IT’S STILL relatively early days but the UK’s most popular cars of 2021 are slowly revealing themselves; we now have four months’ worth of sales data provided by the industry trade body, the Society of Manufacturers and Traders.
In a first quarter defined by the coronavirus pandemic, car dealerships have largely been forced to restrict their operations to contact-free click and collect services, as per the lockdown rules designed to curb the spread of the virus. But showrooms were allowed to reopen their doors from April 12, meaning car retail is beginning to return to normality.
And despite the restrictions in place from January to April 2021, tens of thousands of cars have been registered so far this year. Here are the models that have been sold in the biggest numbers to date.
1. Vauxhall Corsa
Number of registrations 16,381
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 four months of 2021, albeit with only a small gap 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 Ford’s ever-popular supermini just pipped the Vauxhall to the post. Could this be the Griffin’s year?
2. Ford Fiesta
Number of registrations 14,906
It has been a subdued beginning to 2021 for the Ford Fiesta. Crowned the UK’s most popular car in 2020 and 2019, the Corsa rival found itself languishing in fourth in February but has now closed the gap to its main competitor.
The Fiesta currently finds itself just 1,500 sales off the top spot, so don’t discount the plucky Ford to reach the top again in the second quarter of 2021: it’s repeatedly called one of the best in its segment thanks to its packaging, ride and handling. And no doubt the expansive Ford retail network has pulled out all the stops now that showrooms have reopened.
3. Mercedes-Benz A Class
Number of registrations 13,439
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.
A runaway success for Mercedes, the A Class has earned its podium place 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”.
4. Nissan Qashqai
Number of registrations 12,832
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 has since regained its title as the UK’s most popular crossover.
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 new model to be introduced this summer with a hybrid variant. Whether or not this Qashqai can depart as the most popular mid-sized crossover in the UK remains to be seen, but managing fourth spot overall and the title of best selling SUV after four months is seriously impressive.
5. Volkswagen Golf
Number of registrations 10,798
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 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.
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 — a strong showing in April has bumped it up to the top half of the bestsellers list.
6. Ford Puma
Number of registrations 10,597
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.
7. Kia Sportage
Number of registrations 10,407
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 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, but the Sportage has the advantage of having been more recently updated (although the new Qashqai hits roads later this year). And, as with any Kia, an unbeatable seven-year warranty makes it a sensible purchase.
8. Volvo XC40
Number of registrations 10,339
Volvo’s bite-sized SUV is new on the list of the UK’s best-selling new cars in 2021, and another that currently finds itself in the upper echelons of an extremely competitive market.
The XC40’s popularity is likely down to the fact that 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. A new, battery-powered C40 coupé will join the party in autumn, too.
9. BMW 3 Series
Number of registrations 10,222
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, but less than 600 sales separate it from the Volkswagen Golf.
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. Ford Kuga
Number of registrations 9,640
The Ford Kuga underwent a number of changes for its 2020 revamp, receiving a radical redesign, extra interior space and a variety of powertrains including petrol, diesel, and three increasingly electrified types of hybrid. In our review we praised it for its good looks and keen handling.
The changes seem to have done the trick, helping it knock one of its rivals, the Volkswagen Tiguan, out of the Top 10. That’s not an easy feat, considering the Tiguan is Volkswagen’s most popular model globally, and Europe’s best selling SUV.