Best-selling cars in the UK: electrified models drive sales growth in May

Plug-in cars made up more than a third of the new car market in May, but which new model topped the sales charts? Here are the top 10...

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Alasdair Rodden
Published05 June 2024

Dealership featuring Mercedes E-Class

The number of new cars sold in the UK increased by 1.7% in May compared with the same period last year, marking 22 months of consecutive sales growth.

According to official figures, a total of 147,678 new cars were sold over the course of the month, more than half of which were petrol cars. However, the number of petrol cars sold actually fell by 2.1% compared with last May's figure, from 82,800 to 81,058.

Conversely, electric car (EV) registrations increased by 6.2% this May, reaching 26,031 in total. This is due to increased EV uptake by fleets, likely the result of company car tax incentives. Both regular hybrid and plug-in hybrid cars (PHEVs) also proved more popular this May than last, with sales rising by 9.6% and 31.5% respectively.

Sales of diesel cars, meanwhile, continued to decline year-on-year, making up just 6.2% of total registrations in May.

The most popular car last month was the Kia Sportage, although the Ford Puma remains the best-seller so far this year.

But which other models made the list? 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: 1.6T GDi 157 48V ISG 3 5dr

0-62mph: 9.9 sec
MPG/range: 42.8mpg
CO2 emissions: 149g/km
Seats: 5
Boot: 562 litres
Insurance group: 20E


  • 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; the boot is spacious and thoughtfully designed, and the interior offers 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 to which it's 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 1.6T GDi 157 48V ISG 3
List price £32,890
Target price £30,899
Target PCP £345

May sales 4202

Read our in-depth Kia Sportage review

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, because this comes with sports suspension and well-weighted, engaging steering.

The Puma's interior is well laid out and reasonably plush, although rivals such as the Volkswagen T-Roc provide a much more upmarket feel. Also, the Puma's 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 1.0 Ecoboost mHEV 155 ST-Line
List price £29,250
Target price £27,730
Target PCP £378

May sales 3812

Read our in-depth Ford Puma 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 UK buyers clearly concur – indeed, the A3 frequently makes the list of Britain’s best-sellers. To ensure its continued sales success, it's just been given a mid-life refresh.

Audi’s sibling to the Volkswagen Golf is better to drive than the Mercedes A-Class, and is quieter at speed than the BMW 1 Series. The A3’s interior feels pretty upmarket, and is definitely a step-up over the outgoing car's, but on balance the 1 Series is a nicer place to be.

It’s a shame you can’t get the updated 40 TFSIe plug-in hybrid at the moment (our favourite variant of the previous A3). It’s due to arrive later this year, with an even longer electric-only range than its predecessor.

Our favourite version 40 TFSIe Sport (pre-facelift)
List price £36,400
Target price £34,266
Target PCP £340

May sales 3017

Read our in-depth Audi A3 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 how does the Volkswagen Golf stack up against the competition? For a start, it mixes comfort and practicality very well – it’s about as smooth around town as the pricier Mercedes A-Class, for example, and has space for five carry-on suitcases in its boot.

You also get a good choice of engines with the Golf, including mild hybrid and plug-in hybrid options, as well as a diesel for those covering lots of miles. Our top choice is the mid-range 148bhp 1.5-litre petrol, which can get you up to motorway speeds swiftly, yet should also help keep running costs in check. It's worth noting that though the Golf handles well, the closely related Seat Leon is much more fun to drive quickly.

The Golf is due to be updated later this year, and this outgoing version is now only available from dealer stock.

May sales 2922

Read our in-depth Volkswagen Golf review



  • Well equipped
  • Decent boot
  • Efficient engines


  • Fiddly infotainment system
  • Below-par safety rating
  • Poor resale values

The Vauxhall Corsa is a well-equipped and competitively priced small car, but falls short of the competition in several key areas.

It shares its underpinnings with the Peugeot 208, but is neither as comfortable on the move, nor as nice inside as that car. Additionally, the Honda Jazz and VW Polo offer greater practicality.

Despite its firmer ride, the Corsa isn’t noticeably more fun to drive than the 208 either; if that’s a deal-breaker for you, take a look at the agile Seat Ibiza instead.

