How reliable are Mitsubishi cars? An impartial look at the Japanese brand

We take a look at how reliable Mitsubishi is...

Mitsubishi Motors are known for their SUVs and trucks, and once dominated the growing market, predicting its popularity before anyone else.

So how were they awarded Japan’s worst automaker in 2016? There could be several reasons for this, but recent engine problems have led people to ask;

How reliable are Mitsubishi cars?

In this article, we look at just how reliable Mitsubishi are, and how this stacks up against their rivals.

How reliable is Mitsubishi?

There was a time where Mitsubishi were a very reliable brand. After all, Japanese automakers are known for their dependability, and Mitsubishi were no different.

In fact, the Mitsubishi Lancer was awarded the most reliable car since 1997 back in 2012. This was awarded to them by Warranty Direct. Warranty Direct provided extended warranties for every automaker, and their Reliability Index has become a benchmark in the UK since its conception in 1997.

Blue Mitsubishi ASX front view parked in front of country house

However, something has clearly changed. In the past few years, Mitsubishi have fallen down the ranks to become one of the most unreliable car brands on the market. In 2016 they were named one of the worst car brands by consumer reports. They came third from the bottom, scoring just 51. They did receive an average reliability rating, but Consumer Reports refused to recommend a model. Ouch.

In the 2017 J.D Power Dependability Survey, Mitsubishi came seventh from the bottom, with 182 problems per 100 vehicles. This is well above the industry average of 156 problems per 100 vehicles.

Mitsubishi Shogun driving on grassy hill

If we look at specific cars, then WarrantyDirect’s Reliability Index rank the Mitsubishi Outlander as poor for dependability. They also gave them a reliability index of 157 compared to their average of 118. Engine trouble accounted for 43.55% of the problems, followed by the braking system at 20.97% of all issues.

The Mitsubishi Shogun doesn’t perform much better either. Also given a poor rating, the Shogun has a better Reliability Index of 140. Most of the problems with the Shogun appear to occur with the Axle and Suspension, as they account for 34.29% of all problems, with the engine coming in second with just 22.86% of the issues reported. 

That said, Reliability Index gave Mitsubishi an average reliability index score of 117 overall. However, this could be explained by the Lancer.

The Lancer has a reliability index of 4. 4! That is possibly the best reliability index score we’ve ever seen.

Unfortunately, it seems that Mitsubishi were once the champions of dependability, but have fallen pretty far in recent years. But, why?

Why are Mitsubishi unreliable?

If the Lancer was so reliable, how come the Outlander and the Shogun aren’t?

There is one explanation, and it’s something that has cursed pretty much every automaker the past few years, and that’s the increase in modern technology.

We have seen a huge increase in modern technology being featured in cars in recent years. This is great for the owner, who can now do pretty much everything they can on their mobile phone, on their in-car Infotainment system. But it does mean that there is now a whole new list of things that could go wrong. And they do go wrong. Many have put modern unreliability down to the introduction of such advanced technology. Often this tech is hard and costly to repair. So, that could explain why the older Lancer is so reliable, but the newer Outlander and Shogun are not.

Also, there have been reports of problems with the engine which seems to be the main issue in the Mitsubishi Outlander. Interestingly, the Outlander has been made with both Volkswagen and Ford-PSA sourced engines. This wasn’t the case for the Lancer. And the engines used in the Outlander are also used in the Citroen C-Crosser and Peugeot 4007, as well as the Land Rover Freelander. And honestly, those brands aren’t famed for their reliability either.

We must add that this is speculation, but that could be one explanation as to why there is such a huge difference in reliability for the two cars.

What are the common Mitsubishi problems?

It’s important that when you are looking at a new car that you are aware of the problems that you may encounter further down the line. This is also important if you are looking at a used Mitsubishi. So here are some of the problems you may encounter;

  • The clear coat may peel
    • Some owners have reported white spots on the clear coat
  • Automatic transmission
    • This may fail prematurely
  • Clutch
    • This may also fail prematurely, and many have had theirs replaced with a higher market replacement.

How reliable are consumer surveys?

So, how reliable are consumer surveys?

Pretty reliable actually. Using the likes of consumer reports and surveys are an accurate way of determining how reliable a car is. This is because they are the ones driving the car, and therefore know how reliable a car is, particularly in the long run.

couple looking at a tablet while sitting in their car

WarrantyDirect have access to tens of thousands of different makes and models. When someone makes a claim, they can record which make and model it is. They can then use this information to determine which cars are more reliable than others.  

However, there are some issues. One of those issues is that you cannot always determine the long term reliability of a car that has only been out a year or two. This is because there is no way of knowing how reliable it will be five years down the line, because it hasn’t been around for five years. Generally, though, we find that using consumer reports are a dependable way of knowing how reliable a car is. 

Mitsubishi vs. Honda vs. Peugeot

Orange Honda Jazz parked outside a house with a garage and wellington boots by the door

Okay, so how does Mitsubishi square up to some of its competitors?

If we compare it to Honda, pretty badly. In the J.D Power Vehicle Dependability Survey, Honda came an impressive ninth with a reported 143 problems per 100 vehicles. This was below the industry average.

Honda also did well in the Reliability Index, coming second with a reliability rating of 42. So Honda are a very reliable car brand.

But what about Peugeot? Well, as we said, the Outlander and the Peugeot 4007 share an engine, and unfortunately this seems to be reflected in the scores. Peugeot didn’t do as badly as Mitsubishi in the Telegraph’s Worst Engine survey and they had problems in 1 in 44 cars.

