Best-selling cars in Britain 2020

Ford's supremacy has been challenged by the Volkswagen Golf. It's about to be replaced, but it's still popular

Simon Ostler
Mar 5, 2020

Click on the gallery above to look at the ten best-selling cars last month and how many they sold.

The year is well and truly up and running, but a slow start to car sales continues as the Volkswagen Golf overtook the Ford Fiesta as the UK's best-selling car in February. Ford maintained its superiority to some extent, though, as the Fiesta and the Ford Focus maintained their positions as the best-selling cars of 2020 so far. Hatchbacks were again the car to have, with the Vauxhall Corsa and Mercedes A-Class completing the top five.

In what is always something of a quiet month for the new car market, SUVs saw reduced sales in February, although the Vauxhall Grandland X and Nissan Qashqai both made appearances in the top ten, cementing their positions as the most popular in their sector as the Kia Sportage dropped out.

Fleeting appearances from the ever-popular Mini Hatchback and BMW 5 Series are hardly surprising considering their quality and popularity, while the ever-present VW Polo continued its run as one of Britain's best-sellers.

Overall, the UK new car market saw a drop of 2.9% in registrations compared with February 2019, continuing a disappointing start to the year after a strong end to the last decade. Diesel cars continue to suffer large falls in sales with another substantial 27.1% year-on-year drop in registrations, while Petrol sales also fell by 7.3%.

Electric powered cars continued to see growth, however, with fully electric models proving much more popular than they did 12 months ago. In February alone, electric car sales rose to 2,508 from the 731 sold last year.

Over the entirety of 2019, 37,850 electric cars were registered - a growth of 144% on the 15,510 in 2018. It will be interesting to see how that trend continues as we head into a new decade already defined by its promise of new and improved electric cars - as it stands, 2020 has seen 6,562 electric cars registered.

In total, only 79,594 new cars were registered in February 2020 according to the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT).

The success of the Golf has allowed Volkswagen to overthrow Ford as the overall market leader; the manufacturer took 11.24% of the market share, while Ford still performed well with 10.63%. BMW and Mercedes were their closest challengers, albeit some way behind with 8.36% and 7.22% of the market share respectively.

Best-selling cars 2020

Best-selling cars in February 2020

Best-selling cars: the winners

It was DS celebrating a strong month of sales, as the manufacturer saw 140 vehicles roll of its production line. While that might not sound like a lot, it's still a substantial improvement on last year, of 141.38% to be exact. The DS brand remains something of a niche however, so any improvement has to be grabbed with both hands.

A list comprising Abarth, Fiat, Land RoverLexus, MG, Nissan, Porsche, Seat, SsangYong, Toyota and Volkswagen all saw demand rise by at least 10% compared with February 2019. 

Best-selling cars: the fallers

The downward spiral has finally been halted by Smart! Its catastrophic run of sales has abated somewhat, meaning the manufacturer was not the biggest loser in February. It was Subaru instead that struggled for sales, shifting just 24 cars as it saw demand fall by 67.57%. 

A long list of manufacturers that made losses of over 10% includes AudiDacia, Ford (yet it remains the most popular manufacturer), Jaguar, JeepMaserati, Mazda, Mitsubishi, Peugeot, Renault, Smart and Suzuki.

Best-selling cars by fuel

Another month, and another drop in the sales of diesel cars. In all, just 17,457 diesels were registered in February, making up 21.9% of the overall market and amounting to a year-on-year drop of 27.1% - that's less of a drop than previous months, but another substantial drop nonetheless.

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 - diesels currently amount to 20.5% of the market share in 2020.

Petrol cars on the other hand now make up almost two thirds of the UK's new car sales, while electric cars are now beginning to pick up some momentum. Electric alternatives are becoming an increasingly viable option for a growing percentage of drivers, and although total sales reached only 2,508 in February, that's still a growth of 243.1% on this time last year.

Hybrids also made gains across the board, plug-in variants saw a rise of 49.9% year-on-year, while mild hybrids also saw substantial gains during February - hybrid-diesels in particular, with 1,890 registrations. Manufacturers planning to launch a raft of electric cars as we head into 2020 will be hoping this trend continues.

Best-selling used cars

The latest SMMT used car sales figures released in November 2019 show that the Ford Fiesta remained the most popular car on the used market for the third quarter of 2019, with 90,428 cars changing hands.

As with the Fiesta's performance in new car sales, it appears totally unbeatable in the popularity stakes - as it was also the most popular used car for 2018 too, accruing 322,532 transactions for the year.

In total, 2,076,382 used cars found new homes during the third quarter of 2019 - down 0.8% compared to the previous year.

Also in keeping with new car trends, hybrid, plug-in hybrid, and electric cars gained 13% year-on-year with used transactions totalling 37,589. In total, the share for these low-emission alternatives only accounted for 1.8% of all transactions - with conventional petrol and diesel engines making up 98.2% of the market. Petrol cars fell by 0.2% however, while diesel was slightly up by 1.4% year-on-year.


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