The hidden faults plaguing some of Britain’s most popular cars

Some of Britain’s most popular cars are being affected by “inherent” flaws which manufacturers are keeping hidden from owners, according to new research by a leading consumer group.

Which? has found widespread failings in a number of models, including the best-selling Nissan Qashqai, that could leave owners facing large bills.

It is now calling on car makers to be more honest with the public about common problems and issue voluntary recalls to address them.

The consumer group carried out a survey of nearly 44,000 car owners covering more than 52,000 vehicles to assess reliability and found that the 2014-onwards Nissan Qashqai had the highest breakdown rate of the 276 models it ranked.

The family SUV is consistently one of the UK’s best-selling cars and the Which? study found that a fifth of all owners had needed to replace their car’s battery in the last year – almost five times the average rate for cars of the same age.

One in five Qashqai owners reported battery faults - five times the average for cars in the same age bracket. (Photo: Nissan)
One in five Qashqai owners reported battery faults – five times the average for cars in the same age bracket. (Photo: Nissan)

Read more: Hybrid and electric models are the most reliable new cars

Nissan said that it was aware of issues with batteries on older cars and had switched suppliers in 2018. It also said that it was working to address a problem with the body control module software on 2018-19 cars which could drain the battery.

Which?, however, said that it was unacceptable that Nissan had not warned owners of a potential battery fault which could leave them out of pocket if it fails outwith the car’s warranty.

Tesla troubles

The survey also found that despite owners loving their Teslas, more than a fifth of Model S owners (22.2 per cent) had been let down by problems with exterior features such as door handles and locks on cars aged three to eight years – that’s 10 times higher than the average for a car in the same age range.

Owners of the more modern Model X also reported similar problems in 10 per cent of cases, that Which? said suggested an inherent flaw in the cars.

Tesla was the worst performing brand in the three-to-eight-year-old category. (Photo: Tesla)
Tesla was the worst performing brand in the three-to-eight-year-old category. (Photo: Tesla)

Across all brands 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 owners reporting an issue.

Tesla said that its warranties covered repairs and replacement of parts such as door handles for cars up to four years but Which? argued that this left owners of older models facing a repair bill for a problem that Tesla is well aware of.

Other models which performed particularly poorly in the Which? ratings were the Seat Alhambra and previous generations of the BMW 5 Series Touring and Ford B-Max, which all saw far higher than average failures.

Serious faults

Natalie Hitchins, Which? head of home products and services, said: “It is concerning that it has taken Which?’s survey of thousands of motorists to uncover what are in some cases inherent flaws with some of the UK’s best-selling cars. 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.”

Seat Alhambra owners reported more than average exhaust and suspension problems. (Photo: Seat)
Seat Alhambra owners reported more than average exhaust and suspension problems. (Photo: Seat)

Seat said that it offered a three-year warranty on its new cars and that without more details couldn’t identify or explain the study’s findings that nearly a third of Alhambra owners had experienced exhaust and emissions issues and nearly a quarter had faced suspension problems.

Ford said it had offered extended warranties on cars affected by the automatic gearbox problem which a quarter of B-Max owners had experienced and was assessing out-of-warranty problems on an individual basis.

BMW said that despite a quarter of 5 Series Touring (2010-17) owners reporting suspension failures, such issues had affected a “tiny fraction” of its customers in the first half of 2019.

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New Nissan Juke revealed

Nissan has released images and details of the all-new Juke compact crossover.

The Juke was one of the pioneering models in the B-segment SUV market when it launched in 2010 but it now faces massive competition from models such as the VW T-Cross, Renault Captur, Mazda CX-3 and Seat Arona.

To try to make it stand out from the crowd, the new Sunderland-built Juke retains many of the bold but divisive styling elements of the old model and brings a wealth of new technology.

Although it’s an all-new car, the Juke still carries some of the features that made the original so recognisable. The over-under lights remain, with giant round LED headlamps set beneath skinny running lights, and the rest of the shape is also fairly familiar, with the window and rooflines pinching together at the rear to give the Juke a coupe-style silhouette. But the curvy lines of the old model have been replaced with sharper edges and the whole car is bigger than before.

At 4.2m it’s 7.5cm longer than before and 3.5cm wider, addressing one the last generation’s biggest problems – a lack of space.

The new Juke is longer and wider than before. (Photo: Nissan)
The new Juke is longer and wider than before. (Photo: Nissan)

Inside, a much longer wheelbase means rear passengers get nearly 6cm more knee room and a 1cm increase in headroom. The boot is also a significant 20 per cent larger – at 422 litres – yet the whole car is 23kg lighter than the outgoing model and more rigid thanks to the use of more high-strength steel.

At launch, the new Juke will come with just one engine – a 1.0-litre, three-cylinder turbocharged petrol with 115bhp. It will be offered with a choice of six-speed manual or seven-speed dual-clutch automatic and come with selectable drive modes for “eco”, “standard” and “sport” settings.

