'Best-ever new car deals available' as sales fall in 2018

Industry boss reveals that new car registrations fell 7% in 2018, prompting retailers to offer tempting deals...

Car sales 2018
Car sales 2018

Car manufacturers and retailers looking to maintain sales momentum in a difficult market are offering “incredible deals, especially on finance”, a leading industry figure has said.

Speaking after revealing the number of new cars registered in the UK in 2018 was down 7% on the previous year, Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) boss Mike Hawes said: “While the market is tough for the car makers, it means that there are some terrific offers on certain cars for consumers at the moment.

“It’s clear that as a result of a number of factors, including Brexit, consumer confidence is down. But for those looking to buy a new car in the next three months then there are some great deals, especially around 0% finance, that can be sought out.”

Last year, 2.36 million new cars were registered, down from a 21st-century peak of 2.69 million. The most significant fall was a 30% drop in diesel cars. Petrol car sales rose 8.7% for the year, and plug-in hybrid and electric registrations increased 21%.

Hawes stressed his belief that the latest, cleanest-ever diesels should still be on a buyer’s shortlist, pointing out that they now meet the same maximum requirements for pollutants as petrol engines, under the toughest test regime Europe has ever imposed. As a result, Hawes added: “The latest diesel engines on sale today are clean enough to be exempt from legislation banning older diesels from city centres. The industry has made significant strides in cleaning up diesels.”

Hawes also highlighted a worrying trend of UK plug-in hybrid and electric sales growth being about half that of the average rises across the European market.

Government blamed for fall in car sales

Last October, the Government announced it was dropping grants for plug-in hybrid purchases and reduced the allowance for electric cars. Registrations have subsequently dropped dramatically, although the availability of plug-in hybrid vehicles has been severely impacted since new WLTP emissions tests were introduced in September.

Hawes said: “The Government has laid out a glidepath to zero-emissions sales, yet it has removed or reduced the incentive that was driving people towards those vehicles.

“Car buyers are quite reasonably confused, and we all have a job to do in order to present a consistent, fact-based argument to persuade people of the right vehicles to buy for their needs, be it a petrol, diesel, hybrid or electric car.”

Other organisations have put a larger emphasis on the impact of the WLTP tests, with director of the National Franchised Dealer Association (NFDA) Sue Robinson saying 2018’s decline was “largely due to the introduction of WLTP in the important month of September and the market adjusting to the change for the rest of [the year]”.

Car manufacturers are predicting another tough year of sales in 2019, with a 2% drop on 2018’s figure expected. While that raises the prospect of keen discounts being a factor throughout the year, the drop in the value of the pound against the euro since the result of the 2016 Brexit vote has greatly reduced the capacity for car makers manufacturing in Europe to offer larger discounts to UK car buyers.

To find the latest new car deals, head to What Car? New Car Buying and contact dealers willing to sell cars for our Target Price – the most we believe you should pay for a new car based on our mystery shopping – or even less.

Despite the downturn, however, there were still some winners in 2018, and over the next few pages we’ll run down the top 10 best-selling new cars of 2018.

The top 10 best-sellers for 2018

10. Kia Sportage

Kia Sportage

If you’re looking for a less pricey family SUV, the Kia Sportage should definitely be on your list. You generally get a lot for your money, both in terms of space and equipment, and resale values are good, too.

2018 sales 35,567

What Car? rating: Rated 4 out of 5

Read our full Kia Sportage review >

Find a great Kia Sportage deal > 

Rather lease a Kia Sportage? See our latest offers >

9. Ford Kuga

Ford Kuga

The Kuga offers a reasonable amount of space inside and has a strong record for reliability. Ford regularly offers sizeable discounts, too, so prices are kept competitive.

2018 sales 40,398

What Car? rating: Rated 2 out of 5

Read our full Ford Kuga review >

Find a great Ford Kuga deal > 

Rather lease a Ford Kuga? See our latest offers >

New Mercedes-Benz A-Class vs Audi A3 Sportback vs BMW 1 Series

The A-Class is Mercedes’ rival to premium hatchbacks including the Audi A3 and BMW 1 Series. It offers a stunning interior featuring a class-leading infotainment system, and is good to drive.

2018 sales 43,527

What Car? rating: Rated 4 out of 5

Read our full Mercedes A-Class review >

Find a great Mercedes A-Class deal >