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Most reliable new and used SUVs and 4x4s

The best off-roaders and SUVs - rated by you
Hyundai ix35 front quarter

Looking for the best reliable SUV? Look no further

Want to know which are the most reliable sports utility vehicle (SUV) and 4x4s, both new and second-hand?

Which? can tell you, thanks to ratings from more than 50,000 drivers in the Which? Car Survey.

In 2011, a total of 52,563 people told us how reliable their cars were, meaning we can tell you which are the most dependable models on the road, only using feedback from real owners.

Read on to find out which SUVs and 4x4s topped our reliability standings, both new and used, in the 2011 Which? Car Survey.

Most reliable new SUVs

1. Hyundai ix35 (2010-)

Reliability score: 95%

Hyundai ix35

Hyundai ix35

The ix35 sits somewhere between the i30 hatchback and the Santa Fe off-roader as the compact crossover in Hyundai’s range. And it looks like those who have bought it haven’t had to fall back on the Korean carmaker’s five-year warranty as the ix35 is proving extremely reliable. Niggles and faults are an absolute rarity, but some breakdowns have been recorded. So far, the ix35 is outperforming Hyundai’s average overall reliability rating, and it could also be a factor in owners giving it an impressive 91% satisfaction rating as a model.

2.  BMW X1 (2009-)

Reliability score: 93%

BMW X1

BMW X1

The X1 is BMW’s baby SUV, offering a more compact version of the X3 and the even bigger X5. Available in two-wheel- (sDrive) and all-wheel-drive (xDrive) forms, the X1 can be used as both a road only SUV or a 4×4 off-roader. Owners only give it a 79% satisfaction rating, despite it excelling as a dependable motor. It scored full marks for avoiding breakdowns and faults. Niggles have been a very slight issue with the X1, but it’s still way above average in this department. And the X1 is outshining BMW’s overall reliability rating, which is average. 

3. Skoda Yeti (2009-)

Reliability score: 92%

Skoda Yeti

Skoda Yeti

Fractionally beaten by the X1, the Yeti first emerged on the market in 2009 and offers a unique take on the compact-SUV market. It shares its underpinnings with the VW Tiguan, however it’s presented in a more family-friendly road-focussed package, despite being available as either a four-wheel-drive or two-wheel-drive SUV.  Petrol versions are coping much better than diesels; petrol variants scored full marks for avoiding breakdowns, faults and niggles, while the diesel is having more small issues, mainly focussed around non-engine electrics.

4. Toyota RAV4 (2006-)

Reliability score: 90%

Toyota RAV4

Toyota RAV4

The RAV4 is one of the originators of the compact-SUV market, combining 4×4 stance and looks with a smaller overall package than conventional 4x4s for almost two decades. The latest incarnation is matching Toyota’s overall solid reliability record, however earlier produced cars are seemingly less likely to succumb to faults according to 187 owners who responded to the 2011 Which? Car Survey. Non-engine electrics are the main cause of faults. It is only available with Toyota’s 2.2-litre diesel, and all-wheel-drive comes as standard.

 =5. Subaru Forester (2008-)

Reliability score: 89%

Subaru Forester

Subaru Forester

When the latest generation of the Forester emerged on the market in 2008 it offered a totally revised package to what we’d become accustomed to – the high-riding estate style has now been replaced by a more conventional SUV shape. Four-wheel-drive is standard and active at all times, but it does mean the Forester can be considered as a serious off-roader instead of a pumped-up family car. Scoring four out of five stars for breakdowns, faults and niggles, it’s on a par with Subaru’s overall good reliability track record. Again, non-engine electrics are the main cause of faults.

=5. Lexus RX (2009-)

Reliability score: 89%

Lexus RX

Lexus RX

Matching the Forester is the Lexus RX, the first large-sized SUV to feature in our list as well as being the only hybrid. Now only available as a hybrid, the RX is outperforming direct competitors, even if the reliability record isn’t massively impressive. A three-star rating for breakdowns and niggles isn’t much to shout about in most cases, but this is a worthy track record for an SUV, which tend to be the most unreliable car class. Once again, non-engine electrics are the cause of most garage visits. Lexus gets a very good reliability rating as a brand, meaning the RX is one if its worst performers.

Most reliable used SUVs

1. Toyota Land Cruiser (2003-2010)

Reliability score: 86%

Toyota Land Cruiser

Toyota Land Cruiser

The Land Cruiser is a large, heavy off-roader in the traditional mould. It’s fairly unsophisticated, which this means it’s tough and difficult to break. Owners agree with these sentiments, giving the previous generation Land Cruiser full marks for avoiding breakdowns and niggles. Non-engine electrics and brakes are the most commonly recorded faults, contributing to the Land Cruiser’s four-star rating for occurrence of faults. Still, it’s a commendable achievement for a car that’s almost eight years old, but still in-line with Toyota’s strong reliability record as a car brand.

2. Honda CR-V (2001-2007)

Reliability record: 83%

Honda CR-V

Honda CR-V

Released a decade ago and replaced in 2007, the original CR-V has proved to be a strong second-hand buy.  Owners like it enough to give it an 86% overall satisfaction rating and a strong reliability record will contribute to this. Petrol models are more reliable than diesels, and almost flawless according to owners. Diesel owners say there are a few niggles with their cars, and brakes are the most commonly reported faults for diesel variants. Interestingly, this CR-V is proving to be a much more dependable car than the model that replaced it.

3. Toyota RAV4 (2006-)

Reliability score: 82%

Toyota RAV4

Toyota RAV4

The RAV4 may have scored 90% for reliability for new models, but models four years and over were rated as 82%, meaning Toyota’s small SUV is almost as dependable as a second-hand purchase as it is from new. While just 9% of all faults for newer models are caused by non-engine electrics, the same problems account for 19% of all issues with older versions. Brakes and window washers and wipers are also common causes of problems with the RAV4 as it ages. More expensive engine issues are less common, meaning repair costs shouldn’t be too catastrophic.

4. Lexus RX (2003-2009)

Reliability score: 81%

Leuxs RX

Leuxs RX

A total of 129 owners reported back to us about the previous generation RX, giving the model an overall satisfaction score of 89%. A respectable reliability record would have helped contribute to owner’s happiness with the car, with models four years old and older scoring strongly for avoidance of faults and niggles. There have been more cases of breakdowns, however it’s brakes that you need to be looking out most for as these are the most commonly reported issues. Models produced between 2008 and 2009 are proving to be less reliable, so you’re better off going for an earlier-built RX.

5. Subaru Forester (2002-2008)

Reliability score: 80%

Subaru Forester

Subaru Forester

Before the current Forester came along in 2008, the model had carved itself a niche as a rugged, practical and reliable estate car that’s perfectly capable of mild off-road duties, meaning it’s a recommended second-hand winter buy. Owners rated it as 85% for satisfaction, and an overall four-star reliability rating would have helped this. In fact, owners said the 2002-2008 Forester very rarely succumbs to breakdowns and niggles, with non-engine electric causing the majority of most faults, which aren’t overly common. Owners should also be mindful of break and engine electrics issues.

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