IT’S STILL early days but we now have our first insight into the UK’s most popular cars of 2021, after January’s car registration figures were released by the Society of Manufacturers and Traders.
In another year that’s being defined by the coronavirus pandemic (so far, at least), car dealerships have been forced to restrict their operations to contact-free click and collect, as per the lockdown rules set out by Prime Minister Boris Johnson on January 4, designed to curb the spread of the virus.
However, some cars have still been registered this year so far: here are the models that have been sold in the biggest numbers to date.
1. Vauxhall Corsa
Number of registrations 3,078
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 earliest stages of 2021, with a bit of breathing room between itself and 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 its supermini rival just pipped the Vauxhall to the post. Could this be the Griffin’s year?
2. Kia Sportage
Number of registrations 2,986
The Kia Sportage didn’t even make the top 10 in 2020, so it’s the shock podium entry in the first month of 2021. Like the Corsa, it received something of a makeover last year, 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 is hot on its tail, but it has the advantage of having been more recently updated (Nissan is set to unveil the new Qashqai imminently), and Kia’s unbeatable seven-year warranty makes it a sensible purchase.
3. Nissan Qashqai
Number of registrations 2,835
Nissan hasn’t had the start to the year it wanted for its best-selling compact SUV, being nudged onto the bottom step of the podium by the Sportage. This will mark the last ride for this generation of the car, which has sold more than a million units since its introduction in 2014, with a bigger, lighter model on its way in the coming months. Whether or not this Qashqai can depart as the most popular mid-sized crossover in the UK remains to be seen.
4. Ford Fiesta
Number of registrations 2,594
It’s been a subdued beginning to 2021 for the Ford Fiesta, which has enjoyed unparalleled popularity for the last few years having been crowned the UK’s most popular car in 2020 and 2019.
It currently finds itself nearly 500 sales behind the Vauxhall Corsa, but don’t discount the plucky Ford just yet: the fact that it’s repeatedly called one of the best in its segment, thanks to the fact that it’s spacious, practical and fun to drive, means that it is unlikely to languish in fourth for too long. No doubt the expansive Ford retail network will pull out all the stops in February.
5. Volvo XC40
Number of registrations 2,201
Volvo’s bite-size SUV is another new entry on the list of the UK’s bestselling new cars, and another that currently finds itself in the upper echelons of an extremely competitive market.
That’s probably because it’s one of the most stylish in the compact SUV segment, has a plush interior and variants that hit nearly every stage of the electrification spectrum: there’s the petrol-powered T3, a pair of petrol-powered mild hybrids (the B4 and B5), the T4 plug-in hybrid and the Recharge P8, which is pure-electric and, as a bonus, lightning quick.
6. Mercedes-Benz A Class
Number of registrations 1,859
The Mercedes A Class might be a premium hatchback but it’s 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.
A runway success for Mercedes, the A Class has earned its place — on top of a couple of red-hot hatch versions in the Mercedes-AMG A35 and A45, there is also a saloon version of the car, and a range of deals mean that it can put the “A” in “affordable”.
7. Volkswagen Golf
Number of registrations 1,779
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 is only just becoming complete, with the estate, GTI and superhot Golf R only hitting the market in the last few months. From the entry-level model to the range-topper, there are a huge number of trim levels and engine choices, too.
Having such a number of variants means that there’s something bearing the Golf name for nearly everyone, and with a strong amount of tech and an elegant interior, the Golf doesn’t show any sign of losing its popularity any time soon.
8. Ford Puma
Number of registrations 1,760
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. It is based on the Fiesta, after all.
In his review of the car, Jeremy Clarkson, who loved the washable well (known as the “megabox”) that Ford has added to the boot, 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.
9. Kia Niro
Number of registrations 1,741
Kia’s second entry into this list is another newcomer, the Niro SUV. Granted, it may not be the most chic car in the world, but it could be the perfect model for those who think with their heads more than their hearts: a range of electrification options include self-charging hybrid, plug-in hybrid and pure-electric (which comes with a more-than-sufficient 282 miles of range, in 3 and 4+ guises), and Kia’s warranties mean that your wallet will thank you.
10. Ford Focus
Number of registrations 1,686
Like it’s smaller sibling, the Fiesta, the Ford Focus is lower in this list than one might expect, having been the second best-selling car in the UK in 2019.
However, in 2020 it saw the space between itself and the Fiesta grow wider and wider, and in the end the Focus’ sales were overtaken by those of the Golf — surprising, considering the Golf is often seen as the more premium choice (although the difference between starting prices is only £1,000). The beginning of 2021 seems to have continued that trend.