The latest list of Britain's best-selling cars hints at changing trends as well as showing the continuing popularity of some stalwarts. What cars are at the top?
6 November 2017

Established brands and models dominate the top 10 list of best-selling cars in the UK and the hatchback rules supreme. However, the latest sales figures show that some newer additions to Britain’s roads are growing in popularity, despite an overall slowing down of market sales.

The latest figures cover the year to the end of October and show that superminis and hatchbacks remain the most popular, particularly Volkswagens; this month, the Golf overtook the Ford Focus for second place, and the Polo overtook the Vauxhall Astra for sixth place. Longstanding leader, the Ford Fiesta, continues to fly out of dealerships, but the Nissan Qashqai led the pack in September 2017, ahead even of the Fiesta last month, with the Volkswagen Golf coming in second.

1: Ford Fiesta – 83,070 registrations

The Fiesta has been a British favourite for decades and that shows no signs of changing, even though the latest incarnation is now eight years old and its replacement is soon to arrive. Its sales figures are well ahead of the closest rivals', even though it’s not the cheapest choice in the segment. The Fiesta's sales performance is well deserved, though. The Ford supermini as hugely impressive, as our four-star review proves. We particularly like its ride and handling, interior quality and smooth engine range.

2: Volkswagen Golf - 62,565 registrations

The Golf is another classic name in motoring that attracts legions of diehard fans to keep it riding high in the charts, even with Volkswagen’s recent scandal. Emissions concerns aside, the seventh-generation Golf, including newly introduced facelifted version, is a consummate all-rounder - so much so that it was actually June's best-selling car. In our 4.5-star review, we called it the best hatchback in the world, and we’ll stand by that assessment.

3: Ford Focus – 62,029 registrations

The Focus has delivered an outstanding drive since it replaced the Escort with aplomb in 1998, offering impressive road manners at a volume price. It has been so good, in fact, that we were slightly disappointed by the diluted dynamics of the latest version. However, as our review notes, it’s still a very appealing, complete car. It looks good, has a strong, economical engine range and offers a lot of quality for its price.

4: Nissan Qashqai – 57,120 registrations

Is it really a decade since Nissan’s now ubiquitous crossover first arrived? Its blend of hatchback size and SUV pretensions have proved a huge draw for customers and it’s now the best-selling small SUV in the country, leaving a trail of imitators in its wake. The second-generation model, released in 2014, keeps dynamic, economic and interior standards high, garnering a 4.5-star review from our road test team. No wonder it’s holding firm in the sales charts.

5: Vauxhall Corsa – 48,315 registrations

The Corsa is another established doyen in the UK and Vauxhall’s perennial rival to the Fiesta. The latest generation arrived in 2014 and offers something for most people, from the 74bhp 1.4-litre petrol option to the 202bhp snorting VXR version. It’s competitively priced, drives and rides well and is designed and specced to please the car's large fan base. It's being rapidly caught up by the Volkswagen Polo, but even so, it's hard to see it dropping further down this list any time soon.

6: Volkswagen Polo - 43,158 registrations

Volkswagen’s supermini offers a touch more class and sophistication than the Fiesta and Corsa, albeit at a higher price. It’s more mature and conservative in its demeanour, but many of the British car-buying public embrace such traits, which is why the Polo is a top 10 stalwart and scores four stars in our review. Now in its fifth generation, soon to be sixth, it could easily be mistaken for a smaller Golf, which is no bad thing.

7: Vauxhall Astra - 43,116 registrations

The Astra is something of an also-ran to the Ford Focus, but the latest generation, launched in 2015, is a thoroughly decent car in its own right. Well equipped with sharp handling and economical engines, it earns a strong four-star review from us, although we had reservations about its ride and styling. Overall, though, it deserves to be considered as one of the best hatches you can buy.

8: Mercedes-Benz C-Class - 41,281 registrations

It’s unusual for a premium car to find itself in the top 10, but it’s testament to the C-Class’s appeal, particularly among fleet customers, that it’s shifting so many units for Mercedes. Looking like a miniature S-Class doesn’t hurt the latest version, which was launched in 2014. It’s an excellent offering that garnered a four-star review from our test team, who fell for its high-quality interior and alluring looks. Good residual values do it no harm, either.

9: Mini - 38,964 registrations

The Mini has moved back into ninth, retaking the place from the Mercedes A-Class in June. Although near the base of this list, the Mini is a top-10 regular - and who can blame buyers? Charming looks, sharp handling and BMW-quality are just three of its strong points, but now there's also a five-door variant for added practicality. 

10: Mercedes-Benz A-Class - 37,937 registrations

Mercedes' smallest model rounds out the top 10, keeping the Nissan Juke out of the club in an increasingly premium-segment list. It's tight, though, as models such as the Audi A3 and BMW 1 Series are all close behind.

Read more: 

UK car market hits record high in March 2017

The most expensive number plates sold in the UK

The 12 most expensive cars sold at auction

Our Verdict

Ford Focus

Britain's biggest-selling family hatchback gets a mid-life refresh, but can the Ford Focus hold off the likes of the Volkswagen Golf and the Seat Leon?

Join the debate

Comments
51

6 September 2016
Surely its only a matter of time before the Astra and Corsa overtake the sales of the Focus and Fiesta? We all know the Corsa is a light makeover of the previous version, but its still a very capable, fresher offering than the Fiesta. The Astra seems to be well rated and looks good to me, and again, a newer alternative. On the evidence of its latest offerings, the Fiesta may well lose its dynamic advantages with the replacement model, so maybe then other manufacturers will take a lead on the ever popular Ford.

