Leon diesel (2013 - 2020) 98.7%; Volvo V40 (2012-2019) 95.6%; Honda Civic (2012-2017) 95.6%
Two members of the VW Group didn't fare as well as Seat, with some serious problems arising in old models. Skoda Octavia (2004 - 2013) 54.4%; Mercedes-Benz A Class (2005 - 2012) 56.3% Volkswagen Golf diesel (2009 - 2013) 74.9%
Strong performances for Audi and Vauxhall show there's plenty of mileage in this constantly-growing segment. Audi Q3 (2011 - 2018) 96.5%; Vauxhall Mokka petrol (2012 - 2019) 95.2%; Mini Countryman (2010 - 2017) 87.1%
The Nissan Qashqai is Britain's most popular SUV but owners of older models report that it hasn't aged well. Nissan Qashqai (2007 - 2014) 45.6%; Nissan Qashqai (2014 - present) 46.3%; Volkswagen Tiguan (2007 - 2016) 61.0%
A strong showing from Japan when it comes to large SUVs. Honda CR-V (2012 - 2018) 100.0%; Toyota RAV4 (2013 - 2019) 100.0%; Toyota RAV4 (2006 - 2012) 95.7%
Land Rover is famous for its go-anywhere models but its smallest model isn't without its problems. Land Rover Discovery Sport (2014 - present) 51.4%; Ford Kuga (2008 - 2013) 81.9%; Volvo XC60 (2008 - 2017) 87.5%
After appearing at the bottom of the large SUV list, Land Rover and Volvo make a stronger showing in the more premium sector, but are topped by BMW. BMW X5 (2013 - 2018) 86.1%; Range Rover Sport (2013 – present) 76.5%; Volvo XC90 (2002 - 2015) 75.0%
While newer models of the X5 are the most dependable, the first generation doesn't fare so well, along with Porsche's performance machine and the practical but problem-prone Discovery 3. Porsche Macan (2014 - present) 40.4% BMW X5 (2007 - 2013) 42.6%; Land Rover Discovery (2004 -2017) 45.7%
Looking for a big and comfy second-hand mile-muncher? These popular models are the ones to consider. Ford Mondeo (2014 - present) 97.7%; Mercedes-Benz C-Class (2014 - present) 93.9%; Mazda 6 (2013 - present) 93.4%
Once again, older versions of the best performing cars crop up among the least reliable but Volkswagen's 2005 Passat out-faults them all. Volkswagen Passat (2005 - 2015) 57.9%; Mazda 6 (2007 - 2012) 63.5%; Ford Mondeo (2007 - 2014) 64.8%
Two titans of the segment prove their worth with dependable performance, joined by a slice of old-school British luxury. Mercedes-Benz E-Class (2009 - 2016) 94.0%; BMW 5 Series (2010 - 2017) 82.6%; Jaguar XJ (2003 - 2009) 82.0%
The E-Class manages to be top and bottom of the table, with the earlier 2002-09 version proving less dependable, ahead of Jaguar's XF and the relatively new Audi A6. Mercedes-Benz E-Class (2002 - 2009) 74.9%; Jaguar XF (2007 - 2009) 76.5%; Audi A6 (2011 - 2018) 76.7%
The Toyota/Lexus family has this class locked out with a variety of hybrids models upholding its reputation for reliability. Toyota Yaris Hybrid (2011 - 2020) 100.0%; Lexus CT (2011 - present) 98.0%; Lexus IS (2013 - present) 97.6%
Even the lowest performing hybrids and EVs proved to be pretty reliable but these three propped up the bottom of a largely dependable segment. Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV (2014 - present) 87.3%; Nissan Leaf (2011 - 2017) 88.4%; Lexus RX (2009 - 2016) 96.8%
MPVs are falling out of favour but these three should be relatively stress-free for those families that still need a spacious people-carrier. Ford C-Max (2011 - present) 91.3%; Vauxhall Meriva (2010 - 2017) 83.0%; BMW 2 Series Active/Gran Tourer (2015-) 78.3%
The larger of Vauxhall's family SUVs doesn't last as well as its smaller stablemate, with the big Citroen and VW's mid-sized model showing similar levels of fragility. Vauxhall Zafira Tourer (2008 - 2015) 60.6%; Citroen Grand C4 Picasso (2014 – present) 61.7% ; Volkswagen Touran (2003 - 2015) 63.3%
A double showing for Bavarian's finest and a German lockout of the top 3, with Suttgart's most famous brand topping the table. Porsche Boxster/Cayman (2012 - 2016) 94.7%; BMW Z4 (2009 - 2017) 94.1% BMW 4 Series Coupe/Convertible (2014 - present) 93.9%
Porsche and BMW also manage to tie up the bottom three positions for dependable sports models, with Porsche's flagship 911 proving most problematic in its 997 form. Porsche 911 (2004 - 2011) 71.9%; BMW 6 Series Coupe/Convertible (2011 - 2018) 73.7%; Porsche Boxster/Cayman (2004 - 2012) 86.5%