Key styling cues of the old Juke remain. (Photo: Nissan)
Key styling cues of the old Juke remain. (Photo: Nissan)

As well as issues with space the old Juke suffered from a fairly ropey interior so the new one has been completely reimagined. There are new soft-touch materials on the dashboard, door trim and even foot wells, and the controls and storage have been reworked to be more user friendly.

All but the most basic models get an eight-inch touchscreen with smartphone mirroring. TomTom navigation and wifi connectivity are also available and the NissanConnect Services app lets owners do everything from lock doors to check tyre pressures via their phone and also works with Google Assistant.

The new Juke will offer extensive personalisation options. (Photo: Nissan)
The new Juke will offer extensive personalisation options. (Photo: Nissan)

For the first time, the Juke also gets Nissan’s ProPilot driver assist systems with adaptive cruise and lane keep assistance. Other safety technology includes autonomous emergency braking with pedestrian and cyclist detection, traffic sign recognition, lane intervention, rear cross traffic alert, and active blind spot intervention to stop drivers pulling into the path of a vehicle approaching from behind.

Prices for the new Juke will start at £17,395 for Visia spec, rising to £25,295 for the top-of-the-range Tekna+.

Rear space is greatly improved. (Photo: Nissan)
Rear space is greatly improved. (Photo: Nissan)

Nissan says owners will be able to extensively personalise their cars with a variety of colour combinations for body, roof and interior, as well as a choice of different alloy wheels. Tekna+ models will also offer customisable bumpers, side sills and 19-inch alloys.

Orders for the new Juke are open now, with the first customer deliveries expected in late November.

2020 Nissan Juke rear
(Photo: Nissan)

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Nissan Qashqai review – leader of the pack has catching up to do

Love them or hate them, you can’t deny that crossovers and SUVs are the current golden child in the automotive world.

Plenty of brands claim to have invented the concept but regardless of who came up with the first one, it was Nissan that kicked started the SUV revolution in earnest with the Qashqai.

Quite what it was that made the Qashqai take off in the way it did is hard to pin down but its success is beyond question. Well in excess of two million examples have been sold since its launch in 2007 and it is a permanent fixture on the list of best-selling models in the UK.

2014 saw the launch of an all-new second generation which was then upgraded quite significantly in 2017.

That update brought big visual changes, new driver assistance technology and interior improvements and was followed in late 2018 by a refresh of the engine line-up.

Nissan Qashqai Tekna 1.3

Price: £26,895
Engine: 1.3-litre, four-cylinder, turbo, petrol
Power: 138bhp
Torque: 177lb/ft
Transmission: Six-speed manual
Top speed: 120mph
0-62mph: 10.5 seconds
Economy: 49.6mpg
CO2 emissions: 130g/km

The engine change was driven by changing emissions rules but it has proved a worthwhile one. Borrowed from some-time partner Daimler, it’s the same 1.3-litre unit that appears in the Mercedes A-Class and does as good a job in the Nissan as it does in the Merc.

It might sound relatively small for a car the size of the Qashqai but modern engine technology is mightily impressive and its 138bhp feels perfectly adequate.

In the Qashqai it offers a smooth, quiet and pretty responsive drive. There’s a lack of low-down torque but keep the revs up and it reacts quickly and feels more lively than the on-paper 0-62mph time of 10 seconds would suggest.

Nissan Qashqai dynamic

In our test car that’s helped by the six-speed manual transmission. It’s not as precise as some rivals’ but I still prefer it to the ponderous seven-speed auto that’s also available.

The official economy figure is around 50mpg, which was reflected in our car’s long-term trip computer, although I saw mid-30s thanks to a series of short, economy-ruining journeys.

While rivals like the Seat Ateca and Ford Kuga pride themselves on their “sporty” road manners, the Qashqai is closer to something like the comfort-focused Citroen C5 Aircross. The ride is very pliant, possibly verging on the too soft but it does a good job of offering consistent comfort over some terrible surfaces.

Nissan Qashqai rear

That smoothness is enhanced by decent cabin refinement and space that’s among the best in class.

Unfortunately, the cabin also exposes the Qashqai’s biggest and longest-lasting problem. In the face of high-tech, high-quality modern, clear designs in rivals the Qashqai is a serious letdown. Even 2017’s update failed to address failings in material quality and layout, with brittle, shiny plastics in abundance and a tiny touchsceen with sluggish performance and terrible graphics.

Nissan Qashqai interior

The Qashqai at least makes up ground again with its standard equipment. Our £27,000 Tekna edition features full-LED lights all around, with an adaptive front lighting system; safety and vision packs that load it with forward and rear collision alerts, lane departure warning, emergency braking, traffic sign recognition, blind spot warning and 360-degree parking cameras and parking assistance. An opening panoramic sunroof, 19-inch alloys, part-leather upholstery and a eight-speaker Bose premium stereo also go some way to softening the pain of the interior.

Fundamentally, the Qashqai is a nice driving, fine-riding car but it’s let down badly by its cheap and nasty interior. Perhaps such things shouldn’t matter as much as economy and refinement but as a driver you spend all your time looking at and using the car’s interior features and so many rivals do a better job here than the Nissan.

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