6 September 2016
I can't see Vauxhall outselling Ford anytime soon. Cars don't sell to the masses on their dynamic ability, so no matter how much Ford dilutes the driving experience of the forthcoming Fiesta, I'm sure it will still reign supreme in the sales chart. If you think back to the late eighties/early nineties when the Fiesta and Escort were well off the pace dynamically, they still outsold all their rivals.

TS7

6 September 2016
...well, guessing, that on the very rare occasions the Corsa has outsold the Fiesta it's been nothing more than a statistical blip. It might happen during the odd month, but never over the course of a year, for example.

TS7

6 September 2016
...but in europe as a whole the Corsa did indeed outsell the Fiesta from 1997 to 2004, 2007 & 2008. Though my previous comments refer to the UK only.

4 November 2016
catnip wrote:

Surely its only a matter of time before the Astra and Corsa overtake the sales of the Focus and Fiesta? We all know the Corsa is a light makeover of the previous version, but its still a very capable, fresher offering than the Fiesta. The Astra seems to be well rated and looks good to me, and again, a newer alternative. On the evidence of its latest offerings, the Fiesta may well lose its dynamic advantages with the replacement model, so maybe then other manufacturers will take a lead on the ever popular Ford.

Considering all fords are made in the EU, they are best placed to receive tariffs on their all their cars. Vauxhall on the other hand do produce the Astra in the uk so hopefully this time in a few years it will be topping the charts. 3 out of 10 cars made in the uk just goes to show how the uk has lost out in car production while being in the EU membership with Germany clearly the biggest winner.

No Honda and Toyota just goes to show how obsessed the British are with German junk even though the Japanese have far far superior reliability. We act like we have pride in our country yet buy nothing that we make ourselves and support OUR economy. It shameless

5 April 2017
GODFATHER wrote:
catnip wrote:

Surely its only a matter of time before the Astra and Corsa overtake the sales of the Focus and Fiesta? We all know the Corsa is a light makeover of the previous version, but its still a very capable, fresher offering than the Fiesta. The Astra seems to be well rated and looks good to me, and again, a newer alternative. On the evidence of its latest offerings, the Fiesta may well lose its dynamic advantages with the replacement model, so maybe then other manufacturers will take a lead on the ever popular Ford.

Considering all fords are made in the EU, they are best placed to receive tariffs on their all their cars. Vauxhall on the other hand do produce the Astra in the uk so hopefully this time in a few years it will be topping the charts. 3 out of 10 cars made in the uk just goes to show how the uk has lost out in car production while being in the EU membership with Germany clearly the biggest winner.

No Honda and Toyota just goes to show how obsessed the British are with German junk even though the Japanese have far far superior reliability. We act like we have pride in our country yet buy nothing that we make ourselves and support OUR economy. It shameless

How has the UK lost in car production whilst in EU? Vauxhall has been part of GM for decades prior to PSA ownership. Rover , Bentley RR all sold off. BL a disaster way before joining EU. Even though most volume manufacturers are foreign owned production has grown.
Don't count on the Astra being kept in U.K. Opel Poland manufactures it along with Buicks using cheaper labour. Would not be surprised if PSA use economies of scale and transfer everything to Europe in the long term.

4 November 2016
catnip wrote:

Surely its only a matter of time before the Astra and Corsa overtake the sales of the Focus and Fiesta? We all know the Corsa is a light makeover of the previous version, but its still a very capable, fresher offering than the Fiesta. The Astra seems to be well rated and looks good to me, and again, a newer alternative. On the evidence of its latest offerings, the Fiesta may well lose its dynamic advantages with the replacement model, so maybe then other manufacturers will take a lead on the ever popular Ford.

Registrations for October 2016: Vauxhall Astra- 4985 (second best selling car); Ford Focus- 4096 (sixth best selling car).
I however think this is more a one off than a long term trend.
Source: SMMT

5 June 2017
catnip wrote:

Surely its only a matter of time before the Astra and Corsa overtake the sales of the Focus and Fiesta?

Who knows. It is interesting that while other manufacturers are madly introducing high-tech new models all the time, Ford continues to knock out ancient designs like the Fiesta and Focus year after year and hey're best sellers.

6 September 2016
The Fiesta is a superb drive, the Corsa isn't.

6 September 2016
2nd that

Pages

Add your comment

Log in or register to post comments

Find an Autocar car review

Driven this week

  • Volkswagen Golf MHEV
    First Drive
    23 November 2017
    VW's 48V mild hybrid technology is still a few years away from production, but we’ve sampled a prototype Golf fitted with it and are suitably impressed
  • Jeep Compass
    First Drive
    23 November 2017
    Jeep enters the competitive compact SUV market with its new Compass, blending ruggedness with contemporary styling and tech
  • BMW 1 Series Saloon
    We had a short drive in a China-only front-wheel-drive BMW 1 Series
    First Drive
    23 November 2017
    A brief drive in a China-only front-wheel-drive model shows the future is bright for the 1 Series when it makes the switch from RWD next year
  • BMW 5 Series
    First Drive
    23 November 2017
    The BMW 5 Series is top of the mid-exec pack, but is there still room for a diesel saloon in everyday family life?
  • Toyota Prius PHEV
    First Drive
    23 November 2017
    Does running a plug-in hybrid really make sense as a 500-mile-a-week driver? Six months with a Toyota Prius Plug-in should give a conclusive answer