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Motor Mouth articles 2012

Car reliability – look to the East

Serial winner: the Honda Jazz

WE’VE long known that the carmakers from the Far East outshine the most upmarket brands when it comes to reliability surveys but now their superiority is becoming almost embarrassing.

Findings from the latest used car reliability survey, carried out by What Car? and Warranty Direct, reveal that eight of the top 10 performers are Japanese while Chevrolet, at nine, is the only non-Far East manufacturer to make it.

It hardly needs saying that Honda is far and away the best performer, being crowned as the UK’s most reliable used car marque for the seventh year on the trot.

The statistics show that a Honda has just a one in 10 chance of suffering a breakdown in any given 12-month period.

Toyota takes the silver medal with a 17% failure rate, followed by Lexus (18%), Suzuki (19%), Subaru (20%), Hyundai, Mazda and Mitsubishi (21%), Chevrolet (22%) and Nissan (25%).

The research, based on 50,000 Warranty Direct policies on cars between three and 10 years old, shows that many more expensive brands will actually let you down more often.

Premium marques Mercedes-Benz and Jaguar are languishing in the bottom 10, with Audi faring little better. Land Rover is the UK’s least reliable manufacturer, with a shocking 71% of cars breaking down at least once every year.

What Car? editor-in-chief Chas Hallett said: “Reliability is so important to motorists, especially when times are tough. Japanese car makers really do deliver on reliability and Honda is exceptionally good at this.

“What will be surprising to many is the fact that several of the more desirable brands did not fare so well regarding reliability, and the cost of their repairs are high. They need to do better.”

Warranty Direct’s managing director, Duncan McClure Fisher, said: “Cars have become increasingly complex, with lots of gadgetry on board, especially on executive models. Owners of these cars pay over the odds for the premium badge, but our study shows they could also be paying over the odds just to keep the car on the road.

“It’s a balancing act for used car buyers. You can get cars that break down less often but have higher repair bills, or you can buy a car that won’t cost you much when it fails, such as a Renault, but lumbers you with more than a 50% chance of doing so. The one thing you do appear to be able to rely upon is buying Japanese.”

Axle and suspension problems are the most common faults reported by the UK’s motoring public, largely due to the desperate state of the nation’s roads, accounting for 28.56% of all breakdowns handled by Warranty Direct. Electrical gremlins are the second most likely cause of an unwanted garage bill, with 24.3% of drivers reporting problems.

American brand Chevrolet is something of a surprise high performer and it also has the lowest average repair bill, £227, of the most reliable marques. Porsche models are the most expensive to repair, with an average garage bill of £623.

It is the seventh accolade awarded to Honda so far in 2012. The British-built Jazz and new Civic have been the brightest stars, and the excellent CR-V was named the best 4×4 in the Honest John Awards.

Yes, Honda and the other Japanese giants are certainly blazing a trail for the rest – but do they set the pulse racing like some European models can? Maybe there’s a price to pay for reliability, even if it’s not necessarily in financial terms.

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