Most popular cars in Britain 2021

New car showrooms are open again in the UK, bit there is still a long way to go before we can expect to see sales return to pre-Covid levels

Simon Ostler
May 10, 2021

Despite the nationwide opening of car showrooms in the UK, new car registrations remained below the average of the past decade in April. Although generally the upshot is one of growth compared with this time last year when the first Covid-19 lock down was in full swing, there is still long road to recovery for the automotive industry.

Of the new cars that were sold in April, the Vauxhall Corsa was the most popular, as it held station ahead of the Mercedes A-Class and Ford Fiesta. Although overall numbers were down significantly compared to what we saw in March, this was still a substantial month for the Corsa as it cemented its place as Britain's most popular car so far in 2021. The Ford Puma also sold extremely well, along side the larger Ford Kuga and Kia Sportage in the ever-popular SUV class.

Completing what is a high-quality list of the 10 most popular cars in April were the Volkswagen Golf, Ford Focus and Audi A3 and Volkswagen Polo. Smaller hatchbacks have proven popular in 2021, perhaps reflecting a reduction in the amount of long distance commuting currently taking place.

Electric cars continue to gain momentum in the new car market. There are some 40 electric models on sale now, and together with plug-in hybrid models they have made up 13.6% of all new cars sold so far in 2021.

Best-selling cars in April 2021

Best-selling cars by fuel

Another month, and another drop in the sales of diesel cars. Although there was a substantial jump in sales year-on-year in April, just 14,012 new diesel registrations meant overall market share for the scorned fuel was down to just 9.9%.

Overall diesel sales in 2016 reached 1.2 million, accounting for almost half of all new cars sold in the UK. But with diesel emissions coming under greater scrutiny, and the threat of diesel surcharges and taxes growing, demand has decreased dramatically. In 2018 new diesel car registrations had dropped to 750,165 and made up just 32% of the overall market. By the end of 2019, the proportion of new cars that are powered by diesel had fallen to just 22.7%, and that trend shows no sign of abating as diesel cars amounted to only 16% of the market by the end of 2020. Diesel market share is currently sitting at 11.0% so far over the course of 2021.

Meanwhile, petrol cars now make up fewer than half the UK's new car sales in 2021 up to this point. Although 71,173 petrol sales amounted to a 50.3% market share during the month, which is up compared with April 2020. In the year to date however, petrol market share is down by more than 10% compared to this time last year.

This gradual drop in traditional fuels has paved the way for a boost in the electrified car market. Where petrol and diesel sales have fallen year-on-year, electrified alternatives are growing exponentially. Electric and hybrid cars are becoming an increasingly viable option for a growing number of drivers; a total of 9,152 new electric cars were sold in April, up from 1,374 this time last year.

Hybrid power also made gains across the board, plug-in hybrids saw a rise of 9,505 registrations compared to April last year, while mild hybrids also saw substantial gains during the month - mild hybrid petrols in particular accounted for 16,518 registrations (more than 11% of the overall market share). This gradual growth of more efficient models has led to average emissions figures for new cars dropping below 120g/km - a number that will need to be close to zero by 2030.

Best-selling used cars

The latest SMMT used car sales figures show that the Ford Fiesta remained the most popular car on the used market for the fourth quarter of 2020, with 74,525 Fiestas changing hands. It's a long way ahead of the next most popular model, the Vauxhall Corsa, which saw 63,162 transactions.

As with the Fiesta's performance in new car sales, it appears totally unbeatable in the popularity stakes - a total of 289,847 transactions over the course of 2020 made it the most popular used car by some distance.

In total, 1,693,138 used cars found new homes during the final quarter of 2020, rounding off the year with 6,752,959 used car transactions in total - the lowest number since 2012 and a year-on-year drop of 14.9% compared to 2019.


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