Most reliable cars 2021

Survey finds that Japanese and South Korean cars are the least likely to let you down, though there's a super-reliable Peugeot option, too

BuyaCar team
Feb 12, 2021

If a car needs to be anything, it needs to be reliable. You're spending a lot of money on that lump of metal, so the last thing you need is for it to let you down in a cloud of smoke on the side of the motorway. We understand that, so we're here to help you choose a car that's going to be dependable.

The car industry is just as susceptible to prejudice and stereotypes as any other, but most, if not all of those prehistoric judgements are now no longer valid. Where French cars may have struggled with electrical issues in the past, that is now rarely the case. Italian cars might well have been hideously unreliable in years gone by, we'll admit, and while they still don't quite have the solidity of their German competitors, their reliability is much improved.

Meanwhile, Japanese cars have always been considered the pace setters in terms of reliability and they still seem to be a safe bet when it comes to trouble-free motoring, but there are a number of other trusty options to consider, too.

While this top 10 list is still largely made up of Japanese cars from Lexus, Toyota, Mazda and Honda, Kia, Peugeot and Skoda have all fought their way into the picture. So before you set your search parameters to 'Japanese' have a look first at what other reliable cars you could be missing out on.

These results are taken from the Driver Power survey, painstakingly completed by our sister site Auto Express. Other notable mentions that didn't quite make the top 10 include the Dacia Sandero - the UK's cheapest car - and the Fiat 500X - a reliable Italian car option.

Most reliable cars 2021

1. Lexus NX (2015-present)

Used deals from £22,350
Monthly finance from £354*
Reliability score

For years, Lexus has shown that it's possible to have a high-tech car that's crammed with gadgets and powered by a complicated hybrid system, but still delivers class-leading reliability. The NX is the latest evidence of that.

The car's quality helped to push it to the top of the rankings, as did the relatively low rate of faults. Fewer than 7% of owners reported any sort of problem and braking issues were most common among those that did.

The Lexus NX is only available as a petrol or hybrid car. 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.


2. Kia Sorento (2014-present)

Used deals from £17,956
Monthly finance from £337*
Reliability score

A seven-seat car like the Kia Sorento doesn’t always get an easy life. You might pack it with children on the school run or regularly used it like a small van, with the seats folded down or occassionally head off-road. The fact the Sorento can handle all this and still prove reliable makes its second place ranking even more impressive.

Although buyers aren’t likely to need it, the Sorento comes with a seven-year warranty, capped at 100,000 miles, as with all Kias. It’s the longest guarantee in the industry. The real selling point of this is that even if you buy a three-year old car - a car that would normally be out of the manufacturer warranty period - with the Sorento you'd still have four years' manufacturer warranty remaining.

Owners are impressed with the quality of this modern Kia, which has been slightly improved in an updated version of the car that went on sale in 2016. Despite the car's high ranking, the Sorento isn't flawless - almost a quarter of owners mentioned gremlins within the electrics.


3. Toyota Prius (2015-present)

Used deals from £18,490
Monthly finance from £269*
Reliability score

The latest generation of the Toyota Prius isn't just the world's best-known hybrid car, it's also an extremely good family car on its own merit, which shouldn't simply be left to minicab drivers. The fact that minicab drivers trust the Prius to pick up fares all day and all night long, however, is surely testament to how reliable it is.

The hybrid combines a petrol engine with an electric motor, which can recover energy normally lost during braking. This is re-used to power the car at slow speeds or to provide an extra boost while accelerating. Owners rate the car's impressive fuel economy in real-world driving and its low rate of issues: just over 6% of owners reported problems and the most common involved paint and exterior trim panels.


4. Mazda MX-5 (2015-present)

Used deals from £14,995
Monthly finance from £232*
Reliability score

Wildly fun and yet eminently sensible: the light and nimble Mazda MX-5 can dart down country roads like few other cars thanks to its responsive, direct steering and high-revving engine.