That said, they did much better than Mitsubishi in the Reliability Index table, coming 14th. They also have a reliability index of 96, which is better than the industry average and Mitsubishi. Though it isn’t as good as Honda.

So if you’re torn between the three and you want the brand that is the most reliable, then you will want to look at a Honda because there are very few brands that can beat it for reliability.

Red Pegueot 208 driving on a road in the countryside

Which Mitsubishi cars are the most reliable?

The most reliable Mitsubishi cars are;

  • Mitsubishi Colt
  • Mitsubishi Lancer

These score a good reliability index and have very little problems. The only problem with them, is that the only way to get your hands on one is by getting them second hand.

Which Mitsubishi cars are the least reliable?

The least reliable Mitsubishi’s are;

  • Mitsubishi Outlander
  • Mitsubishi Shogun
  • Mitsubishi Shogun Sport

In conclusion, Mitsubishi were once very reliable. Their Lancer was awarded most reliable car since 1997 and their Colt was also very reliable. However, they have slipped down the ranks as of late, and have become one of the most unreliable brands out there. Unfortunately, neither the Colt or the Lancer are still being produced, so if you were to try and get your hands on one of these ultra-reliable models then you would have to look at getting a second hand model. Compared to their rivals, Mitsubishi don’t do too well, and Honda take the top spot. That said, Mitsubishi cars still look good, they drive well and are perfect if you want an off-roader that has the technology of an executive car. So, if reliability isn’t your main priority, then there is no reason why a Mitsubishi still isn’t a great investment.

Now you know how reliable Mitsubishi are, find out how well they drive  in our latest car reviews! 

Holly Martin

Content Co-ordinator at OSV Ltd
Holly enjoys: Reading, music and spending time with friends.

Within a week of Holly starting work at OSV she became an indispensable part of the marketing team. She's very intuitive and gets on with the whole office effortlessly.
Holly Martin

42 Comments

  • kjh| 7th November 2019 at 3:09 pm Reply

    Mitsubishi is great, since 2005 I’ve owned a 2000 modle gallant and it works great must bring the gallant back into play

    • Rachel Richardson| 7th November 2019 at 4:51 pm Reply

      Hi Sam,
      Thank you for your comment. They are quite reliable vehicles, it seems that many Japanese brands are rising up the ranks when it comes to reliability.

  • C. E. Strain| 26th October 2019 at 2:52 pm Reply

    I bought my 2019 Outlander Sport last month. I’ve had 6 VW Jettas before. Big difference in Japan vs German design and construction. But, guess what? I really enjoy this SUV. I have been getting 33+ mpg going to work and back, and that is in hilly country. I have the 2.0 with 2wd. Seats comfortable, tech and display is great. Time will tell. But i married my wife 40 years so, and that has worked. I’m OK with this Sport too.

    • Rachel Richardson| 28th October 2019 at 11:15 am Reply

      Hi Craig,

      Thank you for your comment regarding Mitsubishi and your experience of your new vehicle in comparison with your previous VW Jettas. It’s interesting to from people who have experience of multiple models and what they prefer/dislike when it comes to driving the different manufacturers.

  • Anonymous| 16th October 2019 at 11:46 pm Reply

    I’ve been driving Mitsubishi, Eclipse for 16 years now and it I do maintenance when I need to. It’s still running great. No major repairs yet. A lot of people underestimate the brand.

    • Rachel Richardson| 17th October 2019 at 4:01 pm Reply

      Hi Anon,

      Thank you for the feedback on your Mitsubishi Eclipse. I am sure that our readers will find your experience helpful when they come to make a decision on their next vehicle.

  • MIMI| 5th October 2019 at 3:37 pm Reply

    I have been driving a Mitsubishi Eclipse since 2008. The only thing that ever had to be replaced was a door bolt, that’s it in 11 years. My husbands Ranger on the other hand, which is 1 year newer, different story. I could fill this entire space with all the problems. Same thing with the other Fords I’ve bought.

    • Rachel Richardson| 7th October 2019 at 2:37 pm Reply

      Hi Mimi,

      It sounds as though have been very fortunate with your Mitsubishi. The brand is climbing up the reliability rankings every year, so we are hearing more from people who have had positive experiences with their models.

      We are sure that people who read this piece will find your comment helpful when they consider their new vehicle choices.

    • Charles| 6th October 2019 at 2:06 am Reply

      I have 2008 lancer. The clear coat has peeled all over the body of the car, cooling system has failed, have had entire engine replaced. Worst car I’ve ever had. Would get rid of it but it’s worthless because of the failing paint.

      • Rachel Richardson| 7th October 2019 at 2:58 pm Reply

        Hi Charles,

        Thank you for the feedback you provided on the Mitsubishi Lancer. We are sure that anyone in Australia looking to purchase an older Lancer will find your experience helpful when they come to make their decision.

  • Dick Stafford| 4th October 2019 at 4:02 am Reply

    Purchased a 2017 and a 2018 Outlander Sport. So far, I love getting in the 2017 every morning. Decent mileage, good heater and air, motor 2.0 a little weak but who needs to go 80 up hills or flat, not I. It’s everything I could want. Maybe not the Lexes, or other top models but good enough. The 2017 was 17,952 included everything. The 2018 was 19,000. Both have AWD and some other nice features. Final grade, B+.

    • Rachel Richardson| 4th October 2019 at 2:10 pm Reply

      Hi Dick,

      Thank you for your comment regarding the reliability of the two Mitsubishi vehicles you have owned/driven. It’s always helpful for our readers to hear from those who have long-term experience of the vehicles we are reviewing. I have no doubt that people who visit our site for information will find your views useful.

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