Most popular cars in the UK: April sales up despite falling private demand

Was it an SUV, a family car or a small hatchback which topped the UK's new car sales charts in April? We have the answer...

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Darren Moss
Published07 May 2024

Dealership featuring Mercedes E-Class

The number of new cars sold in the UK in April was 1% higher than in the same month in 2023 – but while the numbers are up on paper, the reality shows a fall in the demand for new cars among private buyers.

Official figures reveal that of the 134,274 new cars sold in the UK last month, just 50,458 went to private buyers – a fall of 17.7% on the same month in 2023. That means private new car sales accounted for just 37.6% of the total for April – leaving the rest to be taken up by businesses and company car fleets.

Of the cars which were sold in April, the vast majority (55.8%) were powered by petrol, while sales of electric, plug-in hybrid and hybrid cars accounted for 37.8% of the market. Sales of diesel-powered cars continued to decline, with such cars making up just 6.4% of the total last month.

So which was the most popular car in the UK in April? Scroll down this story to find out. And if any of them take your fancy, you can also click through to our free New Car Deals service to see how much we can save you without the hassle of haggling.

Data source: SMMT

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Our pick: 1.0 EcoBoost Hybrid mHEV 155 ST-Line DCT 5dr

0-62mph: 8.7 sec
MPG/range: 49.6mpg
CO2 emissions: 128g/km
Seats: 5
Insurance group: 17E


  • Great fun to drive
  • Remarkable blend of performance and fuel economy
  • Big and cleverly designed boot


  • Rear space is adequate rather than outstanding
  • Visibility could be better
  • Volkswagen T-Roc is more comfortable and quieter

The Ford Puma is a former What Car? Car of the Year, and even though its small SUV crown has now been taken by the excellent Lexus LBX, it remains one of the best cars in its class.

The Puma should certainly put a smile on your face, because it's very agile, especially in ST-Line guise with sports suspension, and has well-weighted, engaging steering.

The interior is well laid out and reasonably plush, although rivals such as the Mini Countryman and Volkswagen T-Roc provide a much more upmarket feel. Also, rear visibility isn’t ideal, and the view out of the front can be limited, depending on your seating position.

The boot is large for the class and has a height-adjustable floor with even more storage underneath. Excellent fuel economy and a low CO2 output also help to make the case for the playful Puma being a sensible buy. 

Our favourite version Ford Puma 1.0 Ecoboost mHEV 155 ST-Line
List price £29,250
Target price £27,730
Target PCP £346

April sales 4339

Read our Ford Puma review

Our pick: 1.0 TSI Life 5dr

0-62mph: 10.8 sec
MPG/range: 54.3mpg
CO2 emissions: 118g/km
Seats: 5
Boot: 351 litres
Insurance group: 9E


  • Good to drive
  • Generous interior space
  • Attractive PCP finance deals


  • Fiddly touch-sensitive controls
  • Gutless entry-level petrol
  • Reliability could be better

If you're in the market for a small car but still want a smattering of big car luxury, then the Volkswagen Polo deserves a spot on your shortlist – because it gets many of the same comforts and technology features as the larger Volkswagen Golf family car.

Let's start inside, where drivers of all shapes and sizes should have no trouble getting comfortable, because the Polo offers lots of adjustment for the seat and steering wheel. Its interior is a nice place to be, too, with materials which feel a cut above rivals like the Skoda Fabia and Suzuki Swift. And while you can spend a fair amount to upgrade the standard-fit 8.0in infotainment system to a larger 9.2in screen, we don't think you need to bother, because the standard setup looks good enough and reacts quickly to your inputs.

Our recommended 1.0-litre petrol engine gives the Polo plenty of pep around town, yet doesn't feel out of its breath on faster roads. We'd avoid the entry-level TSI 80 engine if you can, because it doesn't have a turbocharger, so can feel a bit weedy when you need to get up to speed quickly.

Our favourite version 1.0 TSI 95 Life
List price £21,915
Target price £20,666
Target PCP £219

April sales 3413

Read our Volkswagen Polo review

Our pick: 40 TFSI e Sport 5dr S Tronic

0-62mph: 7.6 sec
MPG/range: 256.8mpg
CO2 emissions: 26g/km
Seats: 5
Boot: 280 litres
Insurance group: 24E


  • Sharp handling
  • Excellent driving position
  • Strong and frugal engines


  • Audi's unimpressive reliability record
  • Fiddly infotainment system
  • Plug-in hybrid is currently off-sale

The Audi A3 is one of our favourite upmarket family cars, and we think in 40 TFSIe guise, it’s one of the best plug-in hybrids on the market. It’s no surprise then, that the A3 frequently makes the list of Britain’s best sellers.

