February 2021 new car sales revealed: who were the winners and losers?

February's sales are well down on last year, but What Car? data shows that many buyers are waiting for dealers to re-open in April before putting their money down...


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What Car? team

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The number of new cars sold in the UK in February was more than 35% less than in the same month last year, new figures have revealed.

The latest numbers show that 51,312 new cars were sold in February, revealing the impact the ongoing coronavirus pandemic has had on what is typically already a slow month for sales, ahead of March's  plate change. This year, of course, dealers have been forced to remain closed to the public, but many have been operating socially distanced click and collect services instead. Of the cars that were sold in February, almost 42% went to private buyers, with the majority going to fleets to be used as company cars.

Petrol-powered cars took the lion's share of sales last month, making up 52% of sales compared with diesel's 13%. Sales of electrified cars continue to out-perform the rest of the market, with more than 1000 extra purely electric, plug-in hybrid and hybrid cars sold this February than in the same month in 2020.

Mercedes EQC charging

It's important to note that, despite the current lockdown restrictions, you can still buy a new car in the UK, including by using our own New Car Buying service to chat with approved dealers. And with dealers expected to physically re-open around April 12, many are anticipating a sales boom for new cars. Indeed, recent What Car? data has revealed that almost 60% of car buyers have moved their buying plans to coincide with the re-opening date. In addition, 43% of the buyers we surveyed said they planned to put their money down within the next three months.

So which were the most popular cars in February? Below we count down the top 10.

10

Ford Focus

What Car? Target Price from

£20,453

RRP from £22,210 to £34,710

See new car deals Save up to £2,488 with What Car?

If you're looking for a family hatchback that's also great to drive, the Focus should be on your shortlist. With sharp handling and a range of peppy engines, it's capable of putting a big smile on your face, while its quiet cruising manners and roomy rear seats make it a sensible choice, too.

February sales 945

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Pros

  • Great handling
  • Well equipped
  • Roomy rear seats

Cons

  • Not that cheap to buy
  • Low-rent interior
  • Skoda Octavia has a much bigger boot
9

Ford Kuga

What Car? Target Price from

£24,805

RRP from £26,440 to £38,955

See new car deals Save up to £2,363 with What Car?

Ford's large SUV is a decent all-rounder, but makes especially good sense if you opt for the plug-in hybrid model, which has a long electric-only range. Elsewhere, it offers tidy handling and competitive pricing, even before you take our Target Price deals into account.

February sales 960

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Pros

  • Plug-in hybrid (PHEV) has a long electric-only range
  • Competitively priced against rivals
  • PHEV offers low company car tax

Cons

  • Interior quality doesn't impress
  • Relatively small boot
  • Infotainment system isn't the slickest
8

Volkswagen Tiguan

What Car? Target Price from

£23,414

RRP from £24,915 to £45,915

See new car deals Save up to £2,341 with What Car?

The Tiguan has plenty of competition within the family SUV market, both from mass-market rivals that include the Ford Kuga and Seat Ateca, but also from premium options including the class-leading Volvo XC40. The Tiguan makes a good case for itself, however, being both good to drive and roomier inside than many rivals.

February sales 1011

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Pros

  • Good to drive
  • Great seating flexibility
  • Roomier than many rivals

Cons

  • Higher trims get pricey
  • CO2 emissions could be lower
  • Fiddly air-con controls
7

Volkswagen T-Roc

What Car? Target Price from

£20,053

RRP from £21,440 to £40,735

See new car deals Save up to £2,615 with What Car?

This five-star small SUV definitely deserves a place on your new car shortlist. It's comfortable whether you're driving in town or on faster roads, it has a boot which is large enough for the needs of most families, and it's available with a range of peppy petrol engines.

February sales 1031

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Pros

  • Comfortable ride and quiet on the motorway
  • High-set driving position for a small SUV
  • Good boot by class standards

Cons

  • Cheap-feeling interior
  • Upper trims and engine options are too pricey
  • Unexciting handling; the Ford Puma is a sharper drive
6

Kia Niro

What Car? Target Price from

£23,445

RRP from £25,150 to £32,195

See new car deals Save up to £4,472 with What Car?

Available as a hybrid, a plug-in hybrid or as a fully electric car, the Kia Niro SUV is proof that going green can be the right choice for most drivers. It's well equipped, offers low running costs and comes with the reassurance of a seven-year warranty should anything go wrong.

February sales 1215

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Pros

  • Ultra-low company car tax for the Niro PHEV
  • Well equipped
  • Seven-year warranty

Cons

  • Other family SUVs are cheaper
  • Not much fun to drive
  • Small boot
5

Volvo XC40

What Car? Target Price from

£25,440

RRP from £25,440 to £60,005

See new car deals Save up to £2,514 with What Car?

The Volvo XC40 is a former What Car? Car of the Year and is our reigning Family SUV of the Year too. It's good to drive, spacious inside for people and their luggage, and has a well-built interior.

February sales 1251

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Pros

  • Stylish and high-quality interior
  • Comfortable ride on most versions
  • Comprehensive safety kit

Cons

  • Lacks the rear seat flexibility of some rivals
  • Fiddly infotainment system
  • Road noise on the motorway
4

Mercedes A-Class

What Car? Target Price from

£22,652

RRP from £24,095 to £57,195

See new car deals Save up to £2,617 with What Car?

The A-Class is every inch the premium family hatchback, from its stunning interior to its comfortable ride. It's usually an expensive choice, but big discounts are available through our New Car Buying service

February sales 1298

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Pros

  • Strong safety rating
  • Feature-packed infotainment system
  • Good to drive and very comfortable

Cons

  • Not cheap to buy outright or on finance
  • Restrictive and pricey option packs
  • Poor reliability record
3

Nissan Qashqai

What Car? Target Price from

£20,062

RRP from £23,550 to £31,790

See new car deals Save up to £5,137 with What Car?

It may be one of the older entrants into the family SUV class, but that doesn't stop the Qashqai shifting in big numbers. It's good to drive, relatively practical and is usually available with decent discounts, too. An all-new version will go on sale in the summer.

February sales 1321

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Pros

  • Big discounts
  • Quiet and smooth 1.3 petrol and 1.5 diesel engines
  • Surefooted handling and easy to drive

Cons

  • Top-end versions are very pricey
  • Ride comfort isn't great on 18in and 19in wheels
  • Reliability is a concern
2

Vauxhall Corsa

What Car? Target Price from

£15,642

RRP from £16,540 to £33,895

See new car deals Save up to £1,560 with What Car?

There are better all-rounders in the small car market, but it's still easy to see the appeal of the Corsa: it's cheap to run and well equipped, and you can choose from a wide variety of power options (including a fully electric version).

February sales 1408

 

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Pros

  • Well equipped
  • Decent boot
  • Efficient engines

Cons

  • Laggy and confusing infotainment system
  • Below-par safety rating
  • Poor resale values
1

Ford Fiesta

What Car? Target Price from

£15,411

RRP from £16,640 to £27,075

See new car deals Save up to £1,821 with What Car?

The Ford Fiesta was Britain's best-selling new car in 2020, and despite getting off to a slow start in 2021 returns to leading the table this month. There's good reason why it's such a strong seller; it's a cracking small car that's superb to drive and won't cost you much to run.

February sales 1645

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Pros

  • Brilliant to drive
  • Punchy Ecoboost engines, especially the Hybrid versions
  • Good fuel economy and CO2 emissions

Cons

  • Some rivals are better value
  • Decent but not class-leading practicality
  • Important safety kit not standard
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