UK new car market dips in August

The number of new cars sold in August took a tumble, but a bumper September plate change could be just around the corner. So, what have people been buying?...


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What Car? team

The number of new cars sold in the UK in August dipped by comparison with the same month in 2019, showing that – despite signs of recovery in July – the coronavirus pandemic continues to have a lasting impact.

In total, 87,226 new cars were sold last month, 5.8% down on August 2019. Across the year so far, the new car market is almost 40% behind where it was in 2019, but this is hardly surprising given the period of lockdown where showrooms could not conduct their normal business. While sales to private customers fell slightly last month, the biggest drop came from the business market. Whereas companies would usually bolster their fleets with new models at this time of year, with the future of so much of the UK workforce unclear, that hasn't happened. This has lead to business sales last month being down by almost 58% compared with August 2019.

While these numbers are bleak, however, it's also worth noting that August is in itself a traditionally quiet month, ahead of the September plate change. September could end up being a bumper month for new car sales, too, with recent What Car? research revealing that more than a fifth of buyers were preparing to buy their next car in the next four weeks.

So, of the cars that did leave showrooms in August, which were the most popular? Below we count down the 10 biggest sellers

10

Kia Niro

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£23,222

RRP from £24,910 to £31,955

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Available in hybrid, plug-in hybrid or fully electric forms, few cars are as appealing to drivers wanting to go green than the Kia Niro. Rival conventionally engined family SUVs are cheaper to buy and better to drive, but the Niro is well equipped, won't cost you a lot to run and comes with a seven-year warranty.

August sales 1417

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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
9

Ford Kuga

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£23,115

RRP from £24,615 to £38,455

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The latest Kuga is a fine large SUV, with pricing that makes it competitive against key rivals and driving manners that are capable of putting a big smile on your face. Go for the plug-in hybrid version and you'll enjoy a long electric-only driving range.

August sales 1434

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Pros

  • Plug-in hybrid (PHEV) has a long electric-only range
  • Competitively priced against rivals
  • PHEV offers low company car tax

Cons

  • Interior quality doesn't impress
  • Relatively small boot
  • Infotainment system isn't the slickest
8

Volkswagen Polo

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£16,068

RRP from £17,125 to £24,440

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The Polo is our favourite small car, because it offers so much that you'd normally expect to find only on larger, more expensive models. As well as a spacious, high-quality interior, the Polo is very quiet and comfortable. It's a great choice.

August sales 1466

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Pros

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

Cons

  • Seat Ibiza is more fun to drive
  • Noisy diesel
  • Gutless entry-level petrol
7

Volkswagen Tiguan

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£23,823

RRP from £25,420 to £43,815

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The Tiguan has to compete with the class-leading Range Rover Evoque, plus other prestige-badged rivals from the likes of Audi, BMW and Mercedes. However, it makes a good case for itself with a spacious interior and a strong range of engines.

August sales 1645

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Pros

  • Handles well despite its size
  • Plenty of seating flexibility
  • Lots of standard equipment

Cons

  • Higher trims get pricey
  • CO2 emissions could be lower
  • Automatic gearbox is laggy
6

Mercedes A-Class

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£20,833

RRP from £23,755 to £56,595

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The A-Class is every inch the premium family hatchback, from its stunning interior to its comfortable ride. It's usually an expensive choice, but big discounts are available through our New Car Buying service

August sales 1722

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Pros

  • Strong safety rating
  • Feature-packed infotainment system
  • Good to drive and very comfortable

Cons

  • Not cheap to by outright or on finance
  • Restrictive and pricey option packs
  • Poor reliability record
5

Vauxhall Corsa

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£15,679

RRP from £16,415 to £34,160

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There are better all-rounders in the small car market, but it's still 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 a fully electric version).

August sales 2081

 

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Pros

  • Well equipped
  • Decent boot
  • Efficient engines

Cons

  • Laggy and confusing infotainment system
  • Below-par safety rating
  • Poor resale values
4

Ford Puma

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£20,303

RRP from £21,640 to £26,840

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The Puma isn't just the best small SUV you can buy in 2020, it's the best car full stop. Yes, the Puma is our Car of the Year, thanks to an alluring mix of practicality and low running costs, combined with an engaging driving style.

August sales 2128

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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
3

Ford Focus

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£20,563

RRP from £22,210 to £34,710

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If you're looking for a family hatchback that's also great to drive, the Focus should be on your shortlist. Sharp handling and a range of peppy engines mean it's capable of putting a big smile on your face, while quiet cruising manners and roomy rear seats make it a sensible choice, too.

August sales 2391

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Pros

  • Great handling
  • Quiet at speed
  • Roomy rear seats

Cons

  • Mediocre performance
  • Low-rent interior
  • Octavia has a much bigger boot
2

Volkswagen Golf

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£21,897

RRP from £23,300 to £35,970

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The arrival of a new Volkswagen Golf is always big news, and comes with big expectations, too. Fortunately, this latest version remains highly recommendable, with a comfortable ride, tidy handling and a strong range of engines.

August sales 2570

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Pros

  • Exceedingly comfortable ride with adaptive suspension
  • Tidy handling
  • Strong and frugal 1.5 eTSI hybrid engine

Cons

  • Frustratingly fiddly infotainment system
  • Interior quality could be better
  • There are more spacious rivals
1

Ford Fiesta

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£15,370

RRP from £16,640 to £26,825

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Having slumped to second place recently, the Ford Fiesta re-takes the lead as Britain's most popular new car this month. And there are good reasons why so many people want one on their driveway: it's superb to drive and won't cost you much to run.

August sales 3372

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Pros

  • Brilliant to drive
  • Punchy Ecoboost engines
  • Good fuel economy and CO2 emissions

Cons

  • Some rivals are better value
  • Decent but not class-leading practicality
  • Important safety kit not standard
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