The best-selling cars among What Car? readers

Will it be a family car, an SUV or something sporty that proved most popular with What Car? readers in 2023?...

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by
Darren Moss
Published20 December 2023

When you're buying something as important as a new car, sometimes it offers good peace of mind to know that you're choosing something that lots of other people have been happy with. After all, the saying goes, so many people can't be wrong.

To put that theory to the test, here we're revealing the most popular cars bought through our exclusive New Car Deals service, where you can find your next car using our Target Price discounts. As you might expect, the list is dominated by SUVs, but you'll also see a small car and a family hatchback among the top 10 as well.

Plus, you don't have to rely on a car's popularity alone to make the right decision, because our star ratings are backed up by the most thorough testing of new cars around. From how practical they are to what they're like to drive, we assess every area which matters to new car buyers, and that means you can buy your next car with confidence.

Car under sheet

If you want to follow in the footsteps of those who have already bought a new car with What Car?, you can click the links to read our in-depth reviews, or see how much our latest deals could save you.

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
Reliability
Safety
Costs
Quality
Performance

Strengths

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

Weaknesses

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

The car What Car? readers put their money down on the most in 2023 was the Kia Sportage – our reigning Family SUV of the Year.

There's a broad range of engines on offer in the Sportage, including a plug-in hybrid version, but we think the entry-level 1.6-litre petrol will suit most buyers the best. With 148bhp available, it never feels short on pulling power, even when you've loaded the Sportage up with people and luggage, and it should help to keep your running costs sensible.

Speaking of space, you can fit more into the boot of the Sportage than you can into rival family SUVs including the Nissan Qashqai and Skoda Karoq. That being said, the Sportage can't match the pricier Audi Q3 in offering a rear bench that you can slide forwards or backwards to maximise either legroom or boot space as your needs dictate.

Read our in-depth Kia Sportage review >>

 

Reliability
Safety
Costs
Quality
Performance

Strengths

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

Weaknesses

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

Our favourite family SUV is followed by our favourite small SUV – that's right, the T-Roc joins the Sportage in not only being a What Car? Award winner, but also gaining our maximum five-star rating.

In years gone by, we would have told you that although the T-Roc is among the best small SUVs to drive and to live with, its interior didn't match up to its premium badge. Thankfully, following a recent round of updates, that's no longer the case, and each piece of trim now feels high quality – even if the overall finish isn't up to the same level as the rival Mini Countryman.

You won't be left wanting for kit in any version of the T-Roc, but we reckon entry-level Life trim will have most of your kit needs covered – it comes with dual-zone climate control, adaptive cruise control and a digital instrument cluster.

Our favourite T-Roc engine is also the cheapest one, a 1.0-litre petrol, but with 109bhp it feels pleasantly peppy for everyday driving.

Read our in-depth Volkswagen T-Roc 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
Reliability
Safety
Costs
Quality
Performance

Strengths

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

Weaknesses

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

The Qashqai was the second most popular new car in the UK in 2023, with more than 39,000 examples leaving showrooms according to official figures.

Thankfully, that popularity is well earned, because the Qashqai excels in most of the areas which matter to family SUV buyers. It has a smart interior which should stand up well to the rigours of family life, and getting in and out of it is a breeze thanks to its wide doors.

When you're seated, your passengers should have plenty of room to stretch out – just bear in mind that the Skoda Karoq is even better if you regularly carry three people on the rear bench. The Skoda can also fit slightly more into its boot, but we still managed to fit seven carry-on suitcases inside the Qashqai.

As with lots of the cars on this list, there's a wide array of engine options to choose from, but our top choice is the 1.3-litre DIG-T 140 mild hybrid, which benefits from small amounts of electrical assistance to help lower your running costs.

Read our in-depth Nissan Qashqai 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
Reliability
Safety
Costs
Quality
Performance

Strengths

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

Weaknesses

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

This former What Car? Car of the Year remains a standout choice in the family SUV market, because it's bursting with practical features for families, yet also manages to feel luxurious for those trips when the kids aren't with you.

When we named the XC40 as our Car of the Year back in 2018, it was a diesel engine which we recommended, but these days it's the 161bhp 2.0-litre petrol, badged as the B3, which we think will suit most buyers the best. It's punchy and efficient, and also comes with mild hybrid technology to help keep your running costs sensible. There's also a fully electric version of the XC40, called the XC40 Recharge, but that's a lot more expensive.

Inside, the XC40 gives the rival Genesis GV70 and Range Rover Evoque a run for their money in terms of quality, while every version comes loaded with kit. And with an eye on safety, every XC40 gets a full suite of driver assistance features as standard, including traffic sign recognition and Automatic Emergency Braking.

Read our in-depth Volvo XC40 review >>

Our pick: 1.5 Hybrid Icon 5dr CVT

0-62mph: 11.2 sec
MPG/range: 64.2mpg
CO2 emissions: 100g/km
Seats: 5
Boot: 460 litres
Insurance group: 11E
Driving
Interior
Practicality
Buying & Owning

Strengths

  • Very efficient
  • Lofty driving position
  • Uncluttered dashboard is easy to use

Weaknesses

  • Could be more spacious in the back seats
  • Vocal engine when accelerating
  • Not as fun to drive as the Ford Puma

If you're looking for a car which won't cost you a lot to run, then consider this: the Toyota Yaris Cross is the most efficient car we've ever tested. Indeed, with an average of 60.1mpg and an astonishing 103.3mpg around town, it has the top result of any car to go through our real-world economy tests.

