Looking for a motor that won't bring an annual surge of dread? See what's likely to fail its yearly check-up
13 August 2019

I’ve been slightly involved with a national newspaper doing a freedom of information request when it comes to MOT test failures. I provided some of the comments on what the stats revealed and it bears repetition. These are 2015 cars that had their first MOT last year and there needed to be at least 5000 tests for that particular model. 

Without printing out a boring table, let’s dig into the results. My eye is drawn to the models least likely to fail and yet again it is a win for the older buyers with their favourite little runabout, the Honda Jazz. They love them and look after them. The real surprise is the Vauxhall Viva, a model that is mostly invisible in the marketplace, but again oldies remember the name from the 1960s and 1970s, buy ’em and then make sure they are looked after. 

The Hyundai i20 is another old favourite, an inoffensive car that just gets on with the job and has a suitably reassuring warranty, so yet another one to tempt private buyers, especially the more mature ones. 

Otherwise, it is a big win for perceived German build quality, as you only get what you pay for with Audi, Volkswagen and Mercedes

Good news, then, for Audi with the TT, A1 and Q3 taking the fourth, fifth and sixth spots, and the Q5 making an entry at number nine. These are costly cars usually bought by companies or people who can afford to run them, so no real surprise there. The SUV invasion is confirmed, because there are strong showings from the Mercedes GLA, Honda CR-V and Volkswagen Tiguan

At the troublesome end of the table, the first two entries from Citroën and Ford on the list of those most likeautoly to fail are hard-working people-carriers, the C4 Grand Picasso and Galaxy, which lead tough lives, sometimes as taxis. The Dacia Sandero, however, is marketed as a bargain buy, but a low price seems to suggest low quality and more breakdowns. It may also be cheapskates skimping on regular maintenance. The appearance of the VW Passat at number four is a surprise because they rack up huge mileages. 

Our Verdict

Honda Jazz

The new Honda Jazz is bigger than ever thanks to a new chassis and longer wheelbase, but does it come with a more engaging drive

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The Jaguar XF is getting older and more fragile and its complicated running gear makes it a regular MOT failure in sixth position. Citroën’s long-term reputation is not great and sibling brand DS is also in the mix, with the 3. Hard-used Vauxhall Insignias scrape in at 10 and that also explains the Nissan Micra at nine, a generally reliable car that is worked hard and then neglected. 

Used car owners’ surveys tell you nothing whereas actual stats like these give used car buyers some very useful guidance. Buy this, be careful with that and know what to avoid.

What we almost bought this week

Alfa Romeo 146 2.0 TI: Not the prettiest thing but it’s an Alfa with a sweet gearchange and a raspy Twin Spark engine capable of 0-62mph in just over 8sec. Rust? It has a galvanised body. We’d be more concerned about the electrics, which can give trouble. Old 146s are getting pricey now, with this 80,000- mile, 1997 P-reg costing £2950. Still, it’s a classic, right? 

Tales from Ruppert’s garage

Mini Cooper, mileage - 103,092: Panel gaps were never a strong point for BMC and that seems to dog its cars even today. Witness my Mini. The driver’s door in particular seems to have only a casual acquaintance with the bodywork in which it is supposed to fit. I don’t think there is a lot I can do, apart from muck about with some of the door hinge bolts. I have been doing this with little effect, although there is no chance of me falling out because it never pops open. The Lorry is a bit similar, but it just needs a heroic slam to secure.

Reader’s ride

Toyota Yaris: We welcome back Darren Smith: “You featured my Yaris 121,000 miles back and I thought I’d let you know it’s still going strong, at nearly 150,000 miles. All it has had is a new exhaust, a bit of welding on the driver’s side rear jacking point and routine servicing. 

“It gets serviced every 10,000 miles, is washed regularly and takes me to France once a year and Norwich a lot. It’s got such character. I love the freaky 3D dashboard and it’s nippy and so good on fuel. What is it with these Toyotas? They just keep on going…”

Readers’ questions

Question: The trouble with the Goodwood Festival of Speed is that it’s over for another year. Where can I get another fix of high-octane motors this summer? Barry Harkness, Bristol 

Answer: Look no further than Car Fest South, Chris Evans’ annual festival of cars, food and music held at Laverstoke Park Farm near Winchester, Hampshire. This year, it takes place on 23-25 August. In addition to the track, which incorporates a re-creation of Monaco’s Swimming Pool section, the organisers promise there’ll be two paddocks brimming with cars of all types and a 60th anniversary tribute to the Mini, plus the festival’s traditional motor show of new models. Visit carfest.org. John Evans

