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Family cars you might want to avoid: The least reliable models according to owners – is yours on the list of the 25 worst rated?

Drivers on the hunt for a family car want something practical, spacious and – most importantly – reliable.

The last thing parents want is to be stranded at the roadside with kids in tow waiting for a recovery vehicle, or to be landed with a huge repair bill because their motor has gone wrong again.

Fortunately, there are various car owner surveys where drivers can highlight whether the vehicle on their driveway is dependable or not. One of the most comprehensive polls is conducted by What Car? – and it has shared the findings of its latest research.

Only cars up to five years old are included, which represents a number of models currently in showrooms or that are desirable nearly-new used vehicles.

Reliability ratings have been given based on the volume of – and severity of – faults reported by owners in the previous 24 months, how expensive they were to repair and the duration of time they were off the road. 

Here’s a detailed countdown of the 11 models with the lowest ratings of all – and we’ve listed the worst 25 performers of all in a table at the bottom so you can see if your car makes an appearance in the unreliability league table.

=10. Honda Civic (2017-2022)

Reliability rating: 86.7%

Honda traditionally has a strong track record in reliability surveys but the previous-generation Civic hatchback has slipped into this top 10 countdown. Almost a fifth of owners reported at least one issue with their car in the previous two years Honda traditionally has a strong track record in reliability surveys but the previous-generation Civic hatchback has slipped into this top 10 countdown. Almost a fifth of owners reported at least one issue with their car in the previous two years

Honda traditionally has a strong track record in reliability surveys but the previous-generation Civic hatchback has slipped into this top 10 countdown. Almost a fifth of owners reported at least one issue with their car in the previous two years

Japanese brand Honda usually has a bulletproof record when it comes to reliability, but that’s not entirely the case with the previous-generation Civic.

Its 86.7 per cent reliability rating is predominantly as a result of a fifth (22 per cent) of owners reporting problems with the air conditioning in their vehicles.

Other issues that tend to crop up include problems with bodywork, engine and non-engine electrics. There are also electrical glitches with the sat nav and infotainment systems.

While most (85 per cent) of the cars reported on were repaired under warranty, those that weren’t had relatively small garage bills. Only 3 per cent said their repair cost was over £1,500. Also impacting the rating is the fact that 43 per cent of Civics took more than a week to put right.

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=10. Vauxhall Astra (2015-2022)

Reliability rating: 86.7%

The Vauxhall Astra is one of the most popular family cars on the market. The previous-generation model appears in this list predominantly because 70% of those with faults took over a week to repair The Vauxhall Astra is one of the most popular family cars on the market. The previous-generation model appears in this list predominantly because 70% of those with faults took over a week to repair

The Vauxhall Astra is one of the most popular family cars on the market. The previous-generation model appears in this list predominantly because 70% of those with faults took over a week to repair

In join tenth place in the rankings of the least reliable family cars is the previous-generation Vauxhall Astra – an incredible popular model in the UK and one that was built in Britain at the Ellesmere Port factory.

What Car? readers owning this car admitted the Astra isn’t the most fault-riddled family motor on the market, but what weighed down its rating is the length of time to resolve issues – and some of the costs associated with doing so.

One in ten owners reported suffering a fault in the previous 24 months, with electrical issues the most common complaint, followed by issues with the battery, bodywork, brakes, engine and gearbox/clutch.

Seven in ten said the magnitude of faults saw their cars kept in garages for more than a week, as mechanics tried to fix them. Almost three quarters (73 per cent) were repaired under warranty, though 4 per cent said they had to pay bills upwards of £1,500.

9. Honda Civic (2012-2017)

Reliability rating: 85.2%

Honda's Civic from two generations ago just manages to be eligible for this list, having gone off sale in 2017. Over a third of owners reported an issue with their motor in the last 24 months Honda's Civic from two generations ago just manages to be eligible for this list, having gone off sale in 2017. Over a third of owners reported an issue with their motor in the last 24 months

Honda’s Civic from two generations ago just manages to be eligible for this list, having gone off sale in 2017. Over a third of owners reported an issue with their motor in the last 24 months

Wait, another Honda Civic on the list? That’s correct. This time, it’s the 2012-2017 model, which scored worse than its successor with an 85.2 per cent reliability raring.

