WHEREAS August was an unusual month for new car registrations in the UK, new figures for September reveal last month was less surprising by comparison.
Though last month saw considerably more new cars leave dealerships than in August, sales for the year to date are down 20.5% on the same period in 2017, with 338,834 registrations.
Overall, like-for-like sales of petrol cars fell by 6.7% in September to 217,136, with diesel demand dropping by a colossal 42.5% to 98,191. The only cars that saw a rise in demand were electric and hybrid vehicles, though the mild increase of 3.9% resulted in these low emissions models having a combined market share of just 6.9% last month — or roughly one out of every 15 new cars sold.
Aside from the diesel uncertainty, one reason for the unsettled market is the introduction of new (and tougher) fuel economy and emissions test rules.
Under the Worldwide Harmonised Light Vehicles Test Procedure (WLTP), all new cars needed to be homologated before September 1, 2018. Due to bottlenecks in the WLTP certification process, some car manufacturers have removed certain models from sale in order to prevent delivery delays for customer vehicles.
Some plug-in hybrid cars were particularly affected by WLTP, as the harsher ratings took the cars out of the tax break-attracting emissions classes.
However, as car makers get back on track, September saw many models return to the top 10 chart after missing out on a spot in August. The Ford Fiesta continued as Britain’s most popular new car, out-selling everything else by a big margin, with the mostly as-expected crop of hatchbacks and SUVs following in the Ford’s wake.
1 Ford Fiesta
Number of registrations 12,227
The Ford Fiesta has long been a favourite with UK motorists, and the all-new, eighth-generation model has picked up where its predecessor left off. Despite getting bigger with each new version, the Fiesta remains a delight to drive, with improvements in interior space and build quality over the old car and a great range of engine options further helping to make the Blue Oval’s best-selling offering a tempting buy.
You can read our review of the Ford Fiesta here.
2 Vauxhall Corsa
Number of registrations 10,660
Snapping away at the Ford Fiesta’s heels last month was the supermini’s arch rival, the Vauxhall Corsa. It may be nearing the end of its life (an all-new version is expected to be launched next year), but the Vauxhall Corsa still ticks many boxes for new car buyers, thanks to it being easy to drive, affordable to run and good value for money.
3 Mercedes-Benz A-Class
Number of registrations 8,005
The Volkswagen Golf is usually the best-selling premium hatch in the UK, but in a surprise twist September saw the Mercedes-Benz A-Class rule the upmarket five-door roost. The Mercedes deserves its podium place on merit, too: very few rivals can match the new A-Class for interior build quality and the amount of tech it comes with.
You can read our review of the Mercedes-Benz A-Class here.
4 Nissan Qashqai
Number of registrations 7,033
Ever since the first incarnation of the vehicle was introduced in 2007, the British-built Nissan Qashqai has been a popular crossover, so it’s no surprise the Nissan sold well in September. After a refresh last year (and more updates expected later this year) it remains a comfortable, affordable and spacious option in the compact SUV class.
You can read our review of the Nissan Qashqai here.
5 Mini Hatch
Number of registrations 6,931
The Mini has long been a strong seller in the UK, but last month saw a particular spike in demand for the retro runabout. With nearly 7,000 examples flooding out of dealerships last month, September accounted for a whopping 20% of all the hatchbacks that Mini has registered so far this year.
6 Nissan Juke
Number of registrations 6,710
By virtue of being one of the oldest cars in this class now, this quirky compact crossover isn’t as competitive as it used to be, but the Juke represents an attractive package. It’s also testament to Nissan’s design team that, although not for everyone, the Juke is still as striking to look at today as it was when the car first went on sale in 2010.
7 Kia Sportage
Number of registrations 6,309
The Kia Sportage has long been one of the Korean firm’s most popular cars in the UK, so it shouldn’t be too surprising to see the car in this list. Some customers have been won over by Kia’s market-leading seven-year/100,000-miles warranty but with smart styling, a fuel-saving mild-hybrid option and a mid-life facelift due, we wouldn’t be surprised if the Kia Sportage remains in the top 10 list for a while to come.
You can read our review of the Kia Sportage here.
8 BMW 1 Series
Number of registrations 6,280
Another premium hatchback that outsold the Volkswagen Golf last month was the BMW 1 Series, which enters the top 10 charts for the first time this year. The desirability of the BMW badge was likely a contributing factor in its impressive performance, but there’s more to the 1 Series than just badge appeal. In true BMW fashion, it’s excellent to drive, with the sporty handling backed up by a range of impressive engine options.
9 Ford Focus
Number of registrations 6.177
We’re big fans of the new Ford Focus here at Sunday Times Driving, and it appears a lot of new car buyers are too, as the family hatchback was the ninth most popular car in September, despite deliveries just beginning. Though it’s biggest USP is that it’s great fun to drive, there’s more to the new Focus than behind-the-wheel thrills. The interior is more spacious and better built than before, and there’s a great range of refined and efficient engines available too. Expect to see it higher up this list next month.
You can read our review of the Ford Focus here.
10 Ford Kuga
Number of registrations 6,018
Despite a 316% increase in registrations over August’s figures the Ford Kuga can’t stay ahead of its arch rivals, the Nissan Qashqai and Kia Sportage, for a second consecutive month. The family SUV has still done well, though, by rounding off September’s top 10 chart (and retaining its eighth place spot in overall registrations for the year so far)