Audi’s family hatchback is better to drive than the Mercedes A-Class and is quieter than the BMW 1 Series. And with physical controls, its tech is easier to use than that of the Volkswagen Golf

It’s worth singling out the plug-in hybrid 40 TFSIe because it has a 40-mile all-electric range and attracts appealing low company car tax bills.

Our favourite version 40 TFSIe Sport
List price £36,400
Target price £34,355
Target PCP £322

April sales 3010

Read our Audi A3 review

Our pick: 1.3 DiG-T MH N-Connecta 5dr

0-62mph: 10.2 sec
MPG/range: 44.1mpg
CO2 emissions: 144g/km
Seats: 5
Boot: 479 litres
Insurance group: 12E


  • Lots of standard safety kit
  • Great driving position
  • Smart interior


  • So-so performance
  • Some rivals are more fun to drive
  • Lacks the seating flexibility of many rivals

For many buyers, the Nissan Qashqai exemplifies the family SUV class. After all, it was the car that first popularised the idea of a tall car without the sky-high running costs of a traditional off-roader. The latest version is a fine all-rounder, combining good practicality with some efficient engine options.

Our preferred choice is the entry-level 1.3-litre petrol, which has mild hybrid technology to help lower your fuel bills.

Meanwhile, there's a good reason why most Qashqai buyers choose N-Connecta trim, because it bundles together lots of desirable kit – including 18in alloy wheels, dual-zone climate control and keyless entry – for a very reasonable price.

While its performance in April makes it only the month's fourth best-selling new car, for 2024 as a year the Qashqai is second only to the Ford Puma in the sales charts, with more than 17,000 units sold. Be aware that a facelifted version of the Qashqai is due to launch later this year.

Our favourite version Nissan Qashqai 1.3 DiG-T MH N-Connecta
List price £31,905
Target price £28,588
Target PCP £262

April sales 2495

Read our Nissan Qashqai review



  • Exceedingly comfortable ride with adaptive suspension
  • Tidy handling
  • Strong and frugal 1.5 TSI 150 engine


  • Frustratingly fiddly infotainment system is full of software bugs
  • Interior quality could be better
  • There are more spacious rivals

It's one of the most well-known family cars on the market, but the Golf more than deserves its popularity. For a start, it mixes comfort and practicality very well – it rides around town with similar levels of comfort to the pricier Mercedes A-Class, for example, yet also has space for five carry-on suitcases in its boot.

There's a good choice of Golf engines, including mild and plug-in hybrid options, as well as a diesel for those covering lots of miles, but our top choice is the mid-range 148bhp 1.5-litre petrol, which can get you up to motorway speeds in a swift 8.5sec, yet should also keep your running costs in check.

While the Golf handles well, the Seat Leon is even more of a hoot to drive quickly, while the Ford Focus is slightly quieter at speed.

Our favourite version 1.5 TSI Life
List price £28,175
Target price £28,175
Target PCP NA

April sales 2361

Read our Volkswagen Golf review

Our pick: 1.6T GDi 157 48V ISG 3 5dr

0-62mph: 9.9 sec
MPG/range: 42.8mpg
CO2 emissions: 149g/km
Seats: 5
Boot: 562 litres


  • Lower-spec models are great value
  • Smart interior
  • Generous rear leg room and boot space


  • Hybrid petrol engine sounds strained
  • Rear head room compromised with panoramic roof
  • No clever rear seat functions

The family SUV market is extremely competitive, so a car has to be truly excellent to stand out. The Kia Sportage absolutely is, though – in fact, it's our reigning Family SUV of the Year.

Practicality is a particular strength, with the boot spacious and thoughtfully designed, and the interior offering plenty of leg and head room in both the front and the rear. In addition, the Sportage is plush inside – more so than the Hyundai Tucson which it is closely related.

The entry-level model is very temptingly priced, but upgrading to our recommended 3 trim gives you lots of useful extras, such as heated front seats and keyless start.

Our favourite version Kia Sportage 1.6T GDi 48V ISG 3
List price £32,890
Target price £30,899
Target PCP £366

April sales 2192

Read our Kia Sportage review



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


  • Touch-sensitive controls can be fiddly
  • Upper trims and engine options are too pricey
  • Unexciting handling (the Ford Puma is a sharper drive)

While its crown as our favourite small SUV has been taken by the Lexus LBX, we wouldn't stop you from buying the Volkswagen T-Roc, because it remains one of the best cars of its kind.

