To say that the automotive landscape in 2020 is a bit different from last year is something of an understatement. The coronavirus pandemic, which forced the entire country into lockdown at the end of March, has caused catastrophe for the industry, with some of the biggest car makers reckoning with financial ruin.
However, there were two and a half months or so of steady buying at the beginning of this year, and registrations of new cars are beginning to stabilise after plummeting 97.3% in April, compared with the same month last year — the market shrunk by a third in June, with showrooms in Wales and Scotland only opening towards the end of the month.
The meagre overall sales figures during the coronavirus lockdown led to some interesting models topping the lists; the Tesla Model 3 was the best selling car in both April and May, for example. However, it doesn’t even break into the top ten for the year as a whole, as volumes were so low.
In fact, despite pure-electric car sales in June increasing 261.8% year-on-year there, isn’t a single model in the top 10 bestsellers list. This might change over the next few years, though, with new models arriving and the ban on the sale of petrol and diesel (and potentially hybrid) cars in 2035 looming in the distance.
Top 10 most popular cars of 2020
1 Ford Fiesta
Number of registrations 21,098
No surprises here. The Ford Fiesta has maintained its place at the top of the bestseller list, after earning the crown of 2019’s best-selling car. It’s no longer as small as it once was (they grow up so fast), but it’s still one of the best cars in its segment, being practical, spacious and really good fun to drive.
2 Ford Focus
Number of registrations 18,145
Two podium finishes for Ford, with the Fiesta’s bigger brother remaining hot on its heels in the first months of 2020. Like the Fiesta, owners love that it’s great to drive, practical for the whole family and priced just about right.
3 Volkswagen Golf
Number of registrations 17,889
It would be something of a crime if the Golf didn’t make the top ten, wouldn’t it? It’s a ubiquitous sight on the roads of the UK, and the hatchback against which all other hatchbacks are judged.
The Golf has been climbing over the course of the year, now only 262 units behind the Ford Focus, after languishing in fifth behind the Corsa at the beginning of the year. The eighth-generation model arrived in showrooms earlier this year, with new hybrid powertrains available, which could maybe sway customers trying to decide between the Focus and the Golf.
4 Vauxhall Corsa
Number of registrations 17,646
The Corsa has a long way to go before it catches up with the Ford Fiesta, but Vauxhall has put in the work to make sure its supermini can go the distance with its arch rival. For one, it can now be purchased in pure-electric form, with a respectable 208-mile range between charges. It seems to be working, with Vauxhall topping the best-seller list in June.
The Corsa even managed to impress notorious Vauxhall-phobe Jeremy Clarkson, who found the new model to be “peppier and more eager” than one of its other competitors, the Renault Clio. The Corsa, he said, has provided endless hours of joy to the bored 18-year old daughter of his girlfriend, Lisa, during the coronavirus lockdown.
“She will certainly be the first person in human history to say that her only true happiness for a long time was a brown 1.2-litre Vauxhall Corsa,” he said.
5 Nissan Qashqai
Number of registrations 14,806
The Nissan Qashqai faces heavy competition in one of the industry’s most competitive sectors — the compact SUV market.
The Qashqai has fallen in the rankings since the beginning of the year, after being in third place back in February. However, it’s still the most popular compact SUV out there, despite an ever increasing number of competitors including the Kia Sportage, Ford Kuga and Seat Ateca.
6 Mercedes-Benz A-Class
Number of registrations 13,726
It’s not too often that a premium car maker like Mercedes finds itself in these kinds of lists, but the entry-level A-Class has turned out to be a runaway success, accounting for more than a quarter of the company’s sales so far this year.
It’s no surprise, with the A-class’ sleek design and premium tech — and a range of affordable deals that take some of the sting out of the price tag.
7 Mini Hatch
Number of registrations 12,240
The Mini hatchback didn’t make the top 10 list at the beginning of the year, despite finishing in the points in 2019, coming eighth. However, after a good performance in June, when it was the fifth most popular car in the UK, the tenacious supermini has fought its way back onto the board.
It’s a big year for the company, with the launch of the Mini Electric, the company’s first pure-electric car — and Driving.co.uk editor Will Dron has got hold of one for an extended test.
8 Toyota Yaris
Number of registrations 10,134
The Yaris is a completely new entry to the bestsellers list, not managing to break into the top 10 in 2019, or in January 2020. However, it had a stormer of a month in June, when it was the nation’s third best-selling car, losing out only to the Corsa and Fiesta — two of its main rivals. The all-new version of the car has come with a raft of upgrades, with Toyota insisting specifically that the Yaris is the “world’s safest compact car”.
Unsurprisingly for Toyota, a company synonymous with hybrids, the new Yaris comes with an electrified powertrain available, which is more powerful and more economical than the hybrid Yaris it replaces.
9 Kia Sportage
Number of registrations 10,122
The main rival to the Nissan Qashqai in this list, the Kia Sportage, whose popularity is evidenced in its more than 10,000 sales so far this year, has been somewhat outpaced by its Japanese counterpart. However, a great warranty deal and a good reputation as an all-rounder helps the Sportage’s standing.
10 Volkswagen Polo
Number of registrations 2,336
The Polo might live slightly in the shadow of its bigger sibling, the Golf, but it has forged its own reputation as a stylish supermini that feels slightly more upmarket than the Fiesta, the Corsa or the Yaris.
It might not be hot on the heels of two of its three rivals in this list, but the Polo only needs 20 sales to leapfrog the Sportage and equal the Toyota Yaris in popularity. It seems like there could be a battle at the bottom of the table as the year draws to a close.