27 February 2015

If public transport’s got your goat, which city cars are more reliable?

If you feel that fares keep going up but buses and trains never seem to improve in reliability or comfort, you’re not alone. Recent surveys by Passenger Focus and Which? magazine have shown that UK-wide train travel satisfaction levels have dropped by 2% in the last year, which might not sound a lot, but will still concern the operators. Less than 50% surveyed felt that train fares offer value for money; but running a small city car to get you to university, work or out and about with your friends isn’t cheap either, especially if things keep going wrong with the car.

Warranty Direct provides extended warranties for cars that are not covered by a manufacturer’s warranty – directly from Vauxhall or Citroen, for example – and they have just published the results of a recent survey they conducted into the reliability of city cars. Their warranties act like insurance against certain things going wrong with a car, from a broken CD player to an engine that blows up. Their survey looked at pint-size cars like the Smart and Fiat 500, the kind of affordable, economical and easily-manoeuvrable cars many of Carrot’s customers drive – and the results are quite surprising.

Not making a sweeping statement, but from my own experience with used French cars of different sizes, including the 206 my wife used to drive, they’re not usually thought of as the most reliable. I didn’t therefore expect to see the Peugeot 107 siting at the top of Warranty Direct’s city car reliability table, with the Citroen C1 of the same 2005 model year in second place. The largest repair bills found in their database for these models were £763 in the 107’s case and £1,030 for something that went wrong on a customer’s C1.

Cars made in Japan, Germany and South Korea are often perceived as the most reliable, so it was no shock to see Kia’s Picanto named the 3rd most reliable A-segment car they cover, with the Toyota Aygo sandwiched in 5th place between Volkswagen’s Lupo and Fox. The Ford Ka also did pretty well, finishing in 7th place, rather like a UEFA Cup spot.

Perhaps not the most popular small car, their survey found the City Rover to be the 5th least reliable town car, and the 2008 Fiat 500 was sadly in bronze position in terms of unreliability, which is a shame as it’s so cute. According to Warranty Direct data, the most unreliable dinky car they cover of all is the Smart ForTwo, for which they once ended up paying out £1,565 for a single repair. Ouch.

New cars are generally becoming more and more reliable and these are just the findings of one organisation, so it’s always a great idea to get your tablet out and do some online research to help decide which small car is best for you. Websites like Parkers and Honest John are a great source of advice on used cars and reliability history. If you have any stories to share about the small car you drive (or relating to public transport!), we’d love to hear them, so get in touch on social media.

Oliver Hammond

Written by Oliver Hammond

Oliver is an established freelance motoring writer, published journalist and automotive copywriter based in Manchester. He regularly reviews cars and covers events and launches as editor of petroleumvitae.com and his articles appear in various magazines each month. No relation to Richard from Top Gear, he’s got a weakness for luxo-barges, proper 4x4s and oddball cars.