September 2021 new car sales revealed: Who were the winners and losers?

The semiconductor chip shortage hit new car sales in September, but these best-selling models continued to sell in their thousands and electric car sales have rocketed...


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What Car? team

UK's best-selling new car

The number of new cars sold in the UK in September was down by more than 34% compared with the same month in 2020, as the semiconductor chip shortage dampened what should have been one of the strongest months for sales.

In total, 215,312 new cars left showrooms in September, with the majority of those going to private buyers. Company car fleets and businesses made up 44% of the total.

The fall in sales is being blamed on the ongoing shortage of semiconductor computer chips, which has caused waiting times for new models to increase dramatically. It has also forced some car makers to trim down their line-ups to meet demand.

When the effect the coronavirus pandemic had on last year's figures is taken into account, this September's figures are around 44% down on the previous 10-year average.

Of the cars that did leave showrooms, most (56.7%) were powered by petrol (including petrol mild hybrids), while 10.3% were powered by diesel, including diesel-engined mild hybrids. Across the year so far, sales of diesel-engined cars are down by 43.8%.

Plug-in hybrid and electric car sales are up by 11.5% and 49.4% respectively in September, compared with the same month in 2020. Across the year so far, such cars have accounted for 16.1% of all new car sales, compared with 8.8% across the first nine months of 2020.

So, which were the most popular models in September? Below we count down the top 10 best-selling cars.

10

Volkswagen Golf

Our favourite version 1.5 eTSI 150 | List price £25,080 | Target Price £24,051 | PCP £256

The Volkswagen Golf is a solid all-rounder in the family hatchback market, with tidy handling, a comfy ride and an engine option to suit most buyers. This 1.5-litre petrol version offers peppy performance, while Life trim is your best bet for matching equipment and cost.

September sales 3609

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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
9

Kia Niro

Our favourite version 1.6 GDi Hybrid | List price £27,815 | Target Price £26,263 | PCP £330

The Niro is available as a regular hybrid, a self-charging hybrid and as the fully electric Kia e-Niro, but we think the regular hybrid makes the most sense. Every version is well-equipped, and Kia's seven-year warranty offers peace of mind should anything go wrong.

September sales 3776

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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
8

Toyota Aygo

Our favourite version 1.0 VVT-i X-Play | List price £13,345 | Target Price £12,633 | PCP £135

If you're looking for a small car to use mainly in the city, the Aygo gives you a mix of low running costs and a tight turning circle that may appeal to you. The sole 1.0 petrol engine on offer offers only leisurely performance, though, and rivals offer more space.

September sales 3857

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Pros

  • Cheap to run
  • Great driving position
  • Five-year warranty

Cons

  • Very cramped in the back
  • Boot is small – even by city car standards
  • Refinement is disappointing
7

Volkswagen Polo

Our favourite version 1.0 TSI Life | List price £18,825 | Target Price £18,825 | PCP NA

Few small car rivals can match the Polo for sheer quality. Combine that with its supple suspension and quiet driving manners, and it's easy to see why it consistently sells in big numbers.

September sales 4062

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Pros

  • Comfortable ride
  • Generous interior space
  • Quiet on the move

Cons

  • Ford Fiesta is more fun to drive
  • Gutless entry-level petrol
  • Standard safety kit could be better
6

Kia Sportage

Our favourite version 1.6 CRDi 134 2 | List price £25,505 | Target Price £24,026 | PCP £237

The Sportage is a family SUV that represents decent value as long as you stick to the lower trim levels, which come well-equipped. Plenty of rival models are better to drive, though, and an all-new Sportage is due later this year – potentially hurting resale values of today's car.

September sales 4104

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Pros

  • Great value – in the right spec
  • Good resale values
  • Decent rear seat space and boot

Cons

  • Diesel engines are very noisy
  • Lumpy ride
  • No AEB on the most recommendable versions
5

Nissan Qashqai

Our favourite version 1.3 DiG-T MH 158 N-Connecta | List price £26,688 | Target Price £29,025 | PCP £275

The latest Qashqai mixes style with real substance, and is a strong contender in the family SUV market. The 1.3-litre mild-hybrid petrol engine we recommend offers plenty enough punch if you're prepared to rev it hard enough.

September sales 4118

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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
4

Toyota Yaris

Our favourite version 1.5 Hybrid Dynamic Icon | List price £22,515 | Target Price £22,515 | PCP £234

Our True MPG Calculator shows that the latest Yaris hybrid has a remarkable ability to sip fuel gently. In town, it achieved 80mpg, which is almost double the economy of conventionally powered small hatchbacks. It should also be very reliable and hold its value well. Just bear in mind that the ride is quite firm and the rear seats are cramped.

September sales 4364

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Pros

  • Excellent real-world fuel economy
  • Toyota's reliability record
  • Slow predicted depreciation

Cons

  • Below-par infotainment system
  • Firm ride – especially on models with 17in alloys
  • Cramped in the back
3

BMW 3 Series

Our favourite version 330e M Sport | List price £30,345 | Target Price £32,020 | PCP £331

BMW's executive saloon is one of the best cars of its kind, especially in plug-in hybrid 330e form. It combines family-friendly practicality with a keen driving style, and comes equipped with the best infotainment system around.

September sales 4788

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Pros

  • Brilliant fun to drive
  • Class-leading infotainment system
  • Great range of engines

Cons

  • Ride is rather firm – particularly in M Sport versions
  • Not as well finished inside as an Audi A4
  • Adjustable lumbar support costs extra
2

Vauxhall Corsa

Our favourite version 1.2 Turbo Griffin | List price £18,525 | Target Price £18,525 | PCP NA

There are more well-rounded family car choices, but a range of efficient engines and a family-friendly boot keep the latest Corsa selling in big numbers. In fact, across the year so far, it's the best-selling new car in the UK.

September sales 5235

 

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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

Tesla Model 3

Our favourite version Long Range AWD | List price £48,490 | Target Price £48,490 | PCP NA

The Model 3 is a fantastic electric car with a long range and acceleration that is guaranteed to put a smile on your face with every journey. Add in a high-quality interior and a decent amount of space for your family and their luggage, and it's easy to recommend.

September sales 6879

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Pros

  • Savage acceleration
  • Long range between charges
  • Surprisingly practical
  • Fast charging via Tesla's prolific Supercharger network

Cons

  • Rivals are quieter on the move
  • Handling not as entertaining as petrol rivals
  • Some may find the ride a touch firm