Best selling cars in the UK 2021

We run down the top ten most popular cars in the UK, both new and used, and track the shift from traditional fuels to electric power

Simon Ostler
Aug 17, 2021
Volkswagen Polo

The number of new car registrations in July was the lowest recorded in the month since 1998, as the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) once again placed blame on the semi-conductor shortage for a continued lack of supply, alongside the so-called 'pingdemic' that has been cited for a shortfall in consumer activity. 

Overall, new car registrations in July 2021 fell by -29.5% compared with July 2020, a figure somewhat distorted by the burst of sales that occured last year as the UK first emerged from lockdown. The total number of new car sales in the month was 123,296, which is -22.3% below the previous decade average.

There is plenty of work still to do before we can expect to see a complete recovery in terms of new car sales, however, there is room for optimism - especially if you look at the progress of plug-in vehicles.

The number of registrations of petrol and diesel cars both fell in comparison with July 2020, but there was a marked rise for hybrid and electric cars. More than 10,000 electric cars were sold, making up 9% of the overall market. Over the course of the month, electric and hybrid cars made up 47.9% of all new cars registered in July.

It was the Volkswagen Polo that topped off an interesting list of the UK's best-selling cars in July as manufacturers appeared keen to shift remaining stock in anticipation of the arrival of a brand new model. The Polo saw off competition from the Toyota Yaris, Kia Sportage and Ford Puma, as family hatchbacks proved popular once again.

Most popular cars in July 2021

Volkswagen Polo
1. Volkswagen Polo
3,047 registrations

Used 2021 deals from £15,500
Monthly finance from £220*

Toyota Yaris Hybrid front three quarters view
2. Toyota Yaris - 3,001

Used 2021 deals from £18,995
Monthly finance from £272*

3. Kia Sportage - 2,631

Used 2021 deals from £18,456
Monthly finance from £326*

4. Ford Puma - 2,621

Used 2021 deals from £21,649
Monthly finance from £325*

5. Volkswagen Golf - 2,362

Used 2021 deals from £17,000
Monthly finance from £281*

6. Audi A3 - 2,300

Used 2021 deals from £24,199
Monthly finance from £346*

7. Mercedes A-Class - 2,186

Used 2021 deals from £24,480
Monthly finance from £370*

8. Mini Hatchback - 2,138

Used 2021 deals from £18,132
Monthly finance from £278*

9. Ford Fiesta - 2,010

Used 2021 deals from £10,300
Monthly finance from £195*

10. Hyundai Kona - 2,006

Used 2021 deals from £17,795
Monthly finance from £264*

Most popular cars by fuel

Another month, and another fall in diesel car sales. There were 28,844 diesels sold in July 2020, but just 8,783 diesel models were sold last month, making up 7.1% of the overall market share - which is below that of electric, plug-in hybrid and full hybrid models.

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. At the halfway point of 2021, diesel market share sat at 10.2%.

Meanwhile, petrol cars now make up fewer than half the UK's new car sales in 2021 up to this point. Petrol sales amounted to a 44.8% market share during the month, which is down -13.2% compared with July 2020.

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 quickly. Electric and hybrid cars are becoming an increasingly viable option for a growing number of drivers; a total of 11,139 new electric cars were sold in July, up from 8,162 this time last year, and 2,271 in July 2019.

Hybrid power also made gains across the board, 9,900 plug-in hybrids were sold in July, up from 7,489 in July last year, while mild hybrids also saw substantial gains during the month - mild hybrid petrols, in particular, accounted for 16,701 registrations (13.5% of the overall market share).

Most popular 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 second quarter of 2021, with 94,206 Fiestas changing hands. It's a long way ahead of the next most popular model, the Vauxhall Corsa, which saw 73,366 transactions.

In total, 2,167,504 used cars found new homes over the course of April to July 2021, which is a record for the second quarter of the year. Ignoring the 2020 slump for a moment, Q2 2021 saw used car transactions grow 6.6% on the pre-pandemic levels of 2019. All three months saw growth, with April 5% on 2019, May up 9.9% and June up 4.6%.

Despite a very active three months of trading, the 2021 year to date figures are still 200,000 down on 2019 at the half way stage, but it will be interesting to see if this post-lockdown clamour for cars continues as the year closes out.

Most popular used cars in Q2 2021


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