Most reliable cars 2017

Lexus least likely to let you down, says nationwide driver survey

John Evans
Jun 9, 2017

If you want to drive the most reliable car in Britain, then you need to buy a Toyota RAV4, according to one of the most detailed surveys of driver satisfaction.

The model is among seven sport utility vehicles (SUVs) that dominate the most reliable car category in the Auto Express 2017 Driver Power survey.

Sales of these tall, rugged-looking cars have surged in previous years, thanks to their high driving position and spacious interiors. Now the reliability record of the best models could give the sector another boost.

This year’s survey is bigger and more comprehensive, with results that better represent the experience of new car owners. All respondents bought their car in the twelve months leading up to the poll.

It cements Toyota’s reputation for building reliable cars, with three models from its luxury brand Lexus also appearing in the top ten. The recently-discontinued Skoda Yeti appears in second place, while cars from Audi, Volvo, Seat, Suzuki and Kia make up the rest of the most reliable ten cars in the survey.

At the bottom of the 75 cars ranked in the survey is the Nissan X-Trail, just below the Renault Clio and Citroen C4 Cactus.

See an alternative verdict: results from the JD Power reliability survey

If you’re considering one of these lower-ranking cars, then the results shouldn’t mean you immediately strike them off your list: modern cars are extremely reliable, and even the bottom-placed Nissan has a reliability score of 86.5%, which is just 10% behind the best-placed RAV4 with 96.2%.

Most reliable cars 2017

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Most reliable cars 2017: in detail

1. Toyota RAV4 (sold from 2013 – present)

Reliability score 96.21%

Toyota’s reputation for rock-solid build quality may have been knocked with a series of recalls at the beginning of the decade, but the signs are that the car maker has fully recovered. Owners could barely find fault with the RAV4, resulting in a reliability score of 96.21% - the highest in this year’s survey. A four-year warranty from new brings extra peace of mind  making it Britain’s most reliable car.

The model might have done even better for the fact that a small number of owners reported having a problem with either their RAV4’s interior fittings or engine. The RAV4 boasts a roomy and well-equipped interior and is comfortable - rather than energising - to drive. The expensive hybrid version has a noisy automatic gearbox. The 2-litre diesel version is quieter and still efficient.
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=2. Skoda Yeti (2009 – 2017)

Reliability score 95.71%

The quirky Skoda Yeti is being discontinued and replaced with the more conventional-looking Karoq crossover, but that’s not due to any concerns over the car’s robustness.

It’s ranked as the second most reliable car in the survey. Only 9% of owners said that they had experienced problems, and many of those were minor squeaks from interior fittings.

There are diesel engines but for most users doing no more than 12,000 miles a year, the 1.2-litre petrol could be a better choice, as it’s cheaper to buy and won’t be affected by any future diesel charges.
The boot could be bigger and the interior looks a little dated but it’s generally tough.
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=2. Audi Q3 (2011 – present)

Reliability score 95.71%

The stereotype of reliable German engineering often falls down in vehicle reliability surveys, where many so-called premium brands have failed to score highly in the past. But the Audi is restoring that reputation with its joint second placing with the Skoda Yeti.

It’s considerably more expensive than the Skoda but that does bring a noticeably higher feeling of quality inside. The Q3’s fit and finish was highly praised by owners who took part in the survey, and it’s one of the factors that has made the Audi a hit. In SE 2.0 TDI quattro trim it’s a worthy rival to the BMW X1 but if you’re buying new, go steady with the options, which are expensive.
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4. Seat Leon Mk3 (2012 – present)

Reliability score 95.57%

Underneath the sharply creased design of the Seat Leon are the mechanical parts from the Volkswagen Golf, as both brands are part of the Volkswagen Group. And - perhaps embarrassingly for VW - the Leon has come out as the most dependable choice, finishing nine places ahead of the Golf, which is twelfth in this year’s survey. Fewer than 9% of owners had a problem with the car but the majority of those faults were electrical.

The Leon was recently updated and is now available with an economical 1.0-litre petrol engine, ideal if you’re driving is mainly around town. The interior doesn’t have the same design flair as the exterior but is well made and now features a larger display screen. On top of that, it’s comfortable and good to drive.
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5. Lexus RX (2015 – present)

Reliability score 95.37%

The Lexus RX is the first of three Lexus models in the list of ten most reliable cars, with a 95.37% score.

