James Ruppert: New cars that fall at the first hurdle

Here’s a two-part story that I will deliver in reverse order. That’s because every year, I get involved in a bit of real-life data-mining from various MOT testing centres around the UK. It shines an inspection lamp on which cars failed their first MOT test, just three years after they were originally registered. It’s always great to see statistics that are based on real results and, in my experience, the MOT test doesn’t lie.

The Renault Mégane isn’t aspirational but a budget choice, and that partly explains its poor performance; and that’s even more true of its distant cousin, the Dacia Sandero. With an eye-widening 23% failure rate putting the Mégane at the very bottom of the pile, is it worth buying a middle-order Renault?

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Probably not, but I was still drawn to a 2000 Mégane 1.6 RT with 80,000 miles at £395 with a full MOT. Three previous owners, petrol power and a manual gearbox: perfect. I really should be looking at a more recent model, though, so how about a 2018 1.5 dCi Sport Tourer Dynamique? That’s a diesel estate in English. At 35,000 miles with a full history and, most importantly, an MOT, it will cost you £9995 and officially deliver a whopping 76mpg combined. It’s practical, smart and ready for work.

And that brings us to the Sandero, which is almost the epitome of the cheap and cheaply made cars that fail more often. It sounds like a cliché, but owners of cars built to a price expect them to go the extra mile. It’s always better to shop at a dealer for one that has been fully checked and prepared.

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With that in mind, I came across a 2018 Sandero 1.0 SCe with 15,000 miles and a pukka warranty from a main dealer at £6300. That’s a petrol runabout that should exceed 50mpg.

Hard-used vehicles are the ones that can suffer at MOT time. This explains why medium and large people-carriers, such as the Seat Alhambra (with a 21% first-time failure rate) and the Ford Galaxy (19%) show up on the naughty list.

What surprised me was also seeing the Volkswagen Touran MPV (21.7%) and the Volkswagen Scirocco coupé (19.6%) listed. Indeed, the Touran was a miserable second-worst.

There does seem to have been a real dip in build quality from certain German manufacturers. Whereas it’s almost expected to see Renaults (the Clio has an 18.5% failure rate) and Citroëns (the C4 Grand Picasso scored 19.9% and the C3 18.3%) in the bottom 10, most wouldn’t expect to see any mainstream Volkswagens.


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