The mid-range 1.2 Turbo petrol engine offers decent performance, but a hybrid like the Toyota Yaris should prove more frugal.

Our favourite version 1.2 Turbo GS
List price £22,915
Target price £19,546
Target PCP £252

May sales 2671

Read our in-depth Vauxhall Corsa 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; 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 those in 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 94bhp 1.0-litre petrol engine gives the Polo plenty of pep around town, yet doesn't feel out of its depth 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

May sales 2669

Read our in-depth Volkswagen Polo 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.

A facelifted version of the Qashqai is due to launch later this year.

Our favourite version 1.3 DiG-T MH N-Connecta
List price £31,905
Target price £28,509
Target PCP £284

May sales 2637

Read our in-depth Nissan Qashqai review

Our pick: 1.5 VTi-TECH Excite 5dr

0-62mph: 10.9 sec
MPG/range: 42.7mpg
CO2 emissions: 149g/km
Seats: 5
Boot: 448 litres
Insurance group: 15E
Buying & Owning


  • Low price
  • Surprisingly smart interior
  • Standard seven-year warranty


  • Limited safety aids
  • Unsettled ride
  • Performance is so-so

Once you account for the fact that it’s definitely a budget SUV and built to a low price point, the MG ZS has quite a few strengths. For starters, interior space is impressive for a car of its size, and there are plenty of useful storage areas.

Interior quality is even more impressive (for the price), featuring soft-touch plastics where it matters and solid-feeling buttons on the dashboard.

The 1.0T GDi petrol engine offers more flexible performance than the entry-level 1.5 VTi-Tech petrol, but we'd ultimately choose the latter because it keeps the purchase price down.

Our favourite version 1.5 VTi-Tech Excite
List price £18,335
Target price £16,805
Target PCP £203

May sales 2630

Read our in-depth MG ZS review

Our pick: 1.6 TGDi Hybrid 230 SE Connect 5dr 2WD Auto

0-62mph: 8 sec
MPG/range: 50.4mpg
CO2 emissions: 127g/km
Seats: 5
Boot: 616 litres
Insurance group: 18E


  • Frugal hybrid is a worthy alternative to diesel
  • Well-made interior
  • Spacious for passengers and luggage


  • So-so handling
  • Ride can get choppy at times
  • No sliding rear seats

The Tucson is among the most practical family SUVs – there’s lots of space in the front and the rear, and the boot is one of the biggest in the class.

Practicality aside, the interior is well laid out and feels solid, but lacks the premium feel you get inside rivals such as the Volvo XC40.

If you go for the hybrid version you can expect reasonable performance and impressive fuel economy, but ride comfort in all versions of the Tucson could be better, especially considering how comfortable some family SUVs manage to be.

Our favourite version 1.6 T-GDi Hybrid 230 SE Connect
List price £35,950
Target price £33,153
Target PCP £258

May sales 2613

Read our in-depth Hyundai Tucson review

Our pick: 1.0 DiG-T N-Connecta 5dr

0-62mph: 10.7 sec
MPG/range: 48.7mpg
CO2 emissions: 133g/km
Seats: 5
Boot: 422 litres
Insurance group: 13E


  • Smart interior
  • Good safety rating
  • Lots of toys on our recommended trim


  • Choppy ride
  • So-so infotainment system
  • Hybrid isn't as fuel efficient as a Toyota Yaris Cross

The Nissan Juke continues to be a popular choice among small SUV buyers, offering an upmarket interior as well as plenty of safety tech.

Practicality is also decent, but rivals such as the Skoda Kamiq and Volkswagen T-Roc edge ahead in this regard.

As standard, the Juke comes with a 112bhp 1.0-litre turbocharged petrol engine. While a more powerful hybrid model is available, we think this entry-level engine offers better value for money.

We reckon entry-level N-Connecta is the trim to go for; this gets you 17in alloy wheels, rear parking sensors, a rear-view camera and lots more.

Our favourite version 1.0 DiG-T N-Connecta
List price £25,500
Target price £22,928
Target PCP £219

May sales 2468

Read our in-depth Nissan Juke review