TO SAY that the automotive landscape in 2020 is a bit different from last year is something of an understatement. The coronavirus pandemic, which has sent the country into lockdown twice this year, has made it a very tough period for car makers and dealers, with some of the biggest brands at points reckoning with financial ruin.
However, there were two and a half months or so of steady buying at the beginning of this year, and sales seemed to recover during summer and the beginning of autumn. However, with lockdown 2, showrooms have shut their doors once more and are to remain closed until at least the beginning of December (although they can operate click-and-collect services). Sales overall are down 32% so far in 2020 and the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT), which represents the car industry, reckons 2020 will be its worst year since 1982.
Pure-electric car sales have bucked the trend, up 168% on 2019 for the year to date, but there isn’t a single model in the top 10 bestsellers list, as volumes are still low. This might change over the next few years, though, with exciting new models arriving and the government’s proposed ban on the sale of petrol and diesel (and potentially hybrid) models before 2035.
Top 10 most popular cars of 2020
1. Ford Fiesta
Number of registrations 43,281
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. Vauxhall Corsa
Number of registrations 39,682
The Corsa has a fair 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 at some points this year and slowly making up the gap to the omnipresent Fiesta.
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, provided endless hours of joy to the bored 18-year old daughter of his girlfriend, Lisa, during the first 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.
3. Volkswagen Golf
Number of registrations 35,014
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, and more powerful variants have arrived recently in the form of the much-adored GTI hot hatch and the even hotter Golf R . There are also new hybrid powertrains available on the eighth generation of the car, which could maybe sway customers trying to decide between the Focus and the Golf.
4. Ford Focus
Number of registrations 33,965
The Fiesta’s bigger brother was the second best seller in 2019 and remained hot on the supermini’s heels in the first months of 2020, but has slowly fallen behind and out of a podium position. Like the Fiesta, though, owners love that it’s great to drive, practical for the whole family and priced just about right.
5. Mercedes-Benz A-Class
Number of registrations 31,604
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 and leapfrogging the ever-popular Nissan Qashqai. It was, in fact, the nation’s bestselling car in October — something that commentators have put down to it being the only car in its class that can currently be delivered as a plug-in hybrid.
The A-class’ success is no surprise, with its design and premium tech — and a range of affordable deals that take some of the sting out of the price tag.
6 Nissan Qashqai
Number of registrations 27,790
The Nissan Qashqai faces heavy competition in one of the industry’s most competitive sectors — the compact SUV market.
It’s 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.
7. Mini Hatch
Number of registrations 25,841
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.
And if you think the Mini Hatch is perfect in its current guise, grab one now, because the company’s boss has told Driving.co.uk that in the future it will get smaller (going against the grain), returning to its Mini roots.
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.
9. Volkswagen Polo
Number of registrations 23,904
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 has held steady over the last year.
9 Ford Puma
Number of registrations 21,142
The Ford Puma is all-new this year and competes with a lot of cars in the SUV market — not least the perennial favourite Nissan Qashqai. It has done that by trying to be the most practical of the lot — it’s got a whacking great boot, washable seat covers, and a deep “megabox”, complete with drain plug, beneath the floor in the boot. According to Jeremy Clarkson, it’s almost “as though this car has been designed by an actual person who leads an actual life”.
Based on the chart-topping Fiesta, and with a sporty ST version recently released, the Puma is going to look to hold on to its space on this list as long as it can.
10 BMW 1 Series
Number of registrations 20,032
Another entry from a luxury car maker on the list comes in the form of the BMW 1-series, which is looking to compete with the VW Golf and impressively successful Mercedes A Class. A recently announced 128ti that is both cheaper and quicker than the Golf GTI might make it a more attractive proposition — although there’s no option for a manual gearbox.
Bestselling car fuel types of 2020
What’s most popular, petrol, diesel, electric or hybrid? These are the latest figures from the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders on the bestselling car fuel types, and the year-on-year change.