The best-selling new cars of 2021 revealed: who were the winners and losers?
After 12 successive years as the UK's best-selling car, the Ford Fiesta has finally been dethroned. But what's the new number one?...
The latest figures for new car sales have revealed that after 12 years at the top, the Ford Fiesta is no longer the UK's best-selling car.
In fact, due largely to the same supply chain issues that have affected much of the new car market, the Fiesta hasn't even managed to secure a place in the top 10 most popular new cars of 2021. The only Ford model to rank in this year's list is the Puma small SUV, which managed to secure eighth position.
The overall new car market in the UK remained flat last year, with 1.65m new cars registered – up just 1.0% on 2020, and 28.7% lower than pre-pandemic levels.
It's not all bad news, though, because 2021 was the most successful year to date for new electric car sales, with 190,727 new electric cars registered in the UK.
Add in the sales of hybrid and plug-in hybrid cars and that figure rises to 452,527 vehicles – equivalent to 27.5% of the market. In other words, more than one in four new cars sold last year were significantly electrified.
Diesel continued to fall out of favour, with sales in 2021 down by more than 48% compared with 2020's figure. The market share of diesel-powered cars also halved, from 16% of the market in 2020 to just 8% in 2021.
So what was the most popular model of 2021? Below we count down the top 10 best-selling cars.
Our favourite version 1.5 Hybrid Icon | List price £20,210 | Target Price £19,100 | Target PCP £175
The Yaris has some real and important strengths, not least its superb fuel economy and the likelihood of excellent reliability. It should hold its value well too, and while there are cheaper alternatives, you get plenty of standard luxury and safety kit.
2021 sales 27,415
- Excellent real-world fuel economy
- Toyota's reliability record
- Slow predicted depreciation
- Below-par infotainment system
- Firm ride – especially on models with 17in alloys
- Cramped in the back
Our favourite version 1.6T GDi ISG 3 | List price £20,210 | Target Price £19,100 | Target PCP £175
The Sportage is a great all-round family SUV and the fourth-generation model has been a consistent strong seller since it was introduced in 2015. With the introduction of a new model at the end of 2021, the Sportage can only go from strength to strength, so it could do even better this year.
2021 sales 27,611
- Lower spec models are great value
- Smart interior
- Generous rear legroom and boot space
- Hybrid petrol engine sounds strained
- Rear headroom compromised with panoramic roof
- No clever rear seat functions
Our favourite version 1.0 Ecoboost mHEV 155 ST-Line | List price £24,845 | Target Price £23,493 | Target PCP £302
With its nippy acceleration and agile handling, the Puma will put a bigger smile on your face than any other small SUV. 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, which is why we awarded it our Car of the Year award in 2020.
2021 sales 28,697
- 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
Our favourite version 1.3 DiG-T MH N-Connecta | List price £29,190 | Target Price £27,289 | Target PCP £285
The previous-generation Qashqai sold in big numbers right up to the end of its life, so it's no surprise that this new version is selling well. It has a smart interior, great driving position and you get a lot of safety kit as standard.
2021 sales 29,922
- 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
Our favourite version 1.5 eTSI 150 Life | List price £25,650 | Target Price £24,535 | Target PCP £272
The Volkswagen Golf is one of the most well-rounded family cars on the market. Fortunately, this latest version remains highly recommendable with a comfortable ride, tidy handling and a strong range of engines.
2021 sales 30,240
- 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
Our favourite version 1.0 TSI 95 Life | List price £19,225 | Target Price £18,537 | Target PCP £203
The Polo is a huge seller and it's not hard to see why. It's a great all-rounder – smart and roomy inside, comfortable to sit in and good to drive. While it’s pricier to buy outright than some rivals, that’s largely offset by competitive monthly finance rates and strong resale values.
2021 sales 30,634
- Comfortable ride
- Generous interior space
- Quiet on the move
- Ford Fiesta is more fun to drive
- Gutless entry-level petrol
- Standard safety kit could be better
Our favourite version A200 Auto Sport | List price £29,125 | Target Price £28,282 | Target PCP £328
The A-Class is every inch the premium family hatchback, with a stunning interior and a comfortable ride. It's usually an expensive choice, but big discounts are available through our New Car Buying service and getting one with a PCP deal can be surprisingly affordable.
2021 sales 30,710
- Strong safety rating
- Feature-packed infotainment system
- Good to drive and very comfortable
- Not cheap to buy outright or on finance
- Restrictive and pricey option packs
- Poor reliability record
Our favourite version 1.5 Cooper Exclusive | List price £21,805 | Target Price £21,121 | Target PCP £247
The Mini hatch is a hugely desirable small car that has plenty of substance to match its style. It offers peppy engines with good pulling power, a brilliant infotainment system and a high-quality interior. Its sales have been strong thanks to a recent facelift and the option of the Mini Electric.
2021 sales 31,792
- The classiest small car interior
- Excellent infotainment system
- Strong resale values
- Ride is a bit firm
- Not as safe as rivals
- Only has two rear seats
Our favourite version Long Range AWD | List price £49,990 | Target Price £49,990 | Target PCP NA
Tesla has been one of the few car makers able to limit the impact of the semiconductor chip shortage on its supply chain. That, along with the strong uptake of electric cars in the UK and the fact that the Model 3 is one of the best around, means it's no surprise it secured second place on this list.
2021 sales 34,783
- Savage acceleration – particularly in Performance version
- Long range between charges
- Surprisingly practical
- Fast charging via Tesla's prolific Supercharger network
- Rivals are quieter on the move
- Handling not as entertaining as the best petrol-powered rivals
- Some may find the ride a touch firm
Our favourite version 1.2 Turbo SE Edition | List price £18,280 | Target Price £17,369 | Target PCP £186
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 success. There are better all-rounders, but it's easy to see the appeal of the Corsa: it's cheap to run, well-equipped and you can choose from a wide variety of power options (including the fully electric Vauxhall Corsa-e).
2021 sales 40,914
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- Well equipped
- Decent boot
- Efficient engines
- Laggy and confusing infotainment system
- Below-par safety rating
- Poor resale values
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