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Best cars

Top 10 best reliable small cars

Sometimes a small, reliable new car is all you want. Here are the 10 most dependable runabouts you can buy

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City cars and superminis may cost less than larger cars, but buyers expect many things from them. Small cars need to be safe, cheap to run, reasonably well equipped and reliable. Just because they’re at the cheaper end of the new car scale doesn’t mean you must expect to break down any more often.

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For most new car buyers, one of the biggest reasons for deciding to buy a brand new car is reliability. A new car comes fresh from the factory with only delivery mileage, so you know there are no nasty surprises lurking in its history. And of course, if you are unlucky enough to have an issue with a new car, you have the peace of mind that you can fall back on the manufacturer’s warranty.

The most reliable cars headerTop 10 most reliable cars 2024

Of course, not all new cars give you the same level of reliability, which is partly why we run the annual Driver Power owner satisfaction survey to hear from car buyers. The Driver Power results give us a unique insight into how the cars from various manufacturers perform from an ownership perspective. We don’t just ask about basic reliability either, some of the other factors we cover in the survey include build quality, in-car tech, and dealership customer service.

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Read on for the top 10 best reliable small cars across the supermini, city car and small SUV categories according to UK motorists just like you. This list is based on the most recent 2022 Driver Power survey, which ranked 75 models on reliability from best to worst. The small cars in this list should offer years of dependability, as well as being affordable and enjoyable to own…

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Hyundai Kona SUV review (2017-2023)

Hyundai Kona SUV
Carbuyer rating

2.9 out of 5

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The Hyundai Kona is one of the best cars to own right now. While its fourth place finish in 2022 couldn’t match its overall Driver Power win in 2021, the Kona delights owners in almost every area, including reliability.

It’s likely you won’t ever need to use Hyundai’s five-year, unlimited-mileage warranty. You gave the Kona a whopping 95.7% score for reliability, while also commenting on how impressive the powertrain, ride and handling, running costs, infotainment and value for money are. If you are unlucky enough to encounter problems, they’re most likely to be annoying electrical glitches rather than major faults.

Kia XCeed hatchback review

Kia XCeed hatchback
Carbuyer rating

4.1 out of 5

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Scan down our list and you’ll notice a recurring theme. The first Kia to place on this list is the XCeed, a rugged alternative to the Kia Ceed hatchback. Ranked 95.6% for reliability, the XCeed should be a dependable steed; you say that any faults that do arise are sorted quickly.

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If you’ve read our Driver Power list of the best cars to own, you’ll know how highly the XCeed is rated by customers. In fact, the XCeed beat every other new car on sale to the overall victory. It received top-10 scores nearly across the board, and was ranked top for exterior styling and ride quality.

MINI hatchback review - smiles and style

2021 MINI hatchback driving
Carbuyer rating

4.1 out of 5

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If you want a luxury small car with plenty of character, the MINI is the obvious choice. So it’s reassuring to find out that MINI’s Oxford factory does such a good job of screwing the cars together. Build quality was ranked as the best in our survey. Only 12% of cars developed a fault in the first year, which is one of the lowest percentages of any car ranked.

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The MINI just missed out on the overall top 10, but scored impressive results in our sections for exterior styling, safety features and infotainment.

Kia Rio hatchback review (2017-2023)

Kia Rio hatchback
Carbuyer rating

3.4 out of 5

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The Kia Rio is the South Korean manufacturer’s answer to the Ford Fiesta, a car which it beat hands-down in both the reliability category and our main survey. The Rio finished third of all the cars to own in 2022, which is a superb result even before you consider how compact and inexpensive it is.

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Besides excellent reliability and quality, owners were happy with most areas of the Kia Rio, bar the rather bland driving experience. Less than 15% of owners reported a fault with their Rio, and an overall reliability percentage of 94.5% is impressive too.

Kia e-Niro review (2017-2022)

Best Used Family Electric Car: Kia e-Niro
Carbuyer rating

3.9 out of 5

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This year we’ve split out the Kia Niro and e-Niro into two separate models, and it seems that the car ticks a lot of boxes whether you have it as a hybrid or a fully electric car. The e-Niro’s 94.4% score for reliability is strong and, while the car wasn’t completely free of problems, the high score suggests that the faults were largely insignificant.

The e-Niro lags behind the Niro in our overall survey, largely due to its understated looks. It’s more expensive than the hybrid models, too, which explains its lower score for value.

Renault Captur review – a stylish, good-value small SUV

2021 Renault Captur
Carbuyer rating

4.3 out of 5

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The Renault Captur has certainly impressed us, and it seems that it still shines in day-to-day running. Buyers really rate its build quality and infotainment system, but its safety features and running costs weren’t ranked so highly, resulting in its 31st-place overall finish.

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Very few owners reported issues with their Capturs, but some of those that did reported electrical gremlins. You’ll be in the minority if you come across any; the Captur scored 94.3% for reliability in our survey.

Honda Jazz review – an easy-to-drive hybrid supermini

honda jazz ex style
Carbuyer rating

4.1 out of 5

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The latest Jazz continues to demonstrate Honda’s impeccable reputation for reliability, even if the larger Honda Civic hasn’t managed to perform as well in the Driver Power survey as expected. Owners tell us that they don’t like the Jazz’s engines, handling or styling much but they love the practicality, running costs and reliability.

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A very low 10.3% of owners reported an issue with their cars in the first year, and the Jazz finished 11th out of 75 cars in the reliability and build quality category in 2022. A reliability score of 94% shows it’s a dependable car and the 28th place position in the overall top 75 is mainly down to the way it drives.

Kia Picanto hatchback review

kia picanto hatchback
Carbuyer rating

4.2 out of 5

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It might not be the last word in practicality, but the Kia Picanto is the only city car on this list. Owners like the styling, say it's good to drive, inexpensive to run and well built.

It’s also very reliable according to our survey: 83.2% of owners we asked reported no issues with their cars, with the Picanto finishing 12th place in the reliability category. Overall it had a mightily impressive 93.9% reliability score.

Kia Niro SUV review (2016-2022)

Kia Niro SUV
Carbuyer rating

3.5 out of 5

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You can’t go wrong with a Kia, it seems. Overall, the Niro finished 12th out of the 75 cars ranked in our 2022 Driver Power owner satisfaction survey. Drivers love almost everything about the Niro including the driving experience.

It scores particularly well in the running costs category. It scored an overall reliability score of 93.7% and just 15.5% of owners had faults with their Niro in the first year, many of which were minor electrical niggles.

Volvo XC40 review – an impressive small premium SUV

Volvo XC40 facelift
Carbuyer rating

4 out of 5

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The Volvo XC40 is offered with petrol, plug-in hybrid and pure electric powertrains and is easy to recommend thanks to its impressive performance in a number of areas. Not only does it make our number one spot in the best premium small SUV category, but you say it’s also one of the most reliable options.

Driver Power survey respondents were clearly very happy with the reliability of the XC40 because it was awarded a score of 93.69%. Of the percentage of owners that reported problems in the first year of ownership, many reported electrical issues, which are likely to have been relatively minor. The XC40 also triumphed in the styling, practicality, comfort and safety categories.

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