And unlike a traditional sports car, you can virtually guarantee that the MX-5 will start on demand and get you to your destination without spluttering to a halt. The car's reliability is exceptionally good, with less than 10% of owners reporting problems - the most common of which were electrical.


5. Peugeot 3008 (2016-present)

Used deals from £16,945
Monthly finance from £251*
Reliability score

This generation of Peugeot 3008 is more upmarket than the previous version and that clearly extends to the care taken in building it. Despite featuring a a high-tech dual-screen dashboard, striking design and a high-quality interior with soft plastic and cool metal surfaces, the 3008 has proven reliable for owners.

It didn't quite make it to the top spot in the reliability table, which is partly due to the 11% of owners that reported some kind of problem - most commonly electrical - but the 3008 outperforms nearly all rival family crossovers.


6. Honda CR-V (2012-present)

Used deals from £8,499
Monthly finance from £162*
Reliability score

This version of the Honda CR-V has been replaced with a new model, but the older version is still upholding the company’s reputation for strong reliability.

Owners liked the Honda's spaciousness and also rated its lack of faults: only one in 10 cars had a problem and the most common area was once again the electrics, which might prove irritating, but isn't always serious.

With this model now replaced, there are some very good value nearly-new and used models available, with prices proving particularly appealing considering its size and practicality.


7. Mazda CX-5 (2017-present)

Used deals from £17,480
Monthly finance from £253*
Reliability score

The second Mazda in this list has won praise for the nimble, car-like way that it drives and for its efficiency. The CX-5 is also one of the most reliable cars on the market, with few serious issues (electrics and brakes being the most common complaints) and plenty of praise for its high-quality interior.

It's a step up from the excellent CX-5 that it replaced, although that car still remains a good used buy. With more and more used versions of this generation available, however, you don't need to step back to the old version to get a top-value used CX-5.


8. Toyota Verso (2009-present)

Used deals Limited stock
Reliability score

Around a decade old and still showing younger rivals how it's done, the Toyota Verso might not win any awards for style or technology, but you can certainly depend on it.

Owners like the car's spacious and practical interior - which is available with seven seats - as well as its comfortable ride and low running costs. A small proportion of owners - 14% - experienced issues, with gearbox complaints most common, but they didn't dent its reliability score too much.

=9. Skoda Octavia (2013-present)

Used deals from £9,290
Monthly finance from £189*
Reliability score

Skoda started off as a Czech company but it's now part of the Volkswagen Group, which makes the Octavia the lone standard-bearer of German engineering in this year's 10 most reliable cars list. Fewer than one in 10 owners reported any issues and of those, gearbox problems were the biggest cause of complaint.

The quality of the car's interior and its vast cabin space far outweighed any downsides, according to owners. A new Octavia arrives in 2020, but this previous model - especially the facelift versions, with the four-headlight design, shown above - feature some interior technology improvements over older versions. They didn't make much of a difference to the car, though, so any Octavia makes a good choice.


=9. Lexus CT (2011-present)

Used deals from £14,189
Monthly finance from £273
Reliability score

Just 5% 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 and it has less interior space than many alternative family hatchbacks. The ride is rather firm, too, and the dashboard, while being well-made, looks fussy and old-fashioned. If you don't prioritise reliability over everything else, therefore, we'd recommend another hatchback like the VW Golf or Mercedes A-Class instead.


*Representative PCP finance - Ford Fiesta:

48 monthly payments of £192
Deposit: £0
Mileage limit: 8,000 per year
Optional final payment to buy car: £2,923
Total amount payable to buy car: £11,926
Total cost of credit: £2,426
Amount borrowed: £9,500
APR: 9.9%

BuyaCar is a credit broker, not a lender. Our rates start from 6.9% APR. The rate you are offered will depend on your individual circumstances.


Latest best cars & vans

  1. Best cars with high torque

  2. Best cars with adaptive cruise control

  3. Best cars with reclining back seats