The previous generation car finished first last year, and the latest model continues the strong showing. Only complaints about interior and exterior fittings, from 16% of owners prevented the car from finishing higher.

The car looks distinctive, but it’s conservative to drive, with a focus on comfort and quietness. Unusually, for a car of this size, there’s no diesel option. Instead, you can have a petrol or hybrid version. The RX needs to be driven smoothly, as hard acceleration makes the hybrid rev noisily and it can lean uncomfortably if driven too fast round corners. But it is well-equipped and - for most owners - well-made.

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6. Kia Cee’d / Pro_cee’d (2012 – present)

Reliability score 95.32%

With Kia offering an industry-leading seven-year warranty on its cars, it’s not surprising that it features close to the top of this list, with a 95.32% score.

There was a time when reliability and low prices were all that Kia cars had going for them, but the Cee’d, and the three-door hatchback called Pro_cee’d look modern and have the performance and fuel economy to rival most other family hatchbacks.

The interior feels well-made too, even if Kia is no longer the budget choice: it’s no longer the best-equipped or cheapest in its class.
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7. Lexus CT (2011 – present)

Reliability score 95.29%

Just 2% of owners of Lexus’s compact five-door hatchback reported having a problem with their car, which is among the lowest in this year’s survey.

it’s effectively a more luxurious version of the Toyota Prius (Lexus is Toyota’s premium brand), with the same hybrid technology that brings excellent fuel economy if you’re driving in town.

Aside from reliability, the CT does have some drawbacks. It’s rather old now and it has less interior space than more alternative family hatchbacks. The ride is rather firm, too, and the dashboard, while being well-made, looks fussy and old-fashioned.

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8. Suzuki Vitara (2015 – present)

Reliability score 94.95%

The Suzuki Vitara is a value-for-money crossover, offering a taller driving position and more interior space than most hatchbacks, but without the elevated prices of the MAzda CX-3 or Honda HR-V.

But Suzuki hasn’t cut corners on durability, with this strong eighth-place finish in the Driver Power survey. It’s not flawless - 13% of owners found some fault, including some with niggling electrical problems - but it’s still more dependable than most rivals.

This current Vitara is a lot more stylish than previous models and has plenty of standard equipment including a digital radio and climate control. The smooth and quiet petrol engines are the pick of the range, as long as you’re not covering long distances regularly, where the diesel’s better fuel economy is a major advantage. The ride is a little bouncy over potholes, but, in general, the Vitara is stable despite its height.
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9. Lexus NX (2014 – present)

Reliability score 94.92%

The third Lexus in the list is the family-size NX, which brings the same comfort and quietness of the larger RX in a smaller and more affordable package. Most owners said that the car performed flawlessly, but one in five did have some reliability complaints. That's the highest proportion in the top ten but the complaints weren’t most serious. That said, many of the problems concerned the braking system.

Like the RX, the NX is only available as a petrol or hybrid car, and the latter has the same automatic gearbox, which is slow to react when you press the accelerator hard. When it eventually does shift, the gearbox sends the engine’s revs sky-high which is noisy and jerky: it’s best driven smoothly.

On motorways, the NX seems to glide along, but can feel bumpy at lower speeds. On the upside, it’s a striking-looking car with high levels of standard equipment The interior is roomy, too, although rear headroom is tight, and the boot is on the small side but does have a flat floor when the seats are folded.

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Volvo XC60 (2008 – 2017)

Reliability score 94.86%

Nine long years on sale means the venerable XC60, which has just been discontinued in favour of an all-new model, has had plenty of time to get things right, chief among them, reliability.

And despite the car’s dated feel in other areas, the XC60 is up with the very best modern cars when it comes to dependability: just 6% of owners found fault with the car’s reliability. The XC60 is bottom of the top ten because those problems tended to be more serious electrical issues.

It does mean that you can buy a used XC60 with the confidence that you’re unlikely to experience any problems. It’s spacious, well-equipped and is available with an economical and powerful D4 diesel engine. It may not be the most entertaining SUV to drive (more modern rivals lean less in corners and its steering is vague) but its height helps four-wheel drive versions to tackle quite tough conditions.
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