Most reliable cars 2021

Pick one of the most reliable used cars, and avoid the pitfalls of costly repairs and maintenance

Andrew Goodwin
Nov 3, 2021

Choosing one of the most reliable cars available can help protect against future expenses. After all, there's little worse than realising your new family car or commuter needs hundreds or even thousands of pounds spent on it.

Thankfully, the chances of this happening are increasingly rare, as cars have become more and more reliable over the decades. The old stereotypes about French and Italian cars being less reliable than their German counterparts have also been dispelled. Think twice before picking a luxury car if you want top quality too - all of the cars on this list are affordable models.

Japanese cars have long been considered the pacesetters in terms of reliability, but they're outnumbered by European and South Korean models in the 2021 standings.

Eight manufacturers have a model in our top-ten list, including Kia, Peugeot, Skoda, Hyundai, Mazda, Lexus, Volkswagen and Volvo. 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.

Most reliable cars 2021

1. Skoda Kodiaq (2017-present)

Reliability score 97.19%
Used deals from £20,800
Monthly finance from £316*

Skoda has performed strongly for reliability and customer satisfaction in recent years, and the Kodiaq SUV has really impressed owners. Considering its competitive price, they're blown away with how well built it is, with a really solid feeling inside and out. Such a high rating here is also testament to how many owners have experienced reliability issues, despite the Kodiaq being a fairly large and complex model.

Skoda's first large SUV, the Kodiaq is available with either five or seven seats, giving buyers the choice between a seriously gigantic boot, or extra space for kids. Even two adults can fit in the third row for shorter trips, although a lack of foot room makes them a bit uncomfortable.

Despite its large size, the Kodiaq doesn't feel like a truck to drive, with light and precise steering, nippy acceleration from its turbocharged petrol or diesel engines and not too much body lean in corners. It's especially good with an automatic gearbox to take the strain.

SKODA KODIAQ BUYERS' GUIDE

2. Hyundai Kona (2017-present)

Reliability score 95.75%
Used deals from £11,999
Monthly finance from £193*

The Hyundai Kona hits all the right notes with buyers, because not only does it prove extremely reliable, but it topped the overall ownership league table in the 2021 Driver Power survey. Owners reported that the Kona is exceptionally well put together, with a strong sense of quality.

Available with petrol, mild hybrid, hybrid or electric powertrain, the Kona is one of the few small crossovers on sale to offer all three. It gained impressive scores for fuel efficiency and running costs, so the Kona is a great choice if you want to keep a lid on motoring costs. The electric version is particularly cheap to run (although it does cost more to buy or finance), with a driving range of up to 300 miles in newer versions.

HYUNDAI KONA BUYERS' GUIDE

HYUNDAI KONA ELECTRIC BUYERS' GUIDE

3. Mazda CX-5 (2017-present)

Reliability score 95.64%
Used deals from £17,180
Monthly finance from £243*

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. 

MAZDA CX-5 BUYERS' GUIDE

4. Lexus NX (2014-present)

Reliability score 95.04%
Used deals from £22,990
Monthly finance from £365*

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 Lexus NX is only available as a petrol 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. The boot is also fairly small, but it does have a flat floor when the seats are folded down.

Not just hugely reliable, the NX came top in the safety feature and interior sections. Owners love the visibility, rear legroom and build quality the cabin offers.

LEXUS NX BUYERS' GUIDE

5. Volkswagen T-Roc (2018-present)

Volkswagen T-Roc front view

Reliability score 95.02%
Used deals from £17,490
Monthly finance from £239*

Volkswagen will be pleased Skoda isn't getting to enjoy all the limelight, thanks to its T-Roc SUV splitting the two other VW Group SUVs (Skoda, along with Seat, Audi, and some other companies, all form part of the Volkswagen Group). It makes a lot of sense, as all three cars share a lot of parts, which are clearly built to last.

