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Avoid these second-hand cars! Holden Cruze and Captiva, Nissan Pulsar and more are on our lemons list

The Holden Cruze made from 2009-2016 was plagued with problems you don't want to inherit.

You’re looking for a second-hand car. It could be your first car or just the next car, the thing is money is tight and you don’t want to pick a lemon - a dud. You could end up wasting your hard-earned, having to pay more in repairs and then have trouble selling it on.

So we’ve put together a list of the used cars to avoid - the ones that are known to be have well-documented problems and faults - the lemons. 

In our follow up instalment to this, next week we’ll be publishing our list of cars we think make great picks - the cherries.

But first let's look at those lemons.

Holden Cruze JG 2009-2012 and JH 2011-2016

Both the JG and the JH were plagued with problems. Both the JG and the JH were plagued with problems.

The Holden Cruze replaced the popular but discontinued Astra in 2009, but it was the equivalent of swapping your ice cream for frozen yoghurt. Actually, that’s not true - frozen yoghurt can be good, and the Cruze wasn’t good at all.

Two models of Cruze came out between 2009 and 2016. There was the JG from 2009-2011 and the JH from 2011-2016.

Really the Cruze was a rebadged Daewoo (General Motors owned the Korean car company) . It was badly engineered and not even Holden taking over production and building the Cruze here in Australia towards the end of its lifetime could fix what was essentially a dud.

Both the JG and the JH were plagued with problems and you can read about them in detail in the Holden Cruze problems section of our website.

Briefly, the diesel variants had driveshaft faults causing a loss of power. There were also transmission failures.

Holden addressed the issues with recalls but we advise anybody thinking about buying a Cruze to have the car thoroughly checked by a mechanic before handing over your money, or give it a miss altogether.   

Ford Focus LW 2011-2015

Ford’s dual-clutch transmission was faulty. Ford’s dual-clutch transmission was faulty.

The Ford Focus is a rival to the likes of the Toyota Corolla and typically it’s a well-built, great car to drive but the LW model between 2011 and 2015 is worth giving a wide berth thanks to a transmission fault.

Ford benchmarked the LW model’s driving comfort and dynamics on the Volkswagen Golf Mk 6 and there’s Volvo engineering know-how in the body. But just like that drunken mate who gets you and all of your well behaved friends thrown out of a restaurant and ruins everything, Ford’s dual-clutch transmission was faulty.

Ford called this dual-clutch transmission a Powershift transmission. But all you need to know is that it’s the LW with the automatic transmission that you need to avoid.

Ford admitted that the seals in the gearbox leaked oil into the clutch and caused a shuddering sensation. And later Ford discovered that the wrong clutch material had been used, too.

Customer complaints rained down on Ford like a shower of hatred as the carmaker worked to fix the transmissions.

The LW Focus you’re looking at buying may have been repaired, but our advice here is to avoid examples with an automatic, to be sure. 

Unless you find an LW with a manual gearbox - in which case buy it! 

Ford Fiesta WT and WZ 2012-2016

2012 to 2016 Fiesta's used the same faulty dual-clutch transmission as the Focus LW. 2012 to 2016 Fiesta's used the same faulty dual-clutch transmission as the Focus LW.

The Ford Fiesta is the little sibling of the Ford Focus, and just like real siblings they share much of the same DNA. 

In this case the Fiesta made between 2012 and 2016, also known as the WT and WZ models, used the same faulty dual-clutch transmission as the Focus LW.

As with the Focus, Ford called the dual clutch transmission a Powershift transmission but all you need to know is it’s the automatic version of the Fiesta from these years that you should give a miss. 

Ford attempted to fix these faulty transmissions and in some cases replaced the entire clutch. Best not to risk it hoping the one you’re looking at has been repaired.

Try to find the Fiesta with the manual gearbox. I tested the Fiesta Sport with the manual in 2014 and it’s a great car to drive.

Holden Captiva CG 2006-2018

The Captiva was badly engineered from the start. The Captiva was badly engineered from the start.

We’re not going to repeat the name many people call the Captiva but it involves adding the letter 'r' to the name while still rhyming with Captiva.

Still public opinion regarding both the five- and seven- seater SUVs is on the money.

The Captiva, like the Cruze, was a Daewoo and like the small hatch this SUV was badly engineered from the start.

As our resident used car guru David Morley says: “Common problems were timing chain failures in V6 versions, oil leaks and engine troubles in both diesel and petrol form, camshaft problems, diesel particulate Filter (DPF) failures and a range of random electrical and electronic dramas. Transmission failures are also not unknown but this was hardly the Captiva’s worst flaw. Fundamentally, the Captiva was a very ordinary car and not one that most buyers would be prepared to take on now that the true extent of its problems have been dissected by the trade.”

The short answer is steer clear, unless you love inheriting other people's problems. 

Nissan Pulsar C12 hatch and B17 Pulsar sedan 2013-2017 

Many early Pulsar's had the wrong transmission fluid. Many early Pulsar's had the wrong transmission fluid.

Yes the Nissan Pulsar name is iconic and in the 1980s and ’90s these little hatches and sedans were hits, but then, like many reboots, the new-gen Pulsar that launched in 2013 was a big miss.

We’re talking the C12 hatch and the B17 sedan specifically here made from 2013-2017.

The issue is to do with the way the continuously variable transmission (CVT) was serviced.

Not only did many early cars have the wrong transmission fluid but the advice from the manufacturer at the time was that the fluid should be changed at much longer intervals than what it really needed to be.

This lack of maintenance caused a degradation in the chain belt of the CVT.

So unless you’re up for the cost of replacing the transmission in a Pulsar which might even be more than what you paid for the entire car, then we reckon it’s wise to not go there.

And that's a shortlist of second hand cars to avoid. You can read more about car problems our readers have written to us about on our website.

Coming up next week is our list of second-hand picks - the cherries.