Top 10: HJ's most complained about cars

These are the cars about which Honest John has received the most complaints over the past five years (since January 2011).

Obviously to some extent the number of complaints reflects the popularity of the cars, and the period of years that particular model was sold. It also reflects buyers experience of the cars in relation to their expectations.

People don’t complain as much about budget cars as about cars sold on a myth of quality and reliability that don’t live up to it.

This isn’t a witch-hunt. It doesn’t denigrate or favour any manufacturer against any other. It’s a straight record of complaints received. The list will not be affected by the HonestJohn satisfaction index survey. Only by complaints directly notified to HJ either via Ask or by email to

For full details of all the complaints visit the ‘Good and Bad’ sections for every car in /carbycar

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1. Volkswagen Golf Mk VI 2009 - 2012: 152 complaints

The main problem areas with this model have been dry clutch 7-speed DSG transmissions, expensive EGR failures on 1.6TDIs and, of course the NOx scandal with EA189 diesels. Additionally, timing chain problems with 1.2, 1.4, 1.8 and 2.0TSI petrol engines, oil consumption issues and coking up of inlet valves.

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Don1988    on 3 January 2017

No surprises that the majority are the VAG group

Edited by HJ Editor on 03/01/2017 at 14:40

maxsaw    on 3 January 2017

Why? Don't they care? Or is it because cars are only intended to be trouble-free for 2-3 years in the fleet market?

technispark    on 3 January 2017

I think we have all come to expect cars to be 100% reliable. Why? They are complex mechanisms and it is only to be expected that they will go wrong and wear out. Just set aside 10% of the new purchase price each year for repairs and servicing then you are prepared for the inevitable.

likerocks    on 3 January 2017

This article would be a lot more useful if the data was presented as a complaint rate per number of cars sold. As it is I would guess that a good number of this top 10 also appear in the top 10 car sales list - certainly the Golfs and Focus.

I don't think you could ever weight against customer expectation per brand, but you could eliminate the weighting due to numbers sold.

The car-by-car breakdown will always be a useful source of additional info as some cars have a poor reliability reputation based purely on a particular engine/gearbox/electrics issue that only impacts a small number of variants sold.

Richard Acland    on 3 January 2017

Quite agree. I think that relibility should be accompnied by the number of that particuler model sold to give a more balanced picture.

Theophilus    on 3 January 2017

Interesting that there are no Japanese / Far Eastern brands appearing in this list (not even those manufactured in UK / Europe).

Goes to show that it is possible to produce reliable cars.

Ralf S.    on 4 January 2017

To be fair, I'd guess that a lot of people who buy Japanase/Korean probably aren't interested in motoring topics... so no show by the Far East doesn't really mean very much.

Ralf S.

Bigsphinx    on 20 February 2017

To be fair, I'd guess that a lot of people who buy Japanase/Korean probably aren't interested in motoring topics... so no show by the Far East doesn't really mean very much.


I switched from over a decade of unreliable VWs: Polo, Golf and two Passats; to a over decade of totally reliable Hondas: three Civics and an Accord; via one Peugeot which had two new gearboxes in three months. Now considering Mégane GT or new Civic and can't make up my mind.

NLJT    on 18 May 2017

Probably the number one daftest comment posted here Ralf S!
Those that buy Far East do so for reliability, style and value for money. Not to mention up to a 7 year warranty from Kia. Your so called 'no show' is probably because we can sit back and be thankful that we don't have to get involved in the woeful discussions surround German brands and the likes.

madf    on 29 May 2017

Probably the number one daftest comment posted here Ralf S! Those that buy Far East do so for reliability, style and value for money. Not to mention up to a 7 year warranty from Kia. Your so called 'no show' is probably because we can sit back and be thankful that we don't have to get involved in the woeful discussions surround German brands and the likes.


My 2013 Hinda Jazz owned since 6 months old has been faultfree.

Our 2003 Tioyota Yaris blotted its copy book after 10 years with a new battery And then a heater resistor at 12years and 4 glowplugs at 13 years.

