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Last Updated: Tuesday, 3 July 2007, 00:51 GMT 01:51 UK
Consumer group slates dodgy cars
By Jorn Madslien
Business reporter, BBC News

Looking good, feeling fine? In the world of cars, the two do not always go together.

Land Rover Freelander, 2001
The Freelander is plagued with problems, Which? says

Butch-looking cars - like the Chrysler 300C and the Land Rover Freelander - are slated by consumer group and magazine publisher Which?, which has conducted a wide-reaching readers' survey of almost 100,000 cars, some as old as eight years.

Meanwhile, ugly ducklings - like the Toyota Auris or the BMW 1-series - receive high praise.

"If you can live with the anonymous looks, the Auris is likely to offer years of faithful service," Which? says.

And while the BMW 1-series is "not the prettiest car", it is nevertheless a "rare combination of driver enjoyment from a rear-drive chassis and genuine economy from clever petrol and diesels".

The Chrysler 300C, on the other hand, suffers from poor safety specifications, which "don't stand comparison with its luxury-car rivals", while the Freelander "has so many problems you'd be forgiven for thinking it went on sale before it was finished".

Reliability: Honda
Best Manufacturer: Toyota
Safety: Toyota Auris/Ford Galaxy
Green: Toyota
Ownership: Lexus
Road Testers: BMW
Wooden spoon: Dodge/Jeep

Which? pulls no punches as it scrutinises the world of motoring.

Any car maker which has let down a member of the Which? jury - a mixture of ordinary drivers for its Reliability Award and its own testers considering driveability, environmental performance and so on - should be prepared for stinging feedback.

Car makers that deliver on their promises, on the other hand, are being armed with the sort of third-party endorsements that money cannot buy.

Cars to be avoided

US car-makers, in particular, receive a serious beating, though some European models are also included in the consumer group's very own list of cars to avoid.

Overall, 87% of Lexus owners recommend their car to a friend

"Arthur Daley may have gone out of business, but there are still some pretty dodgy motors out there," says Which? Car's editor, Richard Headland.

"We think motorists should steer well clear of these... cars, which are either unsafe, unreliable, or both."

Car buyers should avoid the Chrysler Voyager, a people carrier, and the Chevrolet Matiz, a rebadged small Daewoo that has not been updated in almost a decade, Which? insists.

Both models are criticised for their poor safety standards, which means "there is a high risk of serious or fatal injury" in a crash, Which? observed, citing NCAP crash tests.

The Dodge Caliber - made by a Chrysler subsidiary - also "revealed a number of worrying problems" during Which? safety inspections, while Jeep - another Chrysler subsidiary - "is the brand that owners are least likely to recommend to a friend".

Models made by each of the French car makers are criticised.

The Citroen Saxo's "outdated safety and security measures" leave owners "feeling short-changed", the Peugeot 106 is an "old design with safety and security standards that are severely lacking", while the Renault Megane has "too many reliability worries and is unpopular with owners".

Only four in 10 Fiat Punto owners would recommend it to others, while the Rover 200/25 is "dogged by poor reliability and falls well short of contemporary safety and security standards".

Highly recommended

The contrast between the best and the worst is stark.

BMW 1 Series
The BMW 1 Series performs better than it looks, Which? says

Honda's Jazz model helped it as it "practically swept the board" in this year's Which? Car reliability survey, which the consumer group describes as "the biggest-ever owner-satisfaction survey in the UK with almost 100,000 cars rated".

"Honda's reliability isn't just confined to those who can afford its new cars," Which? says.

"Its older models are some of the most dependable used cars you can buy."

But the car maker's glory days may be short-lived, as Which? swiftly moves on to concerns about Honda's latest Civic model, which it says has "dragged the Japanese maker into stormy waters".

"Owners have so far experienced fuel-system faults and problems with the steering and suspension," it says.

Toyota's performance is more even.

"It has cars in seven of our eight [Awards] classes," Which? observes, adding that although Toyotas "aren't always the most involving to drive... none of its models shows any major weakness in our road tests".

"Close on Toyota's tail comes BMW, a specialist when it comes to building engaging cars," Which? continues.

"No maker comes close to BMW for consistently producing spirited drivers' cars."

And yet, it is Toyota's luxury subsidiary Lexus that comes out on top with regards to overall customer satisfaction.

"For owner satisfaction, Lexus tops every category it's in," Which? says. "Overall, 87% of Lexus owners recommend their car to a friend."

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