An amazing 52,563 people filled in the Which? Car Survey last year. Using their responses, we’ve ranked the most reliable large cars – both new and second-hand.
The large car sector is hotly contested, with sales split between private buyers and company fleets. If you’re a sales rep or a middle manager, you may spend the best part of your working day in one of the cars listed below.
Broadly speaking, the large car market is divided into ‘mainstream’ brands like Ford, Vauxhall and Toyota, and ‘premium’ marques such as BMW, Lexus and Mercedes. But paying more for an upmarket badge doesn’t guarantee greater reliability, as our results show.
Read on to find out the top five most reliable new and used large cars, according to the 2011 Which? Car Survey. For the purposes of our data, ‘new’ cars are defined as being less than three years old, and used cars are between four and eight years old.
Fill in the 2012 Which? Car Survey
You can help raise standards in the car industry – or simply get some car-related complaints off your chest – by telling us about your car in this year’s survey.
Fill in the 2012 Which? Car Survey and you’ll also have a chance to win £10,000. It takes no more than 15 minutes for each car you own, and is your opportunity to have your voice heard.
Most reliable new large cars
Reliability score: 97%
The hybrid petrol/electric Insight generally exists in the shadow of Toyota’s more popular Prius, which has similarly teardrop-shaped styling. However, the 1.3-litre Honda is top dog when it comes to reliability, scoring a remarkable 97% in the 2011 Which? Car Survey. Watch our video review of the Insight by clicking the above link.
Reliability score: 91%
The IS saloon remains a firm favourite with owners thanks to impressive reliability and courteous Lexus dealers. It’s not all good news, though; running costs for the 2.5-litre petrol engine are high – you’ll be lucky to top 30mpg in real-world driving. And the more economical 2.2 diesel unit is markedly more prone to problems.
Reliability score: 90%
The latest Prius carries on where its predecessor left off – with clockwork reliability and some very satisfied owners. Free car tax and the prospect of 70mpg+ fuel economy (we managed 61.4mpg) are major plus points; just don’t expect excitement behind the wheel. The new Prius Plug-In offers extra electric-only range, but isn’t cheap at £26k.
Reliability score: 89%
Yes, it’s blander than magnolia paint and won’t win you any kudos in the pub car park, but if you need affordable and reliable transport the Avensis is hard to beat. Early examples can be found for less than £3,000, for which you’ll get a solidly-built family car with tidy handling, a pleasant interior and a large boot. Insurance is cheap, too.
Reliability score: 89%
The Accord looks and feels like a premium product, but its Honda badge holds it back against rivals from Audi, BMW and Mercedes. Those prepared to overlook that are rewarded with roominess, refinement and reliability. One slight alarm bell: petrol versions scored just two stars out of five for breakdowns in our survey, so stick with the frugal 2.2 diesel.
Most reliable used large cars
1. Lexus IS (1999-2005)
Reliability score: 87%
It’s hard to believe the original IS was launched 13 years ago, as it still looks fresh today. Like its parent company, Toyota, Lexus built its reputation on reliability and the IS is no exception. Watch out for ‘Toyota Altezza’ grey imports, and bear in mind that the lack of a diesel engine means £400+ car tax unless you buy one first registered before March 2001.
Reliability score: 83%
The C-class often loses out to the sportier BMW 3 Series in car magazine group tests, but it’s a more reliable car to buy used. In fact, high list prices (especially after options) mean choosing a second-hand C-class makes sense. We’d go for a (used-only) C200 or C220 diesel; both are impressively fuel-efficient and suffer fewer faults than petrol versions.
Reliability score: 83%
The second-generation Prius became a hit with minicab drivers thanks to its miserly fuel economy and excellent reliability. Owners rave about it, although second-hand prices are significantly higher than most rivals. The Toyota’s hybrid system works best in town, so if you do a lot of motorway miles you may be better off with a fuel-efficient diesel instead.
Reliability score: 81%
Volvo’s smallest saloon is getting on a bit now, and the number of versions you can buy new is limited. It makes a great-value second-hand purchase, though. We recommend the super-frugal Drive diesel models – not least because the petrols are less reliable. The roomy V40 estate version is also worth a look.
5. Volvo S80 (1998-2005)
Reliability score: 78%
Volvo’s flagship was closer to a BMW 5 Series than a 3 Series in size. It marked a departure from the boxy styling of old, introducing the now-familiar ‘shouldered’ look. Even the youngest of the first-generation S80s are now seven years old, so a reliability score of 78% is to be commended. You can pick one up for banger money.