Question: Is it sensible to buy a Vauxhall Insignia 1.8 VVT converted to run on LPG? It’s eight years and 61k miles old and is £4995. Greg Mitchett, Solihull

Answer: It’s £1000 more than a standard 1.8 but you’ll save 66 pence per litre on fuel. You say you cover 12k miles per year: at 35mpg, that’s £1019 in LPG compared with £2003 in petrol. An LPG location app will make it easy to find one of the 1400 or so LPG filling locations. Insurance and maintenance costs may be a little higher, but hang onto the car, do the mileage and it looks like a sensible move. John Evans

Read more

Failure is an option: what changes in the MOT test have meant for drivers

The motorsport legend who runs an MOT centre: Autocar meets Ronnie Grant​

James Ruppert: The cars that cost least in maintenance bills​

Join the debate


13 August 2019

I think the truth is that all modern cars are good with very low MOT failure rates with actually quite a small difference between the best and worst. And as the article says, the results have more to do with the type of owner and usage of the vehicle than the actual brand. A quick look at the main reasons for failure suggests that lights, tyres, brakes and suspension are the main causes - most of which the owner is responsible for and are not related to the make of the car. 

13 August 2019
The comments about the Jag being old and fragile now so being a regular failure, how does that follow when the survey is all on 2015 cars having their first MOT?
My wife's 2015 Mii failed its first MOT at 15000 miles with headlight adjustment, can't imagine why that would go out of adjustment and can only conclude the supplying dealer didn't set it up correctly in the first place. Never had any other car fail for that, weird, Irritatingly it failed its second on a brake disc which was warped which is also a weird one as my wife only started complaining about a vibration under hard braking from motorway speeds in the past couple of months so why the disc at nearly 4 yrs old and only 18k should do that I don't know. Usually it's hard braking at the begining of their life before bedding in.
I've always looked at MOT history when buying used cars, it is a great way of seeing typical failures for particular models and cars to avoid.

13 August 2019
As a side note the first MOT was done by the dealer when they did the last free service, the independent garage I normally use said he would have just adjusted the light and not failed it, I know from experience that if a bulb causes failure they just change it and don't even charge for the bulb.

13 August 2019

I like the notch back styled 146, always preferred it to its breadvan 145 brother, had a go in one when they were new and really liked it.

13 August 2019

You will indeed save money with LPG, but not quite as much as that. The reason being there's less energy in a litre of LPG than in a litre of petrol: around 20% less according to DriveLPG's calculator. It will always use a little petrol to start as well. Personal experience of LPG was a little worse than 20% overall: over a few brim-to-brim comparisons I'd put it nearer 25% for a factory-fitted conversion in a 2.5 Subaru Outback. Using your figures for mileage, I'd guess nearer £700 in savings than £1,000. And less range in my experience; higher consumption and usually smaller tank capacity. However, an upside is somewhat lower C02 emssions as LPG is cleaner. See https://www.drivelpg.co.uk/about-autogas/savings-calculator/

There can be other problems: in the worst case there can be big bills from valve problems that wipe out the savings. Some models suffer this more than others. Mine did at around 70,000 miles, and its was expensive: at least a year's worth of savings. I wasn't aware of this when I bought an LPG car. Worth a check to see if anyone reports problems for your chosen make/model. On the other hand, it didn't cost any more to insure.

Finding LPG on the forecourt is getting harder; over the few years I had my Outback it was dropped by all but one petrol station within a 20-mile radius of where I live and from almost all motorway services I used regularly. I often had to switch over to petrol as I couldn't find anywhere to fill up.

It can still be a good thing to do, but go in with your eyes open. Personally, when the time came to change I went for a hybrid rather than another LPG car. Comparable costs, much better range, universally available supplies and well-tested, reliable drivetrains. I don't regret the decision.

13 August 2019

Can't see how to edit my post to add this scarier point of view:


Has a useful table of problem cars; my Subaru on there but no reported issue with Vauxhalls. But the points on cost are interesting.

13 August 2019

I was wrong. They do say problems with Vauxhall post-2006 in the article.

13 August 2019
HughL wrote:

Can't see how to edit my post to add this scarier point of view:


Has a useful table of problem cars; my Subaru on there but no reported issue with Vauxhalls. But the points on cost are interesting.

My dad bought a forester from a main dealer that had the complete lpg system removed and heads replaced, the dealer didn't rate it at all for the valve issues you mention, infact I'm sure they said Subaru paid for the removal,may be wrong, though they had a few cars on the forecourt that had this carried out. This was about 5 years or so ago.

14 August 2019
Yeah, I heard about the retrofit after mine was expensively repaired. Subaru wouldn't allow a warranty claim. Should have fought harder. That was one of the many reasons I defected from them after 20+ years of loyalty.

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