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Which? Car reliability news gives insight into future models

Consumer Reports News: August 18, 2010 10:56 AM

It would seem reasonable to assume that a vehicle with a history of good marks for reliability in the United States would get similar owner feedback from owners overseas. But hey, you never know.

Thanks to our friends at Which? magazine, whose annual car survey is the largest of its kind in the United Kingdom, now we do. Like Consumer Reports, Which? does not accept advertising and gets its reliability data directly from readers who report breakdowns, unscheduled repairs, and minor issues with their own cars. Their methods differ from ours, and some of the cars in their survey are not sold here. Still, the findings are quite interesting.

The most reliable car in the Which? survey that is also sold here is the Mazda3, a CR recommended model that, while not topping our reliability charts does get a solid Very Good reliability rating.

Second place goes to the Honda Insight hybrid. The Insight ranked the most reliable car in our survey this past year, although it scored too low in our testing to be recommended. The Toyota Prius hybrid, a perennial crowd pleaser in our reliability surveys, is number seven. And the Volkswagen Golf, which ranked second in our survey, landed in the number eight spot with Which? readers.

Not surprisingly, survey results were also similar at the other end of the scale. The Land Rover LR3 was the least reliable vehicle in the Which? survey. It has consistently been a poor performer in our surveys, as well. Land Rover as a whole has been one of the least reliable brands in our surveys, and it ranks at the bottom of manufacturers with Which? readers, coming in last at 34th place.

That puts Land Rover just below Chrysler, which recently has been the least reliable domestic brand in our surveys. But reliability can change over time. In fact, Chrysler is in the midst of introducing an assortment of redesigned and improved models, and company executives and engineers have assured us the company is redoubling their efforts to turn that around. We’ve seen and driven some of these vehicles, and they seem promising. Ultimately, how they perform in the real-world will reveal if Chrysler’s effort can raise the automaker’s reliability.

Which? Car reliability--Best and worst for 2010

Most reliable Least reliable
Daihatsu Land Rover
Honda Chrysler
Toyota Alfa Romeo
Mazda Jeep
Lexus Renault

Our road ahead
Another thing that makes the Which? survey results particularly interesting is that some of the models reported on by their readers have either just gone on sale in the United States or will be here soon. It’s kind of like reading the tea leaves for the reliability of vehicles that may be in your neighborhood or even driveway soon.

2011-MAZDA2

For example, the subcompact Mazda2 has just gone on sale in the States, but it has been on the market in Britain for a while. Good news for American shoppers is that the wee Mazda just makes the top 10 for reliability with Which? (See our Mazda2 just in post and video.) Already on sale in other markets, the Toyota iQ ranks number six. (It will be sold here as the Scion iQ.)

Fiat will soon make its return to the United States, lead by the tiny, award-winning 500. While the 500 doesn’t make the Which? top 10, it has proven relatively reliable. Fiat reliability remains spotty overall, however, with some models fairing worse than others. Fiat as a brand ranks 27th.

Of course, there is risk in comparing how a brand performs in one part of the world, versus another, given product line variance, equipment differences, usage patterns, and point of assembly. That said, the results from the Which? Car survey are illuminating. There seem to be many similarities in how cars perform in the U.S. and U.K., and as more automakers strive to offer “world cars” around the globe with minor variation, there could be increased value in previewing the reliability from across the pond.

Look for the results of our latest car reliability survey online in October and in the November issue of Consumer Reports magazine.

Jim Travers
   

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