Over a third (35 per cent) of cars reported on had suffered a fault in the previous two years. Like its replacement, air-con issues were most common (17 per cent of all faults) with electrical gremlins accounting for more than one in 10 (12 per cent) of complaints.

Mechanics were able to fix issues quickly, though, with four in five faulty Civics rectified within a day. 

For the 30 per cent of owners whose repairs were not covered by a warranty, their bills came to between £301 and £500 per fault.

8. Mercedes-Benz A-Class PETROL (2018-present) 

Reliability rating: 84.5%

The Mercedes A-Class in recent years has been one of the best-selling medium-size hatches in the UK. A third of owners of the latest model with a petrol engine said they had encountered at least one problem The Mercedes A-Class in recent years has been one of the best-selling medium-size hatches in the UK. A third of owners of the latest model with a petrol engine said they had encountered at least one problem

The Mercedes A-Class in recent years has been one of the best-selling medium-size hatches in the UK. A third of owners of the latest model with a petrol engine said they had encountered at least one problem

What Car? received enough feedback on Mercedes’ A-Class family hatchbacks to split the fuel types to provide independent scores. The 84.5 per cent reliability rating here is for petrol variants only.

A third of owners of unleaded A-Class cars had encountered an issue in the previous 24 months, reporting problems with air-con, bodywork, electrics and interior trim falling off.

Most of the problems were not major and meant that most cars could still be driven. Of those needing repair work, 48 per cent were back on the road within 24 hours.

Mercedes covered the cost of 88 per cent of bills through its warranties, but some owners paid out up to £750 for repair costs – and 3 per cent shelled out more than £1,500.

7. Mercedes-Benz A-Class DIESEL (2018-present) 

Reliability rating: 83.7%

Diesel Mercedes A-Class cars are slightly more unreliable than the petrol versions. Some 77% of owners who reported a defect in the previous two years said their car was kept in the garage for more than a week Diesel Mercedes A-Class cars are slightly more unreliable than the petrol versions. Some 77% of owners who reported a defect in the previous two years said their car was kept in the garage for more than a week

Diesel Mercedes A-Class cars are slightly more unreliable than the petrol versions. Some 77% of owners who reported a defect in the previous two years said their car was kept in the garage for more than a week

The latest Mercedes-Benz A-Class is one of the nation’s best-selling new family hatches, but feedback from owners of diesel variants means the oil burners are less dependable than petrols.

More than three in 10 (31 per cent) suffered a fault in the last 24 months. Most common issues were electrical related, though air-con, battery, engine and interior trim problems were also reported.

Almost all (94 per cent) of diesel A-Classes were covered by new warranties, though 6 per cent of owners had to pay between £301 to £500 for repairs.

Worryingly, 77 per cent of owners said their cars were stuck in a garage workshop for more than a week – which is the main reason for its low reliability rating.

6. Volkswagen Golf DIESEL (2013-2020)

Reliability rating: 83.4%

The previous-generation Volkswagen Golf is another common car on Britain's roads. However, an 83.4% reliability rating isn't much to shout about The previous-generation Volkswagen Golf is another common car on Britain's roads. However, an 83.4% reliability rating isn't much to shout about

The previous-generation Volkswagen Golf is another common car on Britain’s roads. However, an 83.4% reliability rating isn’t much to shout about

When it comes to popular medium-size hatchbacks, the Mk7 Golf is among the most common on our roads today. What Car? received responses from enough owners to split the reliability rating between petrols and diesel – with the latter represented here in sixth place for the least dependable family models. 

The consumer magazine said diesel versions are more expensive and troublesome to live with than the petrols. A third of owners of these cars said something had gone wrong with theirs in the previous 24 months. 

