Britain's most unreliable cars
When you drive away a new car, you get peace of mind from knowing that it won't need an MoT test for its first three years.
But once you hit the three-year mark, your vehicle needs a yearly check-up to make sure that it's roadworthy and safe to drive.
The answer is a fifth (20%), a level which seems disappointingly high to me. However, as you'd expect, some makes and models are less reliable than others.
Indeed, a new survey from motoring website HonestJohn.co.uk found a wide variation in pass rates for first-time MoTs last year. Based on Honest John's data, these are the manufacturers to trust and those to avoid (based on motor manufacturers with at least 5,000 MoT tests in 2011):
The UK's 15 most reliable car makes
The 15 car marques listed above are all above-average, as their pass rates exceed the UK average of 80%.
Note that all three top places are taken by Japanese manufacturers: Lexus (88%), Suzuki (86%) and Honda (85%). In fourth place is Sweden's SAAB* (84%), followed by Toyota of Japan (83%) and then Audi of Germany (also 83%).
Of these 15 reliable car brands, five are Japanese, another five are German, and there is one entry from each of the Czech Republic (Skoda, owned by VW), South Korea (Hyundai), Spain (SEAT, owned by VW), Sweden (SAAB) and the UK (Land Rover, owned by India's Tata Motors).
Hence, if you're looking for a reliable car, then buy Japanese or German, as these two countries' manufacturers take 10 of our 15 top spots for reliability.
Unlucky 13: the least reliable car makes
At the other end of the reliability scale lie these 'unlucky 13' car brands, all of which have average or below-average pass rates for first-time MoT Tests in 2011:
* Based on brands with more than 5,000 MoT Tests in 2011.
Two brands -- Kia and Nissan -- offer average reliability by exactly the UK's overall pass rate of 80%. However, the remaining 11 marques are all below-average in terms of first-time pass rates.
In last place -- and taking the wooden spoon -- are Renault, Citroen, MINI and Chevrolet, all four of which have the worst pass rate of 76%. Peugeot and FIAT also do badly at 77%, followed by Volvo at 78%.
Ford, Jaguar, Mitsubishi and Vauxhall all have pass rates just below the 80% average, with all four brands achieving a 79% pass mark.
Based on brand nationality, this list of sub-par cars contains four from the UK (Ford, Jaguar, MINI and Vauxhall; although all four are foreign-owned), three from France (Peugeot, Citroen and Renault) and two from Japan (Nissan and Mitsubishi).
Of the remaining four, there is one each from Italy (FIAT), South Korea (Kia), Sweden (Volvo) and the US/South Korea (Chevrolet).
Buy Japanese or German, but never French
I used to work in the motor-finance trade, and what strikes me is how closely this statistical survey matches what industry insiders say. In particular, 'wise insiders' will tell you to buy German or Japanese cars for reliability, while avoiding French cars like la peste (the plague).
What's more, this also closely reflects my own experiences as a car buyer. The most reliable car my wife has ever owned was her 1997 Volkswagen Polo, which was an absolute joy to drive and run.
On the other hand, the absolute worst car my spouse has ever owned is her 2003 Renault Megane Scenic. While it scores well for its engine performance and driving comfort, her Renault has an awful record for electrical reliability. Indeed, we've spent thousands of pounds replacing faulty electrics since we bought my wife's Renault in 2004.
So when we come to replace her car this year or next, my wife and I will take a couple of reliable Japanese brands for a spin, with Honda and Toyota at the top of our wish list. What's more, we have vowed never to buy another Renault!
Finally, you can find the first-time MoT pass rates for 302 different makes and models of car -- which range from 93% for a classy Rolls-Royce Phantom to an appalling 59% for a Chrysler Grand Voyager -- at the Honest John website here.
How reliable is your car? Would you buy the same make and/or model again? Please tell us in the comments box below!
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