My 3 year old Audi A4 had a major fault - belt tensioners, suspension, aircon etc every year..

David Kirkpatrick    on 3 January 2017

My Ford Focus 31/1/13. Coolant leak.(30750 miles) No warnings and car now been sitting in Ford garage since 12/12/16 awaiting to hear if Ford will give good will gesture towards new engine? While I now have to get 2 Busses to my work! Not happy! Have heard they made modification to engine in 2013??

Amateur Torque    on 3 January 2017

Has anyone else noticed how many VWs are advertised for sale to the right of this article? There's a time and a place for everything.

Richard Acland    on 3 January 2017

A few years ago it was generally agreed that modern cars were much more reliable than cars built in the 70s. For some reason It would now appear that is no longer the case. I speak to many people both in and out of the motor trade and it would appear that relibility is becoming a major issue again. Why that should be I am not sure maybe not enough testing with the pressure to get new models to market. Or maybe components being sourced for price and not reliability. I would second the comment about the lack of Japanese cars on the list. For the first time ever I am driving a non Japaese car. I have had a list of component failures including complete loss of power steering. Every Japanese car I have owned has been faultless.

Edited by Richard Acland on 03/01/2017 at 17:51

cfc2000    on 3 January 2017

What's really bad about this is that VAG cars have been showing the same stock faults for umpteen years. Turbo boost pipes blowing off because the connectors are too flimsy. There's been an after market fix for about 10 years but VAG deny there's a problem. Power steering failures because electric pump is a current hog and the least resistance in the circuit cause total breakdown, which idiot mechanics don't diagnose properly, replace the whole steering pump (£1000 plus) which only fixes it for a while. Needs new battery and battery connection box. Windows held by weak plastic grips which cause the windows to drop into the doors. Rusting up disks and brake assemblies. Rear brakes that don't release. I've fixed dozens of these by adding external return springs, listed by VAG as an "optional fitment". Again VAG deny this is a problem but the holes are there for the springs and they are fitted as standard in some countries. Easy fix, all on the internet for years. As for the cheat software - do we need to say any more? Even Ford fits an AdBlue canister and cleaning equipment. VAG choose to save a few euros and fit cheat software instead. When Toyota had software problems the CX metaphorically fell on his sword and fixed all Toyotas, even some very old ones, free of charge. Do VAG fix known problems? Do they f***. Over the last ten years I've owned two vehicles, a VAG one with endless problems, and a Mazda with none. Both did around 140,000 miles. BTW thanks VAG for getting diesels a bad name so that it reflects badly on modern super clean diesels.

lancsman957    on 3 January 2017

Well said that man.all our local VW group can come up with for the inconvenience of doing the EA189 engine fix is a free wash and hoover the front footwells ONLY!!!I had to grumble to get that.When we come to eventually sell our passats (Two) It will no doubt put people off.

We are just not the U.S.A.!!!were i think they have PAID customers off....

dobble    on 3 January 2017

Japanese cars can have their problems. I have been running an Auris Hybrid for 6 months. The safety sense system is a real pain. The sensors (mounted on the windscreen) are prone to condensation which deactivates the system. This is announced by a notice on the dashboard plus an orange flashing light which goes on flashing indefinitely. This is at best tiresome and at worst a dangerous distraction. You can override and operate main beam manually but the light keeps flashing - you can't get rid of it.

cfc2000    on 5 January 2017

Of course Japanese cars can have their problems, although Honda, Toyota, Mazda etc always come at the top of reliability tables. Having owned Japanese cars and worked on cars all my life, I would say that Japanese brands take customer loyalty seriously. The most unreliable car I ever owned was a Range Rover, and the most reliable, a Mazda 4x4. My point was that Toyota do try and fix the problems, often caused by the same third party comnponents that VAG group deny having problems with.

bakeart    on 4 January 2017

The U.K. Government, indeed most European Governments and the EU in particular, are an the side of the manufacturers, not consumers who are regarded as docile idiots there to be fleeced. The US at least maintains legislation which offers a degree of consumer protection. I don't understand why it is that in a global economy, there should be such big variations in consumer protection legislation in different countries. We need to fight this and Brexit might over an opportunity to do so.

avidhjreader    on 16 January 2017

More complexity = more problems, more parts suppliers = more variable quality.