Battery, electrics, exhaust and gearbox woes are most likely.

With more than half of these Golfs out of the warranty period, 45 per cent had to cover the cost of repairs themselves – and almost a fifth (18 per cent) forked out £1,500 on bills to get their motors fixed.

5. Volkswagen Golf (2020-present)

Reliability rating: 79.9%

The Mk8 Golf hit the market in 2020 but is proving to be less reliable than the car it replaced. Almost two thirds of owners had a fault with their VW in the last 24 months The Mk8 Golf hit the market in 2020 but is proving to be less reliable than the car it replaced. Almost two thirds of owners had a fault with their VW in the last 24 months

The Mk8 Golf hit the market in 2020 but is proving to be less reliable than the car it replaced. Almost two thirds of owners had a fault with their VW in the last 24 months

Incredibly, the current Golf (Mk8) performs even worse than its predecessor for dependability, according to those who drive them.

Despite only hitting showrooms in 2020, two in five (39 per cent) of owners reported at least one fault with their cars in the last 24 months. 

Non-engine electrical gremlins were most common alongside sat nav/infotainment system glitches – these made up almost a quarter (24 per cent) of all faults. Owners also raised problems with the air-con in their Golf Mk8 as well as battery, bodywork, engine, fuel system and suspension woes. 

And two in five cars with faults took more than a week to repair. A small percentage of keepers said they had to fork out between £751 and £1,500 to have their cars fixed.

4. Skoda Yeti (2009-2017)

Reliability rating: 79.2% 

Skoda's Yeti is super practical but also proving not all that dependable. Gearbox and clutch problems are most common - and these tend to be expensive to rectify Skoda's Yeti is super practical but also proving not all that dependable. Gearbox and clutch problems are most common - and these tend to be expensive to rectify

Skoda’s Yeti is super practical but also proving not all that dependable. Gearbox and clutch problems are most common – and these tend to be expensive to rectify 

The Yeti was one of Skoda’s finest family car offerings of recent years. Built on the same platform as the VW Golf, it offered a boxier shape and therefore more passenger headroom, increase boot capacity and more flexible cabin.

But what it gained in practicality, it is losing in terms of dependability – owner feedback lands it with a 79.2 per cent reliability rating.

A third of keepers said their Yeti had a fault in the previous 24 months – and it was expensive gearbox/clutch issues that were the most common complaint ahead of problems with the air-con, bodywork, brakes, electrics, sat-nav and suspension.

With the magnitude of gearbox/clutch repairs, it’s not surprising to know that three quarters of cars were in the garage for more than a week. And given the Yeti went out of production in 2017, most were no longer covered by a warranty and repairs were at the expense of owners – with half paying up to £500 and 13 per cent up to £1,000 to have their vehicles fixed.

3. Skoda Octavia (2020-present)

Reliability rating: 78.7% 

The current version of the Skoda Octavia takes the unwanted bronze medal in the running order of least reliable family cars. More than half of owners said theirs went wrong in the last 24 months The current version of the Skoda Octavia takes the unwanted bronze medal in the running order of least reliable family cars. More than half of owners said theirs went wrong in the last 24 months

The current version of the Skoda Octavia takes the unwanted bronze medal in the running order of least reliable family cars. More than half of owners said theirs went wrong in the last 24 months

More than half of owners (54 per cent) of the current Skoda Octavia have said they have experienced a fault in the last 24 months.

Satellite navigation and infotainment system bugbears blighted 31 per cent of the current-generation Octavia, and other electrical issues affected another 27 per cent owned by What Car? readers.

With the most common faults being relatively non-serious issues,  the majority of impacted cars could still be driven even with these defects. However, a third took more than a week to put right. 

The only saving grace is that every owner benefitted from their Skoda new car warranty, meaning no pricey repair bills for this model.