The T-Roc has historically been a comfortable and practical small SUV, with more leg room for rear passengers than the rival Nissan Juke, and more boot space than you'd find in a Seat Arona. However, in previous versions the interior wasn't quite up to par – an issue which was fixed with a recent facelift, meaning most of the areas you touch regularly now feel worth of the T-Roc's price tag. Go for a range-topping R-Line model, and you even get sports seats to relax into.

That said, our favourite trim is Life, which comes with all the kit you're likely to want but keeps the price reasonable. Pair that with the peppy yet efficient 1.0-litre petrol engine, and you'll have a small SUV which ticks almost every box.

Our favourite version 1.0 TSI 115 Life
List price £28,330
Target price £26,832
Target PCP £257

April sales 2162

Read our Volkswagen T-Roc review

Buying & Owning


  • Cheap yet very well equipped
  • Plush interior for the price
  • Good ride and handling balance


  • Small boot by class standards
  • Coarse engine
  • Laggy infotainment system

Proving that you don't need to spend a lot of money to drive a cracking SUV, the latest MG HS majors on value for money. That's because not only does it undercut most rivals on price, but it's also predicted to hold its value better than the rival Citroen C5 Aircross or Mazda CX-5. And, if you go for our recommended plug-in hybrid model and can plug it in regularly, you'll find your running costs cut to the bone, too.

Speaking of the plug-in hybrid HS, it's pleasantly quick, and accelerated up to 60mph faster than the rival Ford Kuga PHEV in our tests. It can't go quite as far on electric power alone, with an official range of 32 miles compared with the Kuga's 39 miles, but that might still be enough to cover the school run without using a drop of fuel.

Ride quality on the plug-in hybrid HS isn't as good as on the regular car, with larger bumps sending a fair thump back through the car when you hit them. Plus, the extra weight of the car's battery affects its handling, with a good amount of body lean through corners, and less grip – the Kuga might be a little slower off the line, but it's a more engaging car to drive.

Our favourite version 1.5 T-GDi PHEV SE
List price £31,095
Target price £30,021
Target PCP £381

April sales 2073

Read our MG HS review

Our pick: 2.0 B3P Plus Dark 5dr Auto

0-62mph: 8.6 sec
MPG/range: 42.7mpg
CO2 emissions: 149g/km
Seats: 5
Boot: 443 litres
Insurance group: 24E


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


  • Lacks the rear-seat flexibility of some rivals
  • Fairly small infotainment screen
  • Some road noise on the motorway

A former What Car? Car of the Year, the Volvo XC40 remains a top choice if you're in the market for a premium family SUV. 

Unless you're planning on going electric – in which case the XC40's electric sibling, the EX40, is waiting for you – then every model gets a 2.0-litre petrol engine driving the front wheels. The 161bhp B3 is our pick of the range, because it provides all the performance you need, and benefits from mild hybrid assistance, which helps to keep your running costs sensible.

The XC40 is more comfortable than most rivals, offering a softer ride than the BMW X1, and being better to thread through corners than a Volkswagen Tiguan. The XC40 is pleasant inside, too, with a good mix of premium materials, and a solid driving position. It's just a shame that some of the icons on its 9.0-in infotainment touchscreen can be hard to hit on the move, because they're rather small.

In terms of practicality, the XC40 offers plenty of space for rear passengers to stretch out, but the boot isn't as large as what you'll find in the X1 or Tiguan.

Our favourite version B3P Plus
List price £39,810
Target price £38,263
Target PCP £369

April sales 2069

Read our Volvo XC40 review

Buying & Owning


  • Well-judged ride and handling balance
  • Has a large boot and great seating flexibility
  • Roomier than many rivals


  • Higher trims have to contend with upmarket rivals
  • Option packs drive up the price
  • Slightly coarse 1.5-litre petrol engine

The recently refreshed Volkswagen Tiguan will soon be available with a plethora of petrol and diesel engine option, as well as plug-in hybrid alternatives which can officially cover up to 62 miles on electricity alone. However, for the moment the range is limited to two 1.5-litre petrols with mild hybrid assistance – meaning they benefit from small amounts of electrical input to help lower your fuel bills – and diesels for high-mileage drivers.

While the Tiguan's suspension is tuned towards being firm, it's not uncomfortable, and the standard car round off most lumps and bumps well. And while the rival BMW X1 is keener to turn into bends, the Tiguan strikes a good balance of comfort and agility, with well-weighted steering and neat body control.

There's good visibility from the Tiguan's driver's seat, plus front and rear sensors and even a rear-view camera to make parking easy. The interior of the Tiguan is a nice place to be, and our recommended Life models come with a strip of ambient lighting across the dashboard.

Our favourite version 1.5 eTSI 130 Life
List price £35,930
Target price £34,278
Target PCP £494

April sales 2004

Read our Volkswagen Tiguan review