SALES of new cars in the UK are still in turmoil due to the damage caused by the Covid-19 pandemic, with health measures and isolation rules worldwide reducing staff numbers in factories and dealerships, which is throttling supply to our shores. Making things worse, shortages of semi-conductor chips required for cars’ electronic control units is having a similarly profound impact on production.
That resulted a 22% drop in new car registrations in August 2021, compared with the same month last year, in a traditionally quiet month before the new number plates arrive in September.
Nevertheless, with lockdown restrictions across the UK eased considerably, the car industry is trying to be positive about prospects for the remainder of the year, and sales of mild hybrid, full hybrid, plug-in hybrid, pure electric models were up on August 2020. In fact, pure-electric cars accounted for nearly 11% of all sales, and make up more than 8% of registrations so far in 2021, up from 4.9% for the same period last year.
The best-selling car models of 2021 so far
But what are the most popular cars in 2021 to date? Here are the top 10 best-selling vehicles in the UK, according to figure from the SMMT.
1. Vauxhall Corsa
Number of registrations 27,381
Vauxhall’s supermini relaunched last year with handsome new looks and a range of powertrain options, including a pure-electric variant packing a competitive 208-mile range. The refresh seems to have done the trick, and the Corsa has stormed ahead in the first seven months of 2021, ahead of even the Ford Fiesta — the UK’s most popular car for the last few years.
The Corsa nearly usurped the Fiesta last year but a strong start to 2020 meant that Ford’s ever-popular supermini just pipped the Vauxhall to the post. Could this be the Griffin’s year? Sales have been good in the first half of the year but July and August were not the Corsa’s best for sales — last month it was only seventh in the best-selling cars, no doubt as a result of supply issues rather than waning popularity.
2. Ford Fiesta
Number of registrations 24,578
It has been a subdued 2021 for the Ford Fiesta. Crowned the UK’s most popular car in 2020 and 2019, the Corsa rival had a slow start to the year in sales terms, and has been on the back foot ever since. In fact, last month Ford’s Puma crossover topped the sales charts, with the Fiesta proving to be eighth most popular.
However, the Fiesta currently finds itself just a few thousand or so sales off the top spot, so don’t discount the plucky Ford to reach the top again by the end of 2021. The Fiesta is repeatedly called one of the best in its segment thanks to its packaging, ride and handling.
3. Volkswagen Golf
Number of registrations 22,997
What would this list be without the presence of a VW Golf? In its nearly 50 years on sale, the Golf has become the hatchback against which every other is judged.
Last year saw VW’s family car enter its eighth generation, and the Golf 8 range recently added the estate, GTI and superhot Golf R. From the entry-level model to the range-topper, there are a huge number of trim levels and engine choices.
Having such a number of variants means that there’s something bearing the Golf name for nearly everyone, and with a large amount of tech and an elegant interior, the Golf doesn’t show any sign of losing its popularity any time soon — it’s given cheaper cars in the segment below a run for their money this year, and the fact that it’s hot on the heels of the Corsa and Fiesta superminis in the class below reveals its enduring desirability.
4. Mercedes-Benz A Class
Number of registrations 22,731
The Mercedes-Benz A Class might be from a premium car maker but the hatchback is now a mainstay of the top 10 best-selling cars list, and finished 2020 in fifth place overall — it was even the nation’s most popular car in October that year.
A runaway success for Mercedes, the A Class has earned its top four spot this year thanks to class-leading interior and refinement, as well an abundance of choice: on top of a couple of hot hatch versions in the Mercedes-AMG A35 and A45, there is also a saloon version of the car.
Helping sales, a range of tempting deals mean that the A Class can also put the “a” in “affordable”.
5. Ford Puma
Number of registrations 22,654
The motoring world let out a collective groan of exasperation when it was announced that Ford would be reviving the Puma name — associated with the beloved, sporty 1990s coupé — as a crossover SUV. However, the car maker has proved the naysayers wrong by delivering what is one of the best-handling and most practical cars in its class.
In his review of the car, Jeremy Clarkson, who loved the washable boot well (known as the “megabox”), said that it seemed to be designed by “an actual person who leads an actual life”. And for those who like to put a little spice in their SUV, there’s an ST version, too.
Its excellent critical reception has translated to superb sales fugures, and the Puma was August’s best-selling car overall, beating the cheaper Fiesta and Corsa superminis — a stunning achievement.
6. Volkswagen Polo
Number of registrations 20,362
A new Polo is just a round the corner, which could be why Volkswagen dealers are shifting so many of the existing stock: 3,047 of them in July, making it the best-selling car of the month, followed by 1,761 in August, putting it in second spot. A quick look at the VW website shows finance can be arrange with a £1,500 deposit contribution, which is a generous deal for a supermini.
Its excellent recent sale mean that it leapfrogs the Kia Sportage into sixth place in the top 10 best-selling cars of 2021 to date.
It’s a good car, too, with excellent road manners and comfort, class-leading tech and good use of space. There’s also an upmarket Polo R-Line for those who want extra gadgets and refinement, plus a sparky Polo GTI for those who find the regular model doesn’t quite light their fire. Get them while stocks last.
7. Kia Sportage
Number of registrations 20,296
The Kia Sportage didn’t even make the top 10 in 2020, so it was something of a surprise when it found itself as the UK’s second best-selling model at the beginning of this year.
It received something of a makeover in 2020 and can now be ordered in a range of variants: two or four-wheel drive, a manual or automatic gearbox, and petrol or diesel mild hybrid.
It faces some stiff competition, not least from the ubiquitous Nissan Qashqai, which has just been relaunched, though as with the VW Polo, a new Sportage is also due to arrive this year, which means good deals are likely. And, as with any Kia, an unbeatable seven-year warranty makes it a sensible purchase.
8. Toyota Yaris
Number of registrations 19,605
The Toyota Yaris isn’t a regular top 10 best seller in the UK but it is a popular car, and an all-new version launched this year, with an efficient hybrid powertrain and sporty styling, has made it even more desirable. It’s not as spacious as some other models in its class, though, and CVT transmissions aren’t for everyone.
Meanwhile the new GR Yaris, based on rally car technology, is the new darling of the automotive press, and incredibly sought after by buyers. That helped the little Toyota become the third most popular car in the UK last month.
9. BMW 3 Series
Number of registrations 18,465
In the same month that we tested the bigger, more powerful (and toothier) M3, BMW’s family saloon rocketed to the midfield of the best-seller list, joining the A Class as a rare premium model among the more affordable brands. It fell from fifth to ninth between March and April, and it’s now dropped near the bottom of the top 10, but that’s still impressive for a premium saloon car.
That’ll be thanks to the massive number of variants that make up the model range, including a host of entry-level plug-in hybrids (including Touring and xDrive versions) that joined the line-up earlier this year.
If you’re interested in buying a seventh-generation 3-Series, you might be interested in our extended test of the 330d Touring.
10. Nissan Qashqai
Number of registrations 18,417
Nissan didn’t have the start to the year it wanted for its compact SUV, finding itself stuck behind South Korean rival the Kia Sportage, but it did well in the second quarter of the year as dealers looked to clear existing stock ahead of the arrival of an all-new model.
With the new model now being delivered, but no doubt with chip shortages hampering supply, the Qashqai didn’t appear in the top 10 best-selling models for August, but it comes with a hybrid variant, clever technology, an fresher design and more upmarket interior, so it’s likely the model will climb back up the charts before the year end.