22/11/2006 00:00 | By By Ian Dickson

The most reliable cars in Britain

Honda Accord (© Image © Honda)

If your car has ever broken down you will probably agree that it often happens at the most inappropriate moments.

Like the impromptu timing of cold callers on Sunday mornings, fate typically engineers it that your car will expire when you’re on your way to work, on the wettest day of the year, or when you forget to renew your breakdown cover. And, unfortunately, for us poor motorists there’s little - apart from keeping the oil level topped up and the service book fully stamped - that we can do to prevent it. However, one solution is to buy a more reliable car – but how do you know what will leave you stranded and what won’t. Well, industry newspaper Fleet News has surveyed nearly one million company cars and put together a list of the ten most reliable cars on sale. Is yours on there?

1) Honda Accord

Honda Accord (© Image © Honda)

Click on images to enlarge. More below

The chances of seeing a Honda Accord and a breakdown van together are slimmer than seeing Elvis stacking the shelves in your local Tesco. Quite simply, Honda Accords don’t breakdown. Mechanically, they are unbreakable, with high-revving engines that last for hundreds of thousands of miles and engine components that seem to be made from kryptonite. Is it any wonder our roads are full of old Hondas? As a downside, this makes the average price of Honda parts higher than most, but then if you rarely have to replace them, what is there to complain about?

Driven: Honda Accord
Used Honda Accords from £8,500

2) Toyota Avensis

Toyota Avensis (© Image © Toyota)

Oh look, it’s another Japanese car. It doesn’t take a World War II code breaker to work out that there’s some sort of pattern emerging here. Japanese cars = good reliability. Sit in an Avensis and you just get the impression that this is a very well made car. Every panel fits perfectly, there isn’t a cheap piece of trim or plastic anywhere and the only squeak you’ll hear is if there is a mouse locked in the boot. And whichever engine you choose to equip your Avensis with you can be sure that it will go on for mile after mile without so much as a hiccup. Why do you think they make such great taxis?

Driven: Toyota Avensis
Used Toyota Avensis from £6,500

3) Audi A4

Audi A4 (© Image © Audi)

The Japanese sure know how to make reliable cars, but the Germans aren’t too far behind. The Audi A4 is a great example of this. The interior is the best in the small executive car class, with buttons and switches that work with a soft but solid action, near-perfect ergonomics and a satisfying thunk every time you shut a door. It won’t out-handle a BMW 3-Series, but your passengers will probably be more impressed with the A4’s luxurious cabin.

Driven: Audi A4
Used Audi A4s from £13,500

4) Lexus IS

Lexus IS (© Image © Lexus)

By Lexus standards, fourth position in this reliability poll might as well be last. You see the Toyota off-shoot normally tops most surveys of this kind, thanks to its dedication to luxury, quality and customer service. Still, putting all this aside, the IS is a fantastic car and a welcome alternative to the more sober German choices. The cabin is the IS’s best asset, with perfectly-damped controls, big, comfortable seats and soft materials. Underneath, the mechanicals are robust and will service you with thousands of miles of trouble-free motoring, and there’s even a diesel – a Lexus first – to keep motoring costs down.

Driven: Lexus IS
Used Lexus ISs from £19,000

5) Honda Civic

Honda Civic (© Image © Honda)

We won’t waste any more valuable space telling you how reliable Hondas are – because that much is obvious. And to learn that the Civic is on this list is no real surprise –you were probably half expecting it to be. But the Civic is also a great car in its own right. First up it looks the part, its space-age styling setting it out from every other dull car in this class. It handles well, too, reacting promptly and attentively to your every nudge of the wheel, and it’s surprisingly spacious, taking on more of an MPV attitude to space than most small cars. Its reliability just makes the decision in choosing one a whole lot simpler.

Driven: Honda Civic
Used new-shape Honda Civics from £13,000

6) Toyota Corolla

Toyota Corolla (© Image © Toyota)

The Corolla may take flak for its dullness, especially when you look at Honda’s attempt at small hatchery, but as a package it really is hard to argue with it. The engines are strong, the ride and handling competent, the interior comfortable but not too fancy, and it’s big enough to be spacious but small enough to still feel nimble. Is it little wonder it’s a hit with the elderly?

Driven: Toyota Corolla
Used Toyota Corollas from £7,500

7) BMW 3-series

BMW 3-Series (© Image © BMW)

The BMW 3-Series is a satisfying car to own for a whole host of reasons, most notable of which is its sublime handling. But to know that it also makes it into the top 10 most reliable cars makes the whole ownership experience so much more worthwhile. BMWs have long been seen as the pinnacle of automotive engineering and while Mercedes has been slipping down the reliability rankings over the years, BMW has held strong. True, the 3-Series is a bit too common on our roads these days, but you will not get a more involving family car for the money.

Driven: BMW 3-Series
Used BMW 3-Series from £17,000

8) Audi A3

Audi A3 (© Image © Audi)

The Audi A3 is one of those cars people in their twenties and thirties really aspire to own. You get a good job, work hard for a couple of years and at the end of it you’ve got enough money together to get yourself into an A3. And boy does that feel special. That’s the effect modern Audis have these days. They might not drive as well as their BMW equivalents, but they exude a classiness and sophistication that the propeller-badged cars can’t equal. And the A3 doesn’t feel like an entry-level Audi either, with the same top-quality materials as its bigger A4-badged brother.

Driven: Audi A3
Used Audi A3s from £12,000

9) Ford Focus

Ford Focus (© Image © Ford)

Buy a small hatch and your motoring life doesn’t have to be dull. The latest Ford Focus might not look as revolutionary as the original, but since that first car things have moved on very nicely for the Focus. It’s much better built than before, with softer materials used in the cabin’s construction, and the ride and handling has been ever-so-slightly improved to make it one of the all-time best handling cars ever. The fact that it makes it into the top 10 means that should you require a small hatchback, the Focus should be on your list.

Driven: Ford Focus
Used Ford Focus from £7,000

10) Volkwagen Passat

VW Passat (© Image © VW)

If you spend your days stomping up and down the nation’s motorway network, and can’t quite make the sums work to get yourself into an Audi or BMW, then the Passat should be on your drive. It is built with that usual Germanic thoroughness that makes it feel like a more expensive car that it actually is. And with this latest Passat model, VW has really got the handling spot on making the Passat one of the better cars in this class to drive. Add in cracking diesel engines and this is one car that is hard to ignore.

Driven: Volkswagen Passat
Used VW Passats from £12,000

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