Best selling cars around the world
We know what the best-sellers in the UK are, but what about elsewhere? Can we buy them here?...
Many people know that the best-selling car in the UK is consistently the Ford Fiesta.
Indeed, it’s been number one every year since 2009. It’s spacious for its size and nippy around town, and a popular package. But though us Brits love it, it’s a different story overseas.
So it got us thinking – what are the best selling cars in other major car markets? And do those countries’ choices have anything to teach us? Join us on our journey of discovery…
Data is from Jato Dynamics for 2018 (the latest data we have ahead of the 2019 figures that will be released in early 2020) - we start with the biggest overall seller and list them in descending order:
Slideshow story: please click the right-hand arrow above to continue
USA: Ford F Series – 909,330 sold
Ford’s F Series of pickups has been the best-selling vehicle in America for a remarkable 32 years. Even a controversial switch to a largely lighter aluminium construction in 2015 didn’t dent sales, and prices for the smallest model, the F-150, start at just the equivalent of £21,600 – a lot of truck for your money.
Would it work in the UK? Sadly not. Even the F-150 measures a full 5316mm in length, making parking tiresome. Moreover, a width of 2029mm will fall foul of most width restrictions.
Finally, this is a large, heavy vehicle and while fuel currently costs around just £0.65-per-litre in the US, it’s twice that here. Sorry. Ford won’t officially sell you a F-150 here in the UK, however for £20,845 you can get your hands on its smaller sibling, the Ranger.
CHINA: Nissan Sylphy – 481,216 sold
China is the biggest new car market in the world, dwarfing the USA’s 17.2 million new registrations in 2018 with 23.25 million cars sold.
The Sylphy notched up 481,216 sales in China to make it the biggest single model there. A new generation model was unveiled at the Shanghai motor show earlier this year. The model is widely sold in Asian markets, where the small saloon is a popular shape.
However, it’s a shape that the UK largely gave up on a long time ago in favour of hatchbacks, and as such you