May 2022 new car sales revealed: who were the winners and losers?

We take a look at the types of cars UK consumers bought last month, and reveal the 10 most popular choices...


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What Car? team

Dealership featuring Mercedes E-Class

The UK new car market in May has declined as supply chain issues push back delivery dates.

According to the latest figures from the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT), 124,394 new cars left showrooms last month. That's 20.6% less than in the same month in 2021, making it the second-weakest May since 1992 and pandemic-hit 2020.

The decline, when compared with the first full month of reopened showrooms in May 2021, demonstrates the continued impact of the war in Ukraine and the semi-conductor chip shortage on global supply chains.

Supply issues have increased how long buyers have to wait for most new cars, and they have prompted some manufacturers to slim their line-up of engines and options as a result. For example, Mini recently suspended production of manual versions of its three and five-door hatchbacks.

Other issues such as the increase in the cost of living are thought to have dampened sales, with inflated household and fuel bills preventing people from making significant purchases, such as a new car.

Record high petrol prices are also thought to have impacted sales of petrol and diesel cars, with 56,767 petrol and 7614 diesel cars being sold. Those are declines of 25.1% and 50.8% respectively. Mild hybrid petrols and diesels also suffered falls, albeit less severe, at 10.8% and 45.2% respectively.

On the other hand, 15,448 electric cars were sold last month – a rise of 17.7%, representing one in eight new cars joining the roads. Plug-in hybrids were down 25.5%, but regular hybrids were up 12.0%, meaning electrified cars accounted for 30% of the new car market.

Given the rate at which electric car sales have accelerated in the past year – more were sold in March than in the whole of 2019 – it would be unsurprising to see them overtake both regular and plug-in hybrids before the year's end.

But which were the most popular models in May 2022? Below, we count down the top 10 best-sellers.

10

Hyundai Tucson

Our favourite version 1.6 T-GDi Hybrid 230 SE Connect 2WD | List price £32,870 | Target Price £31,668 | Target PCP £305 per month

The Hyundai Tucson is based on the same underpinnings as the Kia Sportage, which means it offers similarly gargantuan interior space as well as efficient hybrid and plug-in hybrid versions. It also comes with a well-built interior and lots of standard kit, but the ride can be choppy at times.

May sales 2094

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Pros

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

Cons

  • So-so handling
  • Ride can get choppy at times
  • No sliding rear seats
9

Volkswagen Polo

Our favourite version 1.0 TSI 95 Life | List price £19,795 | Target Price £18,991 | Target PCP £204 per month

If you're looking for a refined small car that does everything well, the Polo could be for you. Its 94bhp 1.0-litre petrol engine shines around town, with good pulling power, and it remains quiet at motorway speeds. The Polo also rides smoothly, remaining composed over even the nastiest potholes.

May sales 2118

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Pros

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

Cons

  • Ford Fiesta is more fun to drive
  • Gutless entry-level petrol
  • Standard safety kit could be better
8

Kia Niro

Our favourite version 1.6 GDi Hybrid 3 | List price £28,125 | Target Price £26,831 | Target PCP £341 per month

Available in regular hybrid, plug-in hybrid and fully electric e-Niro forms, the Kia Niro is a very versatile family SUV – which is why it's a popular choice among new car buyers. A new version of the Niro has also just been launched, which is likely to have boosted interest and discounts on the outgoing model.

May sales 2258

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Pros

  • Generously equipped and competitively priced
  • Seven-year warranty
  • Smart interior

Cons

  • Hybrid petrol engine sounds strained
  • Not particularly quick in Hybrid form
  • Handling could be sharper
7

Kia Sportage

Our favourite version 1.6 T-GDi HEV 3 | List price £34,455 | Target Price £33,616 | Target PCP £372 per month

With a big boot and generous space for four, plus a smart-looking interior, the Kia Sportage is one of the best all-rounders in the family SUV class. It’s also available as a regular or plug-in hybrid, making it a shrewd buy in the wake of recent fuel cost increases.