Owners were not only impressed with how sturdy and reliable the T-Roc has been, but also with the value for money and low running costs it offers. The most popular engines are small petrol, with smooth performance and clever technology to help save fuel.

Practicality and interior space also got the thumbs up, which is no surprise given the fact the T-Roc is based on the Volkswagen Golf, but with a more roomy interior and bigger boot.

VOLKSWAGEN T-ROC BUYERS' GUIDE

6. Skoda Karoq (2018-present)

Reliability score 94.97%
Used deals from £16,450
Monthly finance from £237*

Just a few percent off its seven-seat sibling, the Skoda Karoq is still undoubtedly a great proposition if you want a dependable mid-sized SUV, coming sixth overall for reliability. You'd have to be unlucky to run into problems, with one owner reporting they'd only had to service and change the Karoq's tyres in 30,000 miles.

Skoda's equivalent to the Volkswagen Tiguan also excels for practicality, especially when fitted with Varioflex rear seating. This allows the second row to be slid, folded or removed individually, making it possible to adjust cargo space or even turn the Karoq into a posh van.

SKODA KAROQ BUYERS' GUIDE

7. Peugeot 2008 (2019-present)

Peugeot 2008 front

Reliability score 94.53%
Used deals from £19,567
Monthly finance from £269*

French models once had a reputation for poor build quality and troublesome electrics, but today brand's including Peugeot are making some of the toughest and most stylish models on sale. The Peugeot 2008's blend of low running costs and SUV looks have made it especially appealing.

Anyone looking for the latest 2008 can also be reassured that it should be hassle-free, and not throw any spanners into the motoring budget. A seventh-place result here puts it well ahead of rivals including the Ford Puma. While the Ford is known for its excellent handling, 2008 owners also scored it very highly in this regard, while also lauding kind remarks on its interior and comfort.

PEUGEOT 2008 BUYERS' GUIDE

8. Kia Rio (2017-present)

Reliability score 94.48%
Used deals from £9,999
Monthly finance from £168*

The Kia Rio is South Korea's answer to the Volkswagen Polo and Ford Fiesta, and according to owners, it's more reliable than either European rival. In fact, in a list dominated by SUVs, the Rio is the most trustworthy supermini in our results.

Not only will the Rio faithfully chirp to life every morning, but it also has the top score for its infotainment system, which is easy to use and has snappy responses. The small Kia also drives well, won't cost a fortune to run - far from it - and represents great value. All elements are guaranteed to make an owner smile.

KIA RIO BUYERS' GUIDE

9. Kia Ceed (2018-present)

Reliability score 94.35%
Used deals from £11,450
Monthly finance from £206*

If you needed proof that the Rio's high score wasn't a fluke, the family hatchback-sized Kia Ceed is just fractions of a percent behind its sibling. Apart from routine servicing, we doubt you'll get very familiar with your local Kia garage, because there should be no need to visit.

In a remarkable turnaround, owners also voted the Ceed as one of the most stylish cars in the survey - the Mk1 Ceed was very demure. Not so now, thanks to sleek curves, attractive alloy wheels and a sharp nose with piercing LED headlights. The Kia's smooth suspension and swish interior also helped it in the comfort category.

KIA CEED BUYERS' GUIDE

10. Volvo XC40 (2018-present)

Volvo XC40 front three quarters view

Reliability score 94.20%
Used deals from £22,980
Monthly finance from £327*

Just when you thought there were no Swedish cars on the list, the XC40 bows into 10th position. Now, Volvo's won't just be famed for their reassuring safety and Scandinavian design. You can also trust your XC40 to get you home, even in a deep freeze without fear of being left stranded in a layby.

While it isn't one of the cheapest small SUVs, the XC40 has proved a real sales success for Volvo, so keep your eyes peeled for lots more examples popping up on the used market in the near future. Reasons for its popularity include smooth and powerful engines, relaxed automatic gearboxes and a fun driving experience. Owners also love the interior design and feel.

VOLVO XC40 BUYERS' GUIDE

*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.

 

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