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Owners Say German Cars are the Least Reliable. Korean Cars and Japanese Cars Won’t Let you down

No one wants to buy a car that repeatedly leaves them stranded at the roadside. But how do you tell a car that’s going to be as dependable as a politician not answering their interviewers’ questions?

James Foxall
Written by James Foxall
Edited on
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The answer is to look at the results of ownership surveys and see which car companies’ products impressed owners just like you.

If the results of the latest JD Power Vehicle Dependability Study are anything to go by, a posh German badge and the comparatively high price is no guarantee of reliability. In fact, car makers that millions of Britain’s drivers aspire to own are at the bottom of the heap when it comes to trustworthiness. At least, that’s the view of the people who bought them. Find out why they weren’t happy.

Which German car companies were at the bottom?

Surprisingly, the badge that was judged the least reliable by its owners is also one of the most desirable among car buyers: BMW. Only Fiat separates it from bitter rival Audi which came third from bottom.

Land Rover was next while Jaguar (16th) and Volvo (17th) were also in the bottom 10. All were below the industry average of 128 PP100. Of the so-called premium brands, only Mercedes-Benz in 14th place was above the average fault figure.

Which companies came out on top?

Four of the five most dependable brands were either Japanese or Korean. Hyundai and sister company Kia, both from Korea, came first and third. They were split by Japanese car maker Suzuki. Nissan was fifth with Skoda the only European interloper. Volkswagen’s Spanish firm Seat was sixth followed by Romanian budget brand Dacia. Peugeot was next up with Toyota and Vauxhall hot on its heels.

Although finishing outside the top 10, Honda, Ford, Volkswagen and Mazda all had fewer than the industry average of 128 problems per 100 vehicles (PP100). As a gauge, Hyundai has 78 PP100; bottom company BMW 192.

Which are the most reliable family cars?

Czech firm Skoda, part of VW’s stable, has built a reputation for reliability and its cars duly came top of two categories. The Skoda Octavia was ranked the best compact car,  ahead of the Kia Ceed and Hyundai i30.

The Skoda Yeti came ahead of the Vauxhall Mokka and Renault Captur in the small SUV class. Other winners were the tiddly Hyundai i10 as the most reliable city car and the Volkswagen Tiguan as best compact SUV. The Mercedes E-Class beat the Jaguar XF as the top luxury car while the Vauxhall Insignia was the best mid-size car and the Peugeot 208 the highest rated small car.

Why are cheaper brands more reliable?

The cheaper the car, the less likely it is to have high-tech kit fitted to it. And with new prices for Hyundai’s tiddly i10 starting at £9095 and Suzuki’s Celerio selling from £7499, they’re most definitely cheap as well as cheerful.

Meanwhile, upmarket motors are more likely to have cutting-edge technology such as adaptive cruise control. JD Power is concerned that this might be causing problems. Head of European operations Josh Halliburton said: “Automotive systems are more complex than they’ve ever been and premium brands especially are incorporating autonomous driving building blocks—adaptive cruise control, lane keep assist, automatic braking—into their models. It’s imperative for manufacturers to address this issue to improve the level of consumer trust in the technology.”

However, the report did show that problems with phone pairing and voice recognition systems – the kind of kit now found in all new cars ‑ were among the most common reported faults. Engine and transmission problems are also a major source of concern for drivers.

How the rankings are done

The survey asks UK owners of all makes about their car. It identifies eight categories in and around the car and examines the various problems experienced. The classes include the car’s exterior; driving experience; controls and displays; audio, communication and navigation; seats; heating, ventilation and air-conditioning; interior; engine and transmission. Cars are then ranked according to the number of problems per 100 vehicles. The lower the PP100 score, the better.

More helpful car buying advice: How to check if a used car has been recalled for repairs