By on August 30, 2010

Once a new car has reached 3 years of age in the UK, it has to undergo a yearly test to make sure the key components of a car are working, and that the car is safe. It’s called an MOT. This is not the drive-it-down-to-your-friendly-gas-station-and-get-a-sticker routine. It’s pretty rigorous. It is anticipated with apprehension.  Anyway, the MOT is reaching its 50th birthday after the test became mandatory in 1960. So to celebrate the MOT’s 50th anniversary, Nationwide Autocentres, a garage group that performs many MOT’s around the UK, conducted a survey (how about taking the MOT out and drinking lager until your head spins? THAT’S a good way of celebrating your birthday!). The survey consisted of the top 10 best selling cars in the UK.  Then they looked at their failure rates after 3 years (some people have far too much time on their hands). Shall we have a look at the results (via the Daily Mail)? Firstly, here are the contenders:

Ford Mondeo, Ford Ka, Ford Fiesta, Ford Focus, Vauxhall Astra, Renault Megane, Vauxhall Corsa, VW Golf, Renault Clio and the BMW 3-series.

All of these cars were surveyed at their first MOT (i.e. three year old). What the surveys doesn’t take into account is how hard they’ve been driven (that pretty much equals out) and it doesen’t say what exactly has failed (it’s not a loose knob of the radio that fails the MOT, it’s usually something expensive …. T’s PASS or FAIL.)

So, who “won” this survey of the highest rate of failure at their first MOT? I’ll give you a clue. Nissan didn’t bring reliability to their alliance.

That’s right; the Renault Megane tops the charts with a whopping 25 percent failure rate at their first MOT. But before you start with the “French reliability” jokes, have a look at who came second. It’s GM with the Vauxhall Corsa with a 20 percent failure rate at their first MOT (one in 5 have to go back to the shop for some pricey repairs). When the cars hit 5 years, positions 1 and 2 get reversed, with the Corsa having a 39 percent failure rate and the Megane having a 35 percent failure rate (the French get better with age.) Position 3 is owned by the Ford Ka, but the failure rate has a sharp drop to 15 percent. The full table is shown below for your perusal. When a friend of mine read this article, he decided to email copy of this survey to Renault for the attention of Odile Desforges who is the executive vice president of Engineering and Quality. If he gets a reply I’ll let you know…

The Flop Parade (UK Edition)

Model Failures Number tested
Renault Megane 25 percent 341
Vauxhall Corsa 20 percent 576
Ford Ka 15 percent 343
Vauxhall Astra 14 percent 729
Ford Focus 13 percent 963
Ford Fiesta 13 percent 868
Renault Clio 13 percent 604
Ford Mondeo 12 percent 372
VW Golf 11 percent 470
BMW 3 series 7 percent 304
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13 Comments on “Renault Tops Reliability Survey…In A Weird Way...”

  • avatar

    Just as you elude to in the article, there is very pertinent information that doesn’t make it into this research. Are Megane, Corsa, Ka, etc. owners greater cheap-skates and thus drive in to the test with bald tires or worn brakes? Does BMW cover all maintenance for the first 3 years in the UK like it does here in the US? I find it hard to believe that in 3 years 10% of any car’s population is “unsafe” for the road because of things other than consumable related items. Sh!t, it’s 2010 not 1970.

    • 0 avatar

      “I find it hard to believe that in 3 years 10% of any car’s population is “unsafe” for the road because of things other than consumable related items. Sh!t, it’s 2010 not 1970.”

      The MOT has been gradually extended to cover things like window tinting. Failing an MOT doesn’t mean the car is a death trap

      As to French cars… I was a Brit before emigrating to the USA. I had a Citroen once. No American, used to the standard of customer service you usually can expect in the states, and product quality, can have any conception of how atrocious French cars are, or what the dealers are like. I’d sooner have a Cadillac Cimarron than another French car. Seriously. At least when things go wrong, they are capable of being fixed.

      In contrast, GM cars of the 80s and early 90s sold in the UK under the Vauxhall name were noted for being very good. Somewhere around the 1994 timeframe, however, quality took a major dive.

      I wonder what’s going to happen when the plastic and bent wire Fiats start being sold in the USA. Americans aren’t used to excusing lousy service and lemons like most Europeans are.