Euro legislation = complicated engines and transmissions and 7 yrs recycle target.

Car Makers advantage in selling more cars as customer perception is buy newer.

Hyundai Kia and Japanese culture follow 'Customer is king' and virtuous Quality Cirlcles.

Western car makers try to hide problems diverting attention by new styles or adding lots of gimmicks. VAG's emmission track record speaks volumes to deceive ALL folks! How come EU and Govt agencies didn't discover the deception pronto? Was it covered up in EU like their dubious accounting never signed off for over 21 years.

The motorist is ripped off in the UK where EU car makers regards us as Treasure Island for good reason.

(PS We used to buy Fords - now buy Hyundai, twice now)

   on 5 January 2017

Interesting comments. We've had a Skoda Fabia 56 reg., bought 1 year old.. Never a wink of a problem.(no DPF)
Had a 1959 P4 Rover 110, paid £250,70k on clock. Ran it for 7 years, sold it to same chap I bought it from for the same price with 140k on the clock. Beat that for reliability.
Careful maintenance, oil change+grease nipples every 5k miles. Not a wink either.
Ex-Eng. Dir. told me that '59/'60 was when Rover introduced Value Engineering.(a USA concept) Result> Quality, Reliability,Engineering,... never the same again.

Times change and car drivers are not now always interested in, or knowledgeable about, Cars, per se..There's a relationship between that fact and the expectation of Immaculate Performance which can be disappointing when it comes up against Reality,

Roger Browne    on 23 January 2017

e VAG and the cheat software. I've seen lots of anecdotal evidence that the 'fix' is poor / causes problems. Has anyone checked that it works - i.e. fixes the emission problem? RB.

   on 29 January 2017

Vag cars have been rubbish for many years .i am an ex vag mechanic and loved the quality of German cars in the 60s 70s 80s which were bullet proof but German built cars have lost it look how many mercs you see with body rust .look at the cheapest car on the market Peugeot 106 .fiat pintos they are all built better than the German stuff .like grundig radios they are no good anymore

DrTeeth    on 20 June 2017

The Grundig name was actually sold off. Any product "wearing" the Grundig name has nothing to do with the Grundig company at all.

Duncan Mann    on 8 February 2017

Agree with the comment about rusty Mercs - had a 2006 Merc B Class which started developing rust in all the door and tailgate seams in 2014, so although it looked fine from the outside, it would have rusted from the inside out pretty rapidly. Research suggested that there was a known issue for a period of about a year of weld seams not being done properly, causing the rust problem - apparently Mercedes had been proactive in Germany many years earlier in identifying such cars and remedying the problem with replacement doors. Seems to be a recurring theme with German manufacturers that UK consumers don't merit the same treatment as German or indeed American consumers.

Mercedes prevaricated for months - initially suggested they would replace the doors, and indeed identified a third party coachworks that would undertake the work - but many months passed and they reneged on this, and said they would buy the car back for scrappage, eventually only offering a trade in value against another Mercedes. I got the distinct impression I was being played, and now have a healthy disrespect for Mercedes dealers. The 2012 C class replacement has been fine, but then so was the B class before it, in terms of general utility and reliability.

My other car is a Lexus IS - I've had an "Alan Partridge" IS200 and now an IS250 - and they have been fabulously reliable and of impeccable build quality.

Rob McBride    on 27 February 2017

I notice there no Vauxhalls included, which is good news as I have two of them. A 2007 Vectra cdti and a 2014 Astra cdti.
I've also got a1975 MGB Roadster which I have had since new. It has done 167000 miles and has never let me down, but it has had quite a lot of thing replaced.