May sales 2260

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Pros

  • Lower spec models are great value
  • Smart interior
  • Generous rear legroom and boot space

Cons

  • Hybrid petrol engine sounds strained
  • Rear headroom compromised with panoramic roof
  • No clever rear seat functions
6

Nissan Qashqai

Our favourite version 1.3 DiG-T MH N-Connecta | List price £30,275 | Target Price £27,800 | Target PCP £276 per month

With lots of standard safety kit – so much that it won our Safety Award for 2022 – and a well-built interior, the Qashqai is a strong contender in the family SUV class. It’s not the most inspiring car to drive, though, and it lacks the seating flexibility of rivals such as the Hyundai Tucson.

May sales 2261

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Pros

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

Cons

  • So-so performance
  • Some rivals are more fun to drive
  • Lacks the seating flexibility of many rivals
5

Mini Hatchback

Our favourite version 1.5 Cooper Exclusive 3dr | List price £25,165 | Target Price £24,677 | Target PCP NA

The Mini is a hugely desirable small car with plenty of substance to back up its style. Its biggest strength is its classy, well-appointed interior, which we recognised as the best in the small car class in the 2022 What Car? Awards. However, the Mini isn't the most practical option – the three-door only has four seats – and it can't match some rivals for safety.

May sales 2538

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Pros

  • The classiest small car interior
  • Excellent infotainment system
  • Strong resale values

Cons

  • Ride is a bit firm
  • Not as safe as rivals
  • Only has two rear seats
4

Volkswagen Golf

Our favourite version 1.5 TSI Life | List price £25,950 | Target Price £24,759 | Target PCP £272 per month

The Volkswagen Golf is an ideal all-rounder, and this latest version is still a good option in the family car class. That's thanks in part to its solid blend of ride and handling, and the frugality promised by its petrol engines (particularly with our favourite 1.5 TSI 150 version).

May sales 2623

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Pros

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

Cons

  • Frustratingly fiddly infotainment system is full of software bugs
  • Interior quality could be better
  • There are more spacious rivals
3

Ford Kuga

Our favourite version 2.5 Duratec PHEV ST-Line Edition | List price £37,225 | Target Price £35,861 | Target PCP £394 per month

With competitive pricing and plug-in hybrid power available, the latest Kuga makes a compelling case for itself if you're in the market for a family-friendly large SUV. Rivals have bigger boots, though.

May sales 3379

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Pros

  • Competitively priced against rivals
  • Plug-in hybrid (PHEV) offers a long electric range and low company car tax
  • FHEV hybrid is cheaper than equivalent diesel, yet has similar economy

Cons

  • Interior quality doesn't impress
  • Relatively small boot
  • Infotainment system isn't the slickest
2

Ford Puma

Our favourite version 1.0 Ecoboost mHEV 155 ST-Line | List price £25,355 | Target Price £24,163 | Target PCP £283 per month

With its nippy acceleration and agile handling, the Puma will put a bigger smile on your face than any other small SUV can. It’s a car you can buy with your sensible hat on, too, thanks to its low CO2 emissions and excellent real-world fuel economy. In fact, it's one of the best new cars money can buy; we named it as our Small SUV of the Year for 2022.

May sales 3580

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Pros

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

Cons

  • Rear space is adequate rather than outstanding
  • Visibility could be better
  • Volkswagen T-Roc is more comfortable and quieter
1

Vauxhall Corsa

Our favourite version 1.2 Turbo GS Line | List price £20,390 | Target Price £19,321 | Target PCP NA

The Corsa has long been one of the nation's favourite small cars, and the introduction of this new version will have contributed to its strong sales. There are better all-rounders, but it's 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 the fully electric Vauxhall Corsa-e).

May sales 4399

All prices correct at the time of writing


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Read more: The best and worst electric cars 2022 >>

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Pros

  • Well equipped
  • Decent boot
  • Efficient engines

Cons

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