Sep 292014

As September draws to a close, thousands of small hatchbacks will be campus-bound for start of the new academic term and for many students heading off to university, it’s also time to enter the world of car ownership.

However, picking the wrong wheels could mean spending Freshers Week on the hard shoulder and eating into the student loan with costly repair bills.

Warranty Direct can assign any car with a Reliability Index (RI) score. This applies a formula to measure overall reliability by looking at rate of failure, average mileage, age and repair cost. The lower the RI number, the better a car is.

Beware though, even small, cheap to run cars can land you with a big, unwanted bill. Warranty Direct has seen single repair costs as high as £1,600 for these vehicles.

Here, Warranty Direct has identified the most reliable cars that are most unlikely to suffer breakdown or max out the student overdraft. Every car here should be practical for ferrying the discerning future scholar with aplomb, too.

1. Honda Jazz (08-)
RI score:
Average repair cost: £202.53
Largest claim seen: £357.51

The second generation of the Honda Jazz continues its predecessor’s reputation for bullet-proof reliability, emerging as the most reliable supermini and the second most reliable car overall in the survey. The five-star Euro NCAP crash test rating may also sway generous parents towards a Honda dealership.

2. Vauxhall Agila (00-08)
RI score: 9
Average repair cost: £74.43
Largest claim seen: £224.69

Vauxhall’s boxy city car from the noughties may have been designed entirely with a ruler, but the Suzuki-derived mechanicals are astonishingly reliable. Repair costs are also well below industry norms, leaving student loans intact should the Agila require any attention besides the inevitable bemused glances.

3. Chevrolet Kalos (05-11)
RI score: 16
Average repair cost: £117.45
Largest claim seen: £177.37

The Chevrolet Kalos put in a strong showing with a low failure rate and wallet-friendly repair costs to match. Though not the most dynamic machine, the Kalos’s generous equipment list combined with a reputation for robust electrics makes it a class contender for the cash-strapped student wanting a dependable runabout.

4. Hyundai Getz (02-09)
RI score: 17
Average repair cost: £159.77
Largest claim seen: £427.90

The small car that showed Hyundai was serious about targeting European buyers is a fine effort and reliability is strong with a very impressive RI score of 17. Repair costs are low and the little Getz is very well equipped with plenty of room for four and the associated clutter that comes with student life.

5. Peugeot 107 (05-14)
RI score: 20
Average repair cost: £295.20
Largest repair seen: £763.88

Peugeot’s outgoing city car still looks funky and impresses with its reliability record. In the rare event that the 107 should go awry the repair costs are higher than many rivals’ at an average of £295.20. However, the 107 compensates for this with a student-friendly group 1 insurance rating and all models fall into the lowest A or B tax bands.

6. Ford Fiesta (08-)
RI score: 22
Average repair cost: £208.15
Largest repair seen: £1,698.85

Ford’s best-selling Fiesta has topped the sales charts consistently in its current incarnation and has been providing the masses with great handling, strong reliability and 5-star safety since its launch in late 2008. The cost of repairing the Fiesta is generally competitive but major faults can be expensive.

7. Citroën C1 (05-14)
RI score: 24
Average repair cost: £280.81
Largest repair seen: £1,030.00

Citroën’s answer to the Peugeot 107 and Toyota Aygo also makes the list. The C1’s RI score means it ranks lower than the 107 but statistics show that the baby Citroën will cost slightly less to repair. The Citroën’s keen pricing and the roster of special editions means students will be able to find a tidy C1 on a shoestring, too.

8. Kia Picanto (04-11)
RI score: 28
Average repair cost: £173.60
Largest repair seen: £724.00

Kia’s eureka moment revolutionised the city car scene back in 2004 with a compact but practical 5-door design and an equipment list to rival cars in the class above. We also know that the Picanto is a dependable choice for students on a budget with strong reliability and an average repair cost of £173.60.

9. Skoda Fabia (07-)
RI score: 31
Average repair cost: £188.07
Largest repair seen: £910.99

For the more pragmatic student, Skoda’s Fabia is a solid choice with proven reliability. A higher average repair cost places the Fabia behind the Picanto, but VW pedigree guarantees a quality feel. The Fabia’s four-star crash test rating is also reassuring, if not class-leading.

10. Mazda 2 (07-)
RI score: 31
Average repair cost: £273.91
Largest repair cost: £755.28

The Mazda 2 is due for replacement soon, but the current model shares its underpinnings with Ford’s latest Fiesta and is proving dependable. Repairs are on the more expensive side but the smallest Mazda inherits the Ford’s strong handling and offers a sharply styled alternative.

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