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The common faults in Britain’s most popular cars exposed

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Some of the UK’s best-selling cars are among the least reliable, with faulty batteries and dodgy suspension systems among problems encountered by owners, a new report has found.

Consumer group Which? surveyed 44,000 people, who between them own 52,000 cars, and uncovered “widespread reliability issues” with some of Britain’s most popular cars including the Nissan Qashqai, Tesla and Seat Alhambra.

It also exposed problems with some older models of Ford and BMW, which are no longer on sale.

One of the best-selling cars in the UK, the Nissan Qashqai, had the highest breakdown rate of all cars surveyed, with a fifth of owners needing to replace their battery in the last year – four to five times the average rate for cars of the same age.

Nissan said: “We’re aware of some incidences of battery failure and have taken steps to address this issue, including replacing our battery supplier, and voluntarily launching a campaign to update the Body Control Module software on Qashqais made between April 2018 and February 2019. We’re working with affected customers.”

But Which? said it was “unacceptable” that hundreds of thousands of Qashqai owners have been kept in the dark about this battery failure risk, and that owners could be left footing the bill if it happens after their three-year warranty has elapsed.

Tesla, one of the most luxurious brands on the market, also scored a high fault rate.

One in five owners of the Tesla Model S (three to eight-years-old) reported an issue with their vehicle’s exterior features such as its door handles, locks, fuel caps and boot. That’s 10 times higher than for the average car of the same age range.

One in 10 Tesla Model X owners (of cars less than three years old) also said they experienced a similar issue – suggesting an inherent flaw in the design.

Across all brands surveyed Tesla had the highest percentage of faulty cars in the three to eight-year bracket, with more than two-thirds (67 per cent) of all customers reporting an issue.

Tesla said: “We review every vehicle before it leaves the factory. Our warranties cover any repairs and replacements necessary for door handles for up to four years.

“Unlike other manufacturers, Tesla can perform repair work via mobile service, which can be done at a customer’s home or office.”

The Seat Alhambra (2010-), a popular family car, also had an alarmingly high fault rate with nearly three in 10 owners reporting an issue with their exhaust or emission system – five times higher than the average vehicle aged three to eight years old.

More than a fifth of Alhambra owners also said they had an issue with their suspension system in cars in the same age group – nearly five times higher than the average car.

Seat said: “Seat UK is concerned but, without details, we can’t identify and explain these results. A comprehensive warranty covering three years/60,000 miles is provided. Our service data will identify the need for workshop campaigns, which are issued as promptly as possible.”

The older models with high fault rates identified in the report were the Ford B-Max, which was on sale between 2012 and 2017, and the BMW 5 Series Touring, which was available from 2010 to 2017.

Which? is calling on all manufacturers to go public with these “inherent flaws”.

Natalie Hitchins, head of home products and services at the consumer group, said: “Owners should be able to trust that manufacturers will make them aware of these issues and offer a fix when they see a recurring problem.

“It is vital these manufacturers make the public aware of these serious faults and ensure vehicle owners are not left out of pocket should the issues occur outside their warranty.”

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