Nissan’s hugely underrated Almera is the most reliable small family car on the road according to Warranty Direct’s Reliability Index.

The Japanese model, which was first seen back in Autumn 1995, has a staggering Index rating (calculated as cost of repair vs number of visits to the garage) of just 4.35. This compares to the small family segment average of 55.9 and 95.95 for the car market as a whole.

And, if things do go wrong, the garage invoice is likely to average no more than £79.57 after spending just shy of an hour in the hands of a mechanic.

Lying second in the small family category is Britain’s best selling car – the Ford Focus.

With an Index rating of 22.29, the Focus records a 50 per cent improvement in reliability over its predecessor, the Escort. Conversely, the average repair bill for the latter is lower than the similarly mass-produced Focus - £120.84 (third lowest) compared to £146.57 (fifth lowest).

Replacement usually equates to improvement and nowhere is this more apparent than with the Citroen Xsara. The French model is 66 per cent less likely to need the attention of a mechanic than its forerunner, the ZX; and where the latter spends an average of 2.82 hours in a garage for each visit the Xsara delivers a segment leading 0.73 hours.

Hyundai’s Accent also stands out for praise. Placed third with an Index rating of 23.3, it also has the second lowest repair bill (£103.87) and, behind the Xsara, spends the least amount of time in the garage (0.80 hours per visit).

Top Five
Model Index Rating Average Repair Bill
Nissan Almera 4.35 £79.57
Ford Focus 22.29 £146.57
Hyundai Accent 23.30 £103.87
Citroen Xsara 24.43 £121.73
Audi A3 24.43 £183.64
Bottom Five
Model Index Rating Average Repair Bill
Peugeot 306 103.08 £326.92
Volvo 460 89.57 £226.82
Chrysler Neon 84.92 £329.98
VW Vento 73.26 £228.28
Citroen ZX 71.86 £214.75

At the other end of the scale, Peugeot’s 306 comes in for a bit of a battering. Its Index rating of 103 is nearly double the segment average of 55.9, and with a repair bill of £326.92, is over 60 per cent dearer than the small family average of £202.41.

However, in terms of cost of repair for the segment, the most expensive is Chrysler’s Neon with a wallet-worrying £329.98 for each garage sabbatical.

"As you would expect the Bottom 5 models in the Reliability Index have since been replaced with more reliable models," explains Duncan McClure Fisher, managing director of Warranty Direct. "Yet, these models are still part of the 3m or so used cars which exchange hands every year between private buyers, so knowing the facts is important."

The analysis was based on 4,294 policies held by Warranty Direct for small family cars up to ten years old.

Published : 04/08/03 Author : Melanie Carter

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