Rob McBride

tolabur    on 2 March 2017

Well irrespective of some other peoples comment . I have a 220 D Avante Garde with a 100.000 miles on the clock This car has let me down once with an electrical problem which was expensive to put right but otherwise its been a great car Its comfortable, Economical Good high cruising speed. I always have it serviced at my Mercedes dealer. Whilst they are not cheap you get what you pay for. Good service and all ther trimmings to go with it. My car is usually outside as I have so much junk in my garage it would take too long to clear it. Probably need a skip?? But just wanted to give you my two pennies worth on my car

Edited by tolabur on 02/03/2017 at 15:58

mickeyR    on 17 March 2017

In nearly 50 years of car ownership which included 5 VW's and 7 GM cars (2 Opel & 5 Vauxhalls), all petrol - no diesels, the VW's were far worse for reliability, servicing & repair costs.
I now own my 2nd Mazda 6 estate (petrol of course) - faultless!

Geoff Lawton    on 19 May 2017

I wish to fuel to the VAG group fire. I had an audi Q5 2LT TFSI ex demo, from day one I it had excessive oil consumption 5lt every 8,000 miles and was told this was the norm as the modern engine is designed that way. VAG knew the the problem and was fixed in the USA engine out new pistons ! not here ! I kept the car for a further 6 years with small faults over that period.
At 79,000 miles it was due for a major service, and 4 new tyres. At the same time I discoverd that model suffered timing chain tensioner failure.around that mileage I also found that the door seal by the rear wheel arch had corroded and was falling off. This seal formed the whole side of the car !! bad design !! With large expenditure looming it was time to get rid. I have bought a LEXUS NX 300h covered over 10,000 miles totally problem free don`t even look at the engine oil as there is no point. why did I go for a LEXUS ? the car before the AUDI was Toyota Verso 55 plate diesel my journey to work was only short. At 55,000 and 4 years old it started to suffer a serious flat spot on going back to my dealer DPF failure was diagnosed. A new DPF was fitted turbo taken off and cleaned the charge for this work NOTHING. That`s what I call customer service. My wife has a AUDI TT 2003 the difference in build quality to Q5 is vast it would seem the VAG groups philosophy is get the design right and b***** the customer screw them for all their worth

bakeart    on 5 June 2017

My 1959 VW Beetle bought used at 9 years old and with 8 previous owners, was more solidly built and much cheaper to fix than either of my Mark 5 and Mark 6 Golfs. Even my Qashqai, a model that I know has been problematic for some owners, is more reliable than either of the Golfs. I had a Toyota Spacecruiser ( a model that failed the famous elk test of the day) which was impeccably reliable for me, despite being previously used as a minibus with 56k miles when I bought it. I intend that my next car will be a Mazda, Honda or Toyota. Our govt. has been weak with VW for political reasons.

Chris James    on 10 June 2017

Shame that society is so anti diesel these days, three of the most reliable cars I ever owned were late 90's / early noughties diesels, and ranged from 320k to 500k mileages when I sold them on, and they were still on their original Turbo's and Injectors and needing nothing but normal tyres and wear and tear replacements. I suspect that the key to their high mileages was 5k oil changes and non of this anti-emissions crap bolted to them. Isn't it strange how all of the things which have reduced the reliability of Diesel cars have been the devices bolted to them in order to reduce emissions, namely EGR Valves, Swirl Flaps, DPF's and even Adblue systems, and even after all of these additions and modern diesels now being cleaner than an angels' f***, the Witch Hunt continues.

Doubt i'd get those types of mileages from any new car these days, petrol or diesel and I seriously doubt Electric Cars will be getting to 300k miles without spending several grand on a new battery pack, and no doubt by that stage owners will also be getting heavily taxed to dispose of their nasty old Lithium batteries at the end of their lifecycles too.

I suppose a drop in reliability and reduction their longevity is the price we pay for letting tree huggers design cars, instead of engineers.

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