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Car reliability

Our survey reveals the most reliable cars on the market.

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Our previous car reliability survey (2011) found that the Honda Jazz and Toyota Corolla were the standout models across all the age classes we surveyed. They still are. But this survey shows there are others well worth considering, too.

Interestingly, it’s mainly small and mid-size cars of Japanese origin that are the most reliable.

What we found

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We asked our respondents what problems they had with the various car sub-systems. Heading the list were electrical faults (10 percent of responses). Electrical problems were the most common in our last survey, too.

Next most common were problems with the braking system (7 percent). But because brake pads/linings, discs and drums are “consumables” that wear out and have to be replaced, we suspect this survey result overstates brake malfunctions or faults.

5 percent had problems with the interior fittings. Power fittings were also a problem for 5 percent.

Engine problems had occurred in 3 percent of the cars; suspension problems affected another 3 percent.

Fuel system and transmission (gear box) problems each affected 2 percent.

Steering, body rust, exhaust system and airbags were the least-cited problems: each of these occurred in just 1 percent of the cars.

Not all the same

Used imports were slightly less reliable than NZ-new used cars: 40 percent of used imports had at least one problem compared with 37 percent for NZ-new used cars.

36 percent of 4-wheel-drives had at least one problem, as against 31 percent of 2-wheel-drives.

Diesel-powered vehicles were slightly less reliable than petrol vehicles. 38 percent of diesels and 32 percent of petrol vehicles had at least one problem.

CVT (constant velocity) transmissions – a newer type of automatic – were more reliable than conventional automatic transmissions. 23 percent of CVT transmissions had problems compared with 31 percent for conventional automatics.

Cars surveyed

We surveyed 11,209 cars: 45 percent had been bought new and 55 percent as used cars. Of the used cars, 26 percent were imports and 69 percent local (5 percent didn’t know).

Conventional automatic transmissions dominated (64 percent of all vehicles). Only 17 percent were equipped with a manual transmission. The rest were made up of CVT (continuous variable transmission) and other less-common systems.

4-wheel-drives made up 25 percent of all vehicles in the survey.

Most vehicles were petrol powered (82 percent); another 16 percent were diesel and the remaining 2 percent were petrol-electric hybrid.

Survey results tables

Reliability is based on the percentage of cars within each make/model and age group that were trouble-free over the previous 12 months. Minimum sample size for each make/model in each age group is 30; where there were fewer than 30 vehicles the data were not analysed.

Car reliability - makes and models

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Our questions

We asked about malfunctions or failures in:

  • air bags (including the warning light; but not related to an accident)
  • air conditioning (including compressor, condenser, expansion valves, electronics, fans, leaks)
  • braking system (including brake hydraulic system, linings, discs or drums, ABS, stability control, parking brake)
  • LPG system
  • clutch (including lining, pressure plate, release, linkages, hydraulics)
  • cooling system (including heater core, water pump, thermostat, hoses, over-heating)
  • drive line (including differential, drive shaft, universal joint, 4-wheel drive system, hybrid drive, wheel bearings, constant velocity joints)
  • electrical system (including starter, alternator, battery, horn, gauges, wiper motor, wiring, lights, alarm, immobiliser)
  • engine (including rings, pistons and cylinders, valves, block, bearings, camshaft, oil seals/leaks, head gasket)
  • exhaust system (including manifold, catalytic converter, pipes, muffler)
  • fuel system (including carburettor, auto-choke, fuel injection, fuel pump and lines, computer, leaks; but not including problems with any LPG system)
  • ignition system (including spark or glow plugs, coil, distributor, electronic ignition, timing, engine-management system)
  • interior fittings (including seats, trim, safety belts, windows, manual locks, cup holders)
  • power fittings (including power windows, locks, mirrors, seat adjustment, sun roof, audio)
  • body rust (but not rust caused by scratches or stone chips; and not rust on exhaust)
  • steering (including linkage, power steering)
  • suspension (including springs, ball joints, struts, wheel bearings, shock absorbers; but not wheel balancing or alignment)
  • transmission or gear box (including gear selector and linkage, transaxle, torque converter).
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