2. Mercedes-Benz A-Class HYBRID (2018-present)

Reliability rating: 78.4%

We've already featured the petrol and diesel A-Class in this list, and now it's time for the hybrid versions to make an appearance. Engine problems are among the most common, which are pricey to put right We've already featured the petrol and diesel A-Class in this list, and now it's time for the hybrid versions to make an appearance. Engine problems are among the most common, which are pricey to put right

We’ve already featured the petrol and diesel A-Class in this list, and now it’s time for the hybrid versions to make an appearance. Engine problems are among the most common, which are pricey to put right

Yes, the current-generation Mercedes-Benz A-Class has made it into this list for a third time – the second least reliable family car being the hybrid variant.

Almost half (46 per cent) of owners of the hybrid version said they had encountered a problem with their cars, with the engine, engine and non-engine electrics and air-con being the main areas of concern.

Although two in five (79 per cent) of repairs were carried out under warranty, 14 per cent of hybrid A-Class drivers who had to cover the bill to get their cars fixed were stung with a receipt for £1,500. 

Three quarters of affected cars were repaired and back on the road within a week, drivers said.

1. Audi A3 (2020-present)

Reliability rating: 74.2%

The least reliable family car in What Car?'s report is not a cheap motor - it's the premium-badged Audi A3. Some 57% of owners of this model said they had encountered issues in the last two years - and three quarters have been off the road for more than a week being fixed The least reliable family car in What Car?'s report is not a cheap motor - it's the premium-badged Audi A3. Some 57% of owners of this model said they had encountered issues in the last two years - and three quarters have been off the road for more than a week being fixed

The least reliable family car in What Car?’s report is not a cheap motor – it’s the premium-badged Audi A3. Some 57% of owners of this model said they had encountered issues in the last two years – and three quarters have been off the road for more than a week being fixed

At number one in What Car?’s list of the least reliable family cars is a hugely popular vehicle – the latest-generation Audi A3.

Of all owners of the 2020- A3 who filled in the consumer magazine’s dependability survey, a whopping 57 per cent said theirs had suffered a glitch in the past two years.

Most common issues were with the sat nav/infotainment system, which represented a third of all complaints. Electrical faults were reported by a further 29 per cent of owners, suggesting there are some technical gremlins in the A3 system. There were also problems with the battery, gearbox/clutch, interior trim and bodywork.

Although all repairs were covered under warranty, many of the faults were serious and time-consuming to put right. This is why more than a third (38 per cent) of repaired cars were undriveable due to their issues – and 76 per cent spent more than a week in the garage.

The 25 least reliable family cars 

 1. Audi A3 (2020-present) – 74.2%

2. Mercedes A-Class HYBRID (2018-present) – 78.4%

3. Skoda Octavia (2020-present) – 78.7%

4. Skoda Yeti (2009-2017) – 79.2%

5. Volkswagen Golf (2020-present) – 79.9%

6. Volkswagen Golf DIESEL (2013-2020) – 83.4%

7. Mercedes A-Class DIESEL (2018-present) – 83.7%

8. Mercedes A-Class PETROL (2018-present) – 84.5%

9. Honda Civic (2012-2017) – 85.2%

=11. Vauxhall Astra PETROL (2015-2022) – 86.7%

=11. Honda Civic (2017-2022) – 86.7%

12. Ford Focus DIESEL (2018-present) – 87.8%

13. Ford Focus PETROL (2018-present) – 92.5%

14. Citroen Cactus (2014-2021) – 93.1%

15. Kia Xceed (2019-present) – 93.3%

16. Mazda 3 (2014-2019) – 93.8%

17. Audi A3 (2013-2020) – 93.9%

18. Volkswagen Golf PETROL (2013-2020) – 94.0%

19. Volvo V40 PETROL (2012-2019) – 94.2%

20. Toyota Prius HYBRID (2016-2022) – 94.6%

21. Mazda 3 (2019-present) – 94.7%

22. Kia Ceed (2018-present) – 94.8%

23. Seat Leon DIESEL (2013-2020) – 95.1%

24. Skoda Octavia PETROL (2013-2020) – 95.2%

25. Mini Clubman (2015-present) – 95.4% 

Source: What Car?

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