/ Motoring

Why 52,563 car owners can’t be wrong…

Lots of black cars and one red car

What’s the point of the Which? Car annual survey? The uninitiated may not truly comprehend its value. But as the owner of an ‘eccentric’ French car, I can vouch for the accuracy of its reliability and satisfaction stats…

Just over three years ago I bought a new Renault Modus mini MPV, which, under its small, shapely body is essentially the same car as the Nissan Note.

In its youth the Modus was a Which? Best Buy – in part because its reliability was reasonable and owner satisfaction was high.

Warranty ends, problems begin

After three years of near faultless behaviour, I was understandably a bit sceptical about our survey stats that predicted my car would soon be beset by a plethora of electrical woes, ensuring it aged disgracefully.

But, exactly a month after the three-year warranty expired, the headlights began to sporadically turn themselves on as I drove over potholes or braked hard. I started to feel a little uneasy, but didn’t worry too much as a flick on the light flasher stalk turned them off.

Then the steering wheel stalk began to play up. When I pushed it down to operate the windscreen wipers, they wouldn’t always spring into life.

And the problem has escalated. Now my idiosyncratic little French motor won’t clear water from the screen unless I use the stalk opposite the one for the wipers and indicate left, and then won’t cease scraping the glass till I indicate right. And it seems to have developed a phobia about being seen, as the headlights are now on permanently.

When I spoke to my local Renault dealer, he didn’t seem surprised at the car’s erratic behaviour and told me with a shrug that, as the Modus is out of warranty, I’ll have to pay up. However, I really don’t think these kind of electrical gremlins are acceptable on a newish, £10k-plus car.

Surveying the car lot

Needless to say, I’m a lot less satisfied with the Modus now than I was this time last year. And it seems I’m not the only one to be falling out of love with it; in the 2011 survey – answered by 52,563 people – it achieved a lowly owner satisfaction score of 71%. Have you had a similar experience to me?

How does your car fare in the latest Which? Car survey? The results are only available to members, but you can get a taste for them in our top 10 best and worst cars of 2011.


You often get what you pay for. There are plenty of mid and Southern European small family cars which appear to offer a high spec for your money. Perhaps most notably some of the French offerings.
But how do you think they can offer so much for what appears so little? Well, these thing are built to very tight budgets using the lowest priced components which are offen not long lived.
The Which annual survey tends to look more at cars either new or only a few years old. Many still in warranty. But use cheap parts to keep cost low and yes soon as the warranty runs out expect trouble. How many good ten year old French cars do you see?

I always tend to look at older models from any given manufacturer to see how they’re lasting. If there are still plenty of older VW’s, Vauxhalls, Fords or whatever still on the road chances are the newer models will also be longer lived.
As someone who has worked in the automotive manufacturing sector I would say many Northern European cars and many far Eastern cars would over the longer term offer the best value.
Look at solidity and build quality rather than spec’ list when buying. You’ll need the services of your local garage or the AA far less.

Colin Vaughan says:
23 July 2011

In your Car Survey you list the Mini Hatch as a best buy, despite your critisisms of the cramped space and minicule luggage capacity. Doesn;t seem very logical to award it thus when it would appear that the buyer of such vehicles put style before substance.Bit like voting for the best looking Prime Minister, rather than policies one would say. OK being BMW the build quality is excellent, and the mechanicals are first class as you would expect, but something seems wrong with the verdict I would say.!

Phil says:
24 July 2011

“OK being BMW the build quality is excellent, and the mechanicals are first class as you would expect,”

Really? They’ve undergone substantial improvement in recent years then.

I’ll never buy another French or Italian car. Had bad experiences with both, for reliability and depreciation in the 80s and 90s (depreciation being easily the biggest factor in cost of ownership, making fuel consumption, etc, almost irrelevant). They don’t seem to have improved.

The local car showroom switched from Citroen to Skoda. One of the staff in the parts department said that Citroens were cheap but they were very expensive to service and repair.

I will stick with my nine year old Golf. There are known weaknesses with the model and mine is gradually working through the list.

Gordon says:
26 July 2011

I wanted a nearly new family car in 2003 and bought a Rover 45 2.0TD, family and friends were having problems with VW Passat, Ford Mondeo, Seat and Renault Laguna. I have to say the Rover has been wonderful, its comfortable on my 6 weekly trip to Nth Yorks, powerful, Quiet and smooth. I have only replaced consumables up to now and although it was bought for 2 to 3 years, I still have it after 8 !. My Daughter has one as do neighbours ( 25’s ), so I was very surprised to see your results placing it bottom of the middle class survey. My CSMA magazine stated that less than 3% of Rovers were scrapped last year so someone likes to hang on to them!.

You are right, actually Rovers were better than many people think. The “K” series engine was really very good and only let down by a poor head gasket record. Something many consider a “terminal problem” but with a gasket upgrade easily put right. Had they used better gaskets in the first place there wouldn’t have been a problem.
The Rover 25 and 45 models were products of the period Rover were linked to Honda and that association made for some quite acceptable cars.

Richard R says:
29 July 2011

I had a 2008 Volvo V70 – new shape, D5 auto. Lovely car, but its second home was the dealer, for endless recalls and faults! I got a really good deal on a 2010 exact same model. What a difference! Best motoring decision I ever made was to change to the improved model. All the bugs ironed out, more powerful, 20% more economic on fuel and less road tax!

Before the Volvo I had a Rover 75 V6 tourer – lovely car, real build quality and style! Only car from the Rover / BL stable I was really sorry to let go!

Richard you’re right about the Rover 75.
This was a product influenced by the period Rover was owned by BMW and some of the build quality rubbed off.
Of course Rover got gobbled up by the Chinese and they are producing a version of the 75. Don’t know if this will be so good, we’ll have to wait and see but I somehow doubt it.

It is very surprising that it is stated in the Which 2011 Car Survey ( Jaguar XF ):
“Passengers over 5ft 7in tall will brush their heads on the sloping roofline”
In a survey of Jaguar XF owners, members of the Jaguar XF Forum, the Which statement was declared as being simply rubbish !
I note that the online report of the survey has been changed to:
“And adults over 1.75m tall will be brushing their head on the raked, sloping roofline if sat in the back.”
To see the comments of actual XF owners http://www.xfforum.co.uk/threads/5861