As I began to write this article, even my wife was surprised to hear that the Mitsubishi Lancer was deemed the most reliable car…well, at least according to the UK’s Warranty Direct Reliability Index. To celebrate its 15th anniversary of analysing the most and least reliable vehicles on the road today, it has released its most comprehensive list to date.
Vehicles coming from Japan dominated the list, having seven of the top ten vehicles on the list. More specifically, in addition to the Mitsubishi Lancer, other Japanese vehicles from Suzuki (the 1997-2006 Alto), which came in at third place, as well as Toyota (2005-present Aygo and the 1999-2003 Yaris), having taken fourth and eighth places, respectively. Toyota’s main rival Honda, with their HR-V, took fifth place. Even the top-selling roadster of all time, the Mazda MX-5 (Miata to Americans), came in at a respectable seventh place. Not bad, considering that Mazda consistently scores below most American quality index scores.
On the flip side, European vehicles dominated the least reliable vehicle list. In fact, the top European vehicle on the most reliable list is the 2000-08 Vauxhall/Opel Agila…but this vehicle is actually a rebadged city car known as the Suzuki Wagon-R.
Anyways, the Germans hold the dubious honour of taking a podium finish for being the least reliable, with the 2002-11 Audi RS6 taking the gold, the 2004-11 BMW M5 grabbing the silver (what a shock…I actually was involved in this generation M’s first recall), and the 2002-present Mercedes SL limping home with the bronze. Shame about the last one, as the SL is one of my favourite cars of all time, particularly this one with the “son-of-the-Mercedes-CL” styling.
What makes vehicles so unreliable? It’s the very thing that makes vehicles that lack them so reliable…the ever increasing amount of complex technology in vehicles.
During my time with Ford, one of the issues that they would have with the reliability of their vehicles is that they would have a lot of the wires bundled together, usually in an unventilated location. As with any electronic component, the closer you have them to each other, the hotter they get…and one of the worse culprits for them is heat. Same principle applies with automakers stuffing their vehicles with numerous components. Along with the increasing complexity, these are but a couple of the reasons why most luxury vehicles unreliable. I recall Mercedes-Benz holding off on over 600 components in their current-generation S-Klasse, in order to increase the reliability.
Now, you’re probably asking yourself: “why would they add so much stuff to their vehicles”? The answer is twofold: one, they feel as though they have to justify the premium that they charge in their vehicles, and two, ever-increasing competition. It can get pretty crowded at the top, but the rewards come in increased profit margins for the automakers. This far, it’s a three-way race with…you guessed it: Audi, BMW, and Mercedes-Benz. A bit contradictive that the top-selling luxury automakers are also the least reliable. As with the Mitsubishi Lancer, most of the top ten vehicles on the most reliable list are lacking in electronic frills, but make up for that with having less components that could break down and need (expensive) repair or replacement.
In any event, here is the comprehensive list…also great if you’re in the market for a secondhand vehicle:
The top 10 most reliable cars in the UK (since 1997):
1: 2005-2008 Mitsubishi Lancer
2: 2000-2008 Vauxhall/Opel Agila
3: 1997-2006 Suzuki Alto
4: 2005-present Toyota Aygo
5 (tied): 1998-2006 Honda HR-V
5 (tied): 1996-2004 Volvo S40
7: 2005-present Mazda MX-5
8 (tied): 2006-present Mercedes E Class
8 (tied): 1999-2003 Toyota Yaris
10: 2001-2008 Honda Jazz
The 10 least reliable cars in the UK (since 1997)
1: 2002-2001 Audi RS6
2: 2004-2011 BMW M5
3: 2002-present Mercedes SL
4: 1996-2004 Mercedes V-Class
5: 2000-2007 Mercedes CL
6: 2000-2006 Audi A6 Allroad
7: 2003-present Bentley Continental GT
8: 2001-2006 Porsche 911 (996)
9: 2002-present Land Rover Range Rover
10: 1994-2000 Citroen XM