General Motors Europe's Opel-designed Vauxhall Zafira has topped the latest Warranty Direct reliability index for used seven-seater MPVs (minivans) sold in the United Kingdom.

The flexible 'people carrier', which was launched in 1999, has an Index of 25.8 - a rating that takes into account the number of times the model suffers mechanical failure and how much it costs to repair.

The Zafira's score compares to the MPV segment average of 95. The Vauxhall's repair bill of £180.25 is almost half that of the third generation Renault Espace.

With an average mileage of 57,082, repeat garage visits for the Espace pushes its reliability index rating to 259 - 10 times higher than the Zafira.

Some of the models analysed have recently been replaced by new generations, or discontinued altogether by the manufacturer, but remain popular used car buys.

Heading that list is the Toyota Picnic, which lies second overall just behind the Zafira. Its index of 26.6 and repair bill of £135.13 is remarkable given the average mileage of nearly 64,000 for the models analysed by Warranty Direct.

The Volkswagen Sharan incurs the most expensive average repair bill at £492.56 - more than double the MPV market average.

The German model, which is second from bottom in the Warranty Direct table, shares its seven-seater platform with the Ford Galaxy and Seat Alhambra - 9th and 4th respectively.

There is a similar difference between the MPV segment's other platform-sharing triumvirate; Citroen's Synergie is third with its French sibling the Peugeot 806 10th and the Fiat Ulysse sixth.