  • avatar

    Hum, does this help explain differences between German and Japanese makes in the US?

    Often here on TTAC people have asked how can Europeans be under the impression that VWs are reliable. Does this explain it? In the US Toyota and Honda have such a large market share that we compare Ford’s and VW’s to Toyota’s and Hondas and the German/American’s come up short. However, in Europe consumers don’t compare a Golf to a Civic and find it wanting – they compare it to a Fiat or a Renault and it looks like the model of reliablity in comparison.

  • avatar

    Some additional comments from in January, including numbers for many less popular models. RX-7 tops the list …

    • 0 avatar

      Honda CR-V: 11.7 per cent

      BMW 116i: 11.3 per cent

      Lexus GS300: 8.1 per cent

      VW Golf: 11

      BMW 3 Series: 7

      So, Golf slightly better than Honda and BMW better than Lexus. What about these numbers doesn’t conform to the TTAC received wisdom? What might explain this discrepency?

    • 0 avatar

      What you don’t see is the number of service visits before that MOT inspection, as MOT cannot measure that.

      But even given that,it’s a strong showing by BMW and VW.

  • avatar

    The BMW 3-Series and VW Golf have the lowest MOT failure rates in the UK among the 10 top selling cars? The US perception of both of those cars is quite a bit different. I’m wondering if it’s perception, that the cars are made in different plants, and/or need to meet US-market restrictions. Or possibly it’s just that many of the top-selling US cars are made in different places than those in the UK (no matter what the badge)?

    Anyway, with the MOT, is it nearly impossible to say, still have a 2000 Honda Accord Couple with 160,000 miles as a daily driver?

  • avatar

    Sorry, Cammy, I would NOT assume that the problems were serious or expensive to fix. The opposite is more likely the case, at least with newer cars.

    Brakes, tires, light bulbs, and OT sensors are likely the most common reasons for failure. List of items tested:,,1312___dht-aHR0cDovL3d3dy5iYXllcmlzY2hlYm13Lm5ld2RvbG4ubmV0,00.html?cnr=5

    Many of these would not count as problems on typical reliability surveys, including TrueDelta’s, because they’re wear items.

    It’s quite possible that owners of German cars are more likely to pay attention to wear items and replace them before the MOT, while owners of cheaper cars are more likely to wait for the failure before paying for replacements.

    For the latest results of TrueDelta’s Car Reliability Survey:

  • avatar

    My informed suspicions confirmed. The linked article states that the average cost to fix the failed part was 82 pounds. Not expensive at all.

    Also consider that only high mileage cars will be taken to an independent garage for the MOT. Any intelligent owner of a three-year-old car would take the car to the dealer for the MOT a few days early, to get non-wear items fixed under the warranty.

  • avatar
    Dr Strangelove

    BMW and VW also usually score well in German reliability statistics (TUV and ADAC). The discrepancy to the U.S. statistics, particularly with VW, has always puzzled me.

  • avatar

    C’mon Cammy, Megane’s are mainly bought for rep-mobiles and most are clocking 40k miles a year before they even see their first MOT. Corsa’s and KA’s are bought by those who can barely afford the car, let alone the servicing, so no surprises there. Also, it doesn’t list what they failed on. Remember, one dud lightbulb can fail an MOT, whilst leaking (but functional) shocks will still pass, so it’s still no great measure of what is a reliable/well made car.
    I’ve had old cars which have had 2 pages (with 25 items on each page) of ‘advisory’ items which would need fixing still pass the test… I even had a Ford Escort which only passed the emissions test because there was a hole just after the exhaust manifold and the probe didn’t pick up any of the fumes!
    The MOT may be strict, but it’s not a good measuring stick.

    • 0 avatar

      It’s also worth noting what the MOT does not examine, namely anything relating to the vehicle’s engine and gearbox (other than emissions); both could be functioning perfectly but as you say, a blown bulb can mean a failure.

      Having said that, I’m always amazed at how badly some people treat their cars; they need a little bit more than the occasional tank of supermarket petrol.

  • avatar

    I’d still buy a Corsa regardless, they’re neat looking cars and I like GM better than Ford

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