Last week’s mention that a survey of 47,000 drivers by UK consumer group Which? found the most unreliable auto is the Volvo XC 90 unleashed a deluge of three emails and one letter.
So, why should we use unreliability and its sister, reliability, to judge the best and worst? Well, because very few drivers care about anything else. Look, all cars are an emotional purchase or we’d all being driving manual Kia Picantos ($14,690, seven-year unlimited warranty, intelligent connectivity, an engine and four wheels). We buy cars because of the way they make us feel and what we think, or the automakers tell us, they say about us.
You buy a Citroen because you’re a Gauloises-smoking, duffel coat and brothel creeper shoe-wearing architect. You buy an Alfa because you fancy yourself as a mixture of Giorgio Armani and Monica Bellucci, you always walk into the McCafe at Rooty Hill and say “Buongiorno, un caffè per favore”, you’re good on the tools and you have a zillion friends on the Alfa how-to-fix-it-yourself blog.
No one emails us here with a withering diatribe about their Feezer taking 3.9 seconds to get to 100km/h rather than the advertised 2.9 seconds.
Or not being able to get today’s Bathurst 1000 on the state-of-the-art, high-resolution touchscreen beautifully integrated into the centre of the cockpit of their Bentley Bentayga.
By the way, both have three- year warranties. You don’t get much for the extra $420,000 over the price of a Picanto, do you?
No, all we get are literally thousands of emails, texts, letters, faxes and phone calls about your car breaking down in the middle of the freeway in peak hour, and about annoying engine faults that the service staff (particularly Mazda and Honda) say they have never seen before.
Look, all manufacturers and all families (not my family, although none of them bother to read my column so why should I try to protect them?) sometimes produce lemons. The US government says: “A car is a ‘lemon’ when it’s determined that the vehicle is defective beyond repair.”
The criteria in Trumpland includes: the number of kilometres driven — the defects had to happen within a certain number of months or kilometres driven (in Australia, it’s usually the distance from the showroom to your house); major defects — they have to involve the actual operation of the car, and examples include the ignition, brakes, engine or transmission; repair attempts — you have to give mechanics multiple chances to repair the problems (in Australia, about 1000 chances is normal); and number of days in the shop — your car has to have been in the mechanic’s shop for a significant number of days within a year (in Australia, seven months is about usual).
Then, like the Mazda CX-5 and Honda Type R, there are just some cars that come off the production line with lots of problems.
Despite Australians being banned from Queensland until after the election, the state is the only one with decent laws to protect buyers of dud vehicles. So, if you live in Australia, you have to rely on the ACCC and the Australian Consumer Law.
OK, so what are the most reliable cars? Which? readers ranked Lexus, Toyota and Suzuki as the best over eight years. US Consumer Reports research highlighted the soon-to-be-superseded Subaru Liberty, the Subaru Impreza and the BMW 2 series Gran Coupe.
Of the 32 brands tracked by automotive customer satisfaction rankings company J.D. Power, this year’s Genesis — the luxury brand sold by Hyundai — topped the list of highest-quality brands. It was followed, in order, by Lexus, Buick, Porsche and Toyota.
J.D. Power’s most dependable model was the Lexus ES. Its score was the best ever recorded in the 31-year history of the study.
Each year, Queensland’s Royal Automobile Club names Australia’s best cars. Last year, they included the Kia Picanto S (of course), the Toyota Corolla Ascent Sport, the Mercedes-Benz A250 4Matic, the Toyota Camry Ascent Sport Hybrid, the Hyundai i30 N Performance and the Toyota GR Supra GTS.
Okay, you can see the brand pattern here. I think Hyundai/Kia are generally selling the best-made cars on the planet. Kia has a seven-year warranty, so what’s stopping you?
For what it’s worth, putting my money where my mouth is, I have bought new two Subarus — the Impreza ($25,000) and the XV ($31,000). Both are knockouts. As well, I have a Toyota LandCruiser (love it) and a Porker (trying to forget the price). I would buy a Lexus, a WRX, a Supra and a Hyundai I 30N. I lust for an Alpine, but wouldn’t recommend you buy one.
Now, if you’re looking for something older, can I suggest you get online next week and throw $300,000 at the 1970 Alpine A110 1600s Group 4 that Dave Gooding is selling in his Geared Online Auction. No warranty, unreliable, no touchscreen beautifully integrated into the centre of the cockpit, but it’s red, seats two uncomfortably, makes beautiful noises and was considered unbreakable when it won a heap of rallies. Best of all, it really is sex on wheels.
Jean Redele was 24 and the youngest Renault dealer in France when he started The Alpine company with sports-bodied Renaults. He soon started making the complete cars that ended up with 115 kilowatt engines in a body that weighed less than a can of Coopers.