THE DISRUPTION caused in September when the new, tougher “WLTP” emissions tests were introduced may have ended, but the UK new car market has continued its like-for-like decline for 2018 as the year draws to a close.
According to November’s figures from the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT), 158,639 new cars were registered in the UK, which is a 3% reduction over the same period last year. Most of that fall came about from the 6.4% fall in private registrations, which was partially offset by stable fleet and business sales.
Petrol-powered cars have been overwhelmingly popular since the dieselgate scandal rocked consumer confidence, so it’s perhaps no surprise that this trend continued in November, with 96,441 petrol cars being registered in the UK last month.
Meanwhile, like-for-like diesel demand continued to fall, though the reduction of 16.7% isn’t as steep as it has been in the past. Proving there’s still demand in the UK for cars that use this fuel, 51,429 diesel cars were registered in November.
Hybrids and electric cars continue to be the winners in terms of growth, as 24.6% more “alternatively fuelled cars” were registered last month than during the same period last year.
However, that only amounted to just 10,789 vehicles, of which only 5,913 were petrol-electric hybrids and 1,414 were pure-electric. There were 3,441 plug-in hybrid registrations in November despite a government grant for such cars being pulled at the start of the month.
For the most part, November’s top 10 new car sales chart doesn’t throw up many surprises, with the new Ford Fiesta leading the way, although the VW Golf is performing remarkably well.
There were some closer battles further down the order, however: had 81 more Ford Focuses been registered last month, the hatchback would have finished fourth rather than seventh.
1 Ford Fiesta
Number of registrations 5,193
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.
2 Volkswagen Golf
Number of registrations 4,678
With a combination of efficient engines, excellent build quality, strong driving manners, a class-leading interior and plenty of practicality, it’s easy to see why the Volkswagen Golf is one of the country’s best-selling new cars. Those strong sales also bode incredibly well for the next generation Golf, which is due to enter production in June 2019.
3 Mercedes-Benz A-Class
Number of registrations 4,104
For the third month in a row, the all-new Mercedes-Benz A-Class has been the third most popular new car in the UK, finishing a few hundred units shy of the second-placed Golf. The Mercedes deserves its podium place on merit, too: very few rivals can match it for interior build quality and the amount of tech.
4 Nissan Qashqai
Number of registrations 3,195
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 last month. More accomplished than ever, after a mid-life facelift in October, the Qashqai remains a comfortable, affordable and spacious option in the SUV class.
5 Mini Hatch
Number of registrations 3,170
Just 26 units shy of outselling the Nissan Qashqai last month, the retro Mini hatch maintains its status as one of the UK’s most popular new cars. A strong November also means the Mini has overtaken the Volkswagen Polo in the year-to-date charts, and is now the sixth best-selling new car of 2018 so far.
6 Volkswagen Polo
Number of registrations 3,115
Though marginally outsold last month (and the year-so-far) by the Mini, November marked a very strong recovery for the Volkswagen Polo: the car was only in 10th spot in October, and didn’t make the cut at all in September. Like its bigger brother, the Volkswagen Golf, the Polo offers a well-rounded package, courtesy of its smart styling, frugal engines and well-built interior.
7 Ford Focus
Number of registrations 3,068
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 seventh most popular car in November. Though its biggest USP is still 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, with plenty of tech, and there’s a great range of refined and efficient engines available too. Expect to see it higher up this list next month.
8 Vauxhall Mokka x
Number of registrations 2,778
In arguably the biggest surprise in the November charts, the most popular Vauxhall model wasn’t the Corsa supermini. Instead, the Mokka X crossover was the company’s best seller, with 2,778 examples being registered last month. By virtue of being the only example on this list, the Vauxhall Mokka X was the UK’s most popular supermini-sized crossover in November, too. Still, the days when Vauxhall was dicing with Ford for the most sales overall seem like a distant memory.
9 Kia Sportage
Number of registrations 2,731
Kia’s Sportage keeps dipping in and out of the top 10, and November was the family SUV’s time to return the charts only a few hundred units shy of its Nissan Qashqai nemesis. Though the Sportage impresses in areas such as comfort and practicality, arguably its strongest asset is the seven-year/100,00 mile warranty that promises a peace of mind ownership experience.
10 Vauxhall Corsa
Number of registrations 2,594
After disappearing from the top 10 entirely in October, the Vauxhall Corsa has returned to the charts, though in a lowly-by-Corsa-standards spot of 10th place. However, Vauxhall might not lose too much sleep if sales of the supermini don’t improve, as an all-new Corsa is due to go on sale in 2019.