Which car is best of the test?
NCT stats reveal which models are ahead of the game
The way a number of marques have improved their reliability over the last few years is very evident after studying the latest National Car Test figures.
I was looking at the latest NCT statistics with the help of Irish tech firm Idiro Analytics, (www.idiro.com) which, as it did last year, has run the rule over the data published by the RSA, to spot any trends or changes from 2016.
The data looks at first-time NCT submissions (for example, excludes re-tests) for all cars during 2017, and totals the number of passes and fails by make, model and year, and the total for each fail reason.
For simplicity, Idiro only looked at the top 20 makes by number of cars tested (so no DeLoreans or Aston Martins), and only the models with 1,000 or more test results - this still represents over 8pc of the 1.35 million NCT tests done in 2017.
So what changes are there from 2016? Well, there were 7.5pc fewer tests overall for one thing which would indicate quite a reduction in the number of older cars on the roads. Toyota remains the most popular make being tested, but as with the next four makes (Volkswagen, Ford, Nissan and Opel), fewer vehicles were tested than in 2016. Audi, at sixth, was about the same, but Peugeot has overtaken Renault to be seventh, with a near 10pc increase in cars tested.
Mercedes, which had the highest overall pass rate for a manufacturer in 2016, has been usurped for this top spot by Kia, which has a pass rate of 59.5pc to Mercedes's 57.5pc. However, Kia is new to the top 20 makes this year (at the expense of Fiat), and its growth in test numbers reflects that the average age of a Kia is younger than that of most makes, and age continues to be the most important factor for determining whether your car passes or fails its NCT as we shall see later. That Kia is now a top 10 importer into the country and one of the fastest-growing marques means its position in the test table should keep improving. For instance, its 10-year-old C'eed has a much greater than average chance of failing the test - mainly on lights - but four-year-old C'eeds have a pass rate the same as everyone else.
The honours for top individual model now go to the Peugeot 208, with an impressive pass rate of 83pc. Again this reflects the relative youth of this model - it didn't feature in the 2016 data as fewer than 1,000 examples were submitted for testing, and only 1,031 were tested in 2017. Second place goes to the Volkswagen Tiguan (fourth last year), and third is the Nissan Juke, last year's top performer. Last year's second place car, the Skoda Yeti, had fewer than 1,000 tests so has been excluded from the data this year. Remarkably, six of last year's top 10 appear in this year's top 10 again, so there is a strong consistency among the top models.
There's consistency at the other end of the table as well - last year's last placed model, the Hyundai Trajet (last produced in 2008), is bottom of the pile again, with its sister model the Hyundai Lantra (whose production ended in 2005) second last in 2016, rising only one place to third last in 2017. However, on the other hand, Hyundai has six of the top 12 best pass rate cars in 2017, which shows just how the Korean brand has massively improved all round in the last six years or so. The same is true for Peugeot. Once it was derided on reliability but the massive turnaround came with cars like the 208, 2008 and now the much-honoured 3008 and 5008. Like Hyundai it now gives a five-year warranty.
Second last in 2017 is the Opel/Vauxhall Vectra, which was fourth last in 2016. In fact nine of last year's bottom 10 are in this year's bottom 10. Looking at the reasons why cars fail their NCT, unsurprisingly the 2017 data is almost identical to 2016 - the lights and electrical category is still the most common failure reason causing 20pc of all cars tested to fail, with steering and suspension 15pc, and wheels and tyres down slightly to 13pc.
But it's the age of your vehicle that remains the biggest determinant of whether it is likely to pass its NCT or not. Cars that are four years old pass 81pc of the time, six-year-olds 71pc, down to 18-year-olds that pass only 32pc of the time. Interestingly, cars older than this tend to have a slightly improving chance of passing - 39pc of 1992-registered vehicles, 25 years old in 2017, passed their NCT first time.
The good news for the state of vehicles on Ireland's roads is that the pass rate for nearly every age of vehicle has improved in 2017 over 2016. The overall pass rate for all vehicles tested improved from just under 48pc to over 49pc, a massive number of additional insights can be found on the interactive dashboard, which you can explore yourself and can be found, with instructions, at www.idiro.com/nct.
Even better, Idiro has created a simple NCT car checker tool, available online - just enter the make, model and year of the car in question to learn all about how it performs on the NCT. You'll find it at www.Idiro.com/NCTchecker.