31 October 2023

The scores are in the must-know results of the What Car? 2023 Reliability Survey

By Road Runner

While we love to spread the car-related love as often as we can among mechanics and motor traders, there comes an annual point where we need to also mention, ahem, those “unreliable” motors. And this isn’t vehicle-shaming for the sake of it; we’ve done a deep-dive into the recently-published least and most reliable yearly survey in What Car?

The results capture the responses of around 22,000 owners of used cars and cover 180 models from 22 various car brands and makes, and we’re mentioning some headline parts of that. And the survey criteria focussed on how often the respondents cars had failed over the past two years and also how long repairs took, resulting in a score out of a possible 100. The higher the score, the more reliable the car. So as we see the scores on the doors, how much of this relates to the cars that you see as part of your job?

First over the finishing line for unreliability (or should that be last in this case?) is the Cupra – previously the performance arm of Spanish manufacturer Seat, that’s now ventured out under its own steam.

Their final marks on the reliability scale was 82.4 per cent. Jeep, who won the dubious title last year, are, we’re sure, more than happy to hand over the crown. According to What Car? some of the most common issues found with the used Cupra Formentor that will have no doubt added to the disappointing score – and often led to recalls – is that the FrontAssist hasn’t always been correctly configured, manufacturing errors with the front seat belts, and most crucially, “the bolted connection of the pull rod between the electromechanical brake servo and brake pedal may come loose resulting in a loss of all service braking ability.”

Runners-up in the unreliability race were Alfa Romeo picking up 85.6 per cent with Vauxhall taking third place (86.9 per cent), beating Jaguar into fourth place with 87.4 per cent – with both Vauxhall and Jaguar receiving a massive thumbs down from owners due to their tendency to break down (a lot).

While in most scenarios a score in the 80-somethings would be celebrated, when it comes to car reliability we clearly don’t want to know about or own anything that’s below full marks.  After all, regular maintenance and repairs don’t come cheap – especially for higher end models with more or one previous owner.

And this is also one arena where looks aren’t everything. While we’re often dazzled by the beauty of a Jag or Alfa Romeo, we’re less impressed when that car just doesn’t behave itself.

Speaking of the models that did get good grades, Lexus was the stand-out brand for reliability, scoring 98.3 per cent in the survey. Keeping it in the car-family-by-marriage, Toyota took second place with 97.4 per cent.

Also in the top half of the “95 per cent and above” section was the Mini, Suzuki, Mitsubishi, and Honda, meaning it’s been a very good year for Japanese and Korean manufacturers in terms of reliability.

In other more general survey areas, we have positive news on hybrids in general. Only 17 percent of plug-in hybrids and 18 per cent of all other hybrids suffered faults, which should mean customers are increasingly open and trusting when considering these cars.

And on the petrol front the fault rate was a little bit higher at 20 percent, while electric cars and diesels bring up the rear, scoring an equal 26 per cent fault score.

Of course, some of the most common faults in an electric car are not down to the mechanics, but often the entertainment and digital functionality – including instrument panels and driver assistance systems.

But before we all do a head shake and chin scratch in the general direction of the EV, it seems survey respondents can’t get enough of the Ford Mustang Mach-E, which scored the perfect 100 per cent – although this is generally a reflection on US car buyers where the Mustang is popular.

And while the survey was very much directed on the public and their responses to the cars they drive and the issues they may or may not have, it’s all relevant to those in the motor trade. The more informed you are about the cars most likely to cause issues, the better equipped you are to deal with the motors when they come your way.

¹ Used Cupra FORMENTOR Review – 2020-present | What Car?