TOWING: Britain’s most reliable cars for 2009

When buying used, it pays to buy Japanese...

Reliability. It’s the last thing a caravan owner needs at the back of their mind when driving a towcar. When pulling a caravan however large or small, an owner needs to be sure their car will last the trip. Dependability is essential for a good towing workhorse, yet despite modern car testing methods too often the biggest marques achieve surprisingly low scores in tests.

When buying a new car in today’s market, it pays in the long run to buy Japanese. That’s according to the latest Which Car? survey for 2009 in which the Honda Accord has scored an extraordinary 99% rating.

Seven of the top 10 new cars are Japanese, with another Honda (the Jazz) coming in second place. It proved an ultra-dependable small car with its 98% rating. The Hyundai i30 is a family-sized hatchback which came in fourth place at 97% and proved Korean cars are now a force in the marketplace.

The Which Car? 2009 report is the UK’s biggest study on car reliability. Owners were surveyed and gave their opinion on more than 84,000 modern cars. Questions were asked across the spectrum from breakdowns to minor niggles, to ascertain which cars are trouble-free and which might let you down.

Which? Car editor Richard Headland commented on the reliability of modern cars for taking trips. “Owning a reliable car can make the difference between getting your summer holiday off to a flying start and sitting on the hard shoulder of the M6. You can’t do better than the Honda Accord, which is one of the most reliable cars we’ve ever surveyed.”

More electronics, more problems?

Meanwhile despite the increase in electronic aids needed to run them, two electric hybrids made this year’s Top 10. Honda’s Civic Hybrid scored an impressive seventh place, whilst the Hollywood eco-warrior’s favourite Toyota Prius comes in at a respectable ninth.

Despite this, it turns out that electrical systems are one of the biggest problem areas identified in the survey. Manufacturers often load their cars with electronics designed to make cars more efficient, reliable and comfortable.

Why bigger isn’t necessarily better

Unfortunately for caravan fans many of the towing heavyweights made the top 10 least reliable. The Land Rover Discovery is often cited as a useful towcar with its powerful traction and strong torque from the 2.7 litre diesel engine. Yet both this model and the smaller Freelander feature at the bottom of the survey for dependability.

It’s not good news either for the Discovery’s main rival, the similarly sized Volvo XC90. The Swedish 4 x 4 may be popular with families for its seating layout and road presence, but it comes in eighth on the list of cars with the most issues.
And for those who shied away from SUVs when searching for a people carrier, the news is no better. Both of Ford’s major family cars scored poorly in the survey. The big Galaxy came in second on the list, whilst the sporty seven seater S-Max fared little better at sixth. Jaguar also bagged a brace of unwanted awards. The new award-winning XF saloon was designed to replace the outgoing S-type. Yet both feature in the top 10 least dependable vehicles on sale today in the UK.

Exceptions to the rule

Whilst Japanese cars make up the overwhelming majority of reliable cars surveyed, by no means does this form a rule of buying. The editor of Which? Car is Richard Headland, and he gave his thoughts. ‘Japanese cars in the main seem to run like clockwork, although there are a few exceptions to the rule’. These exceptions appear to be related to larger vehicles. Notably the medium-sized Japanese cars such as the Honda Civic (87%), Nissan Qashqai (87%) and Toyota Auris (86%) all fared badly in the new-car reliability rankings for 2009.

From the looks of things, it may be the case that caravan owners shopping for a new towcar will need to weigh up the any need for power against the extra electrical gremlins and niggling issues that may come with increased size. For now, it appears that in today’s car marketplace the more compact cars appear to rule the roost on reliability.

Photo gallery

Below is a picture gallery of the top 10 most reliable cars on sale today.

And the ten that propped up the bottom? We give you that list in full…