There's more to like here than just low running costs, however, because its hybrid setup also makes the Yaris Cross quick off the line, helping you to make the most of gaps in the traffic. And while the interior doesn't feel quite as special as what you'd find in the rival Nissan Juke or Mini Countryman, it is decently spacious, with the boot swallowing seven carry-on suitcases in our tests.

Entry-level Icon trim is our top choice, and comes with luxuries including keyless entry and start, a reversing camera and adaptive cruise control.

Read our in-depth Toyota Yaris Cross 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
Reliability
Safety
Costs
Quality
Performance

Strengths

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

Weaknesses

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

Another former What Car? Car of the Year, the Ford Puma stands out in the crowded small SUV market by being among the best cars of its kind to drive.

All of the Puma's engines are 1.0-litre petrols, and all come with fuel-saving mild hybrid assistance, but it's the entry-level Ecoboost 125 which we recommend, because with a 0-60mph sprint time of 9.6sec, it's plenty fast enough for most situations. Plus, thanks to quick, accurate steering and taught body control, weaving the Puma along a country road will put a smile on your face every time.

There's more to the Puma than being a good driver's car, though, because it's also comfortable for your family, and has lots of space for their luggage. Indeed, there's even an 80-litre box hidden under the boot floor which can be hosed out thanks to a drain plug in its bottom – making it ideal for storing walking boots or camping gear. 

Read our in-depth Ford Puma 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
Reliability
Safety
Costs
Quality
Performance

Strengths

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

Weaknesses

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

Like its Kia Sportage sister car, the Tucson is available with a wide range of power options, including a full hybrid model and a plug-in hybrid. It's the former which we think will suit most buyers the best, because the battery is big enough to allow you to drive for short distances on electric power alone – thus contributing to lower fuel bills.

Your passengers will certainly like the Tucson, because it offers them more space to stretch out than most other family SUVs – only the larger Ford Kuga gives them more room. Plus, with up to 620 litres of space, the Tucson's boot is one of the biggest in the family SUV class, and even though plug-in hybrid models lose a little space, we still managed to fit seven carry-on suitcases into the boot of one such Tucson.

You get plenty of kit as standard in a Tucson, and while it might be priced higher than rivals including the Seat Ateca and Skoda Karoq, our discounts help to keep it competitive.

Read our in-depth Hyundai Tucson review >>

Our pick: 1.5 TSI SE L 5dr

0-62mph: 8.9 sec
MPG/range: 46.9mpg
CO2 emissions: 137g/km
Seats: 5
Boot: 521 litres
Insurance group: 19E
Reliability
Safety
Costs
Quality
Performance

Strengths

  • Good to drive
  • Excellent interior space
  • Smart and sturdy-feeling interior

Weaknesses

  • Seat Ateca is more fun to drive
  • VarioFlex seats no longer standard
  • No hybrid options

You'll already have read about the Skoda Karoq in this feature - it's become the benchmark for how practical a family SUV can be, as well as being one which represents amazing value.

You won't find the same breadth of engines on offer as you would elsewhere on this list – there's no plug-in hybrid version, for example – but that helps to keep costs low. And besides, the 148bhp 1.5-litre petrol engine that we recommend is still efficient, yet has the sort of punch you'll want if you regularly load your car to the gunwhales with people and luggage.

Speaking of luggage, you can fit more into the boot of the Karoq than you can into most family SUV rivals, and its seats are spacious enough to allow your passengers to spread out. Those seats are clever, too, because they split and fold independently of each other, so you can prioritise longer boot loads or more bums on seats as the need arises. The Seat Ateca – the Karoq's sister car – can't manage the same feat.

Read our in-depth Skoda Karoq review >>

Reliability
Safety
Costs
Quality
Performance

Strengths

  • Spacious interior with flexible rear seats
  • Lots of standard equipment
  • Slow depreciation

Weaknesses

  • Very pricey by small car standards
  • Not the quietest cruiser
  • Some rivals are more fun

The first car on this list to not take the form of an SUV is the Honda Jazz, a hybrid small car which is a frequent What Car? Award winner.

Why does the Jazz continue to rack up accolades? Well, despite not being a big car, it manages to feel like on in some respects, because its interior is simply huge. Whether you're captivated by its cinema-style rear seats which can fold up to release more room for your luggage, or its spacious front seats which allow you to stretch out and stow all of your valuables in numerous cubby holes, space is something the Jazz has no issue with.

While it might not be the most engaging small car to drive – the Seat Ibiza will put a bigger smile on your face – the Jazz is peppy enough for most situations and never feels out of breath on faster roads. Plus, because it's a hybrid, your running costs should tumble if you're coming from a regular petrol or diesel car.

Read our in-depth Honda Jazz 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
Reliability
Safety
Costs
Quality
Performance

Strengths

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

Weaknesses

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

If you want your next family car to have a premium badge on its bonnet, then you might find yourself drawn to the Audi A3. Alongside the BMW 1 Series and Mercedes A-Class, the A3 proves that you can have big car luxury in a smaller package – and among What Car? readers, the Audi out-sells its rivals.

There are lots of versions of the A3 to choose from, ranging from the superfast S3 hot hatchback to the super-frugal 40 TFSIe plug-in hybrid, plus there are traditional petrol and diesel engines. However, it's the entry-level 1.5-litre petrol engine, badged as the 35 TFSI, which we think will suit most buyers the best. It has 148bhp, so is peppy enough for most journeys, yet returned a respectable 42.5mpg in our real-world fuel tests.

The A3 looks the business inside, but be aware that the 1 Series feels nicer still, and some cheaper family cars, including the Seat Leon and Skoda Octavia, can fit more into their boots.

Read our in-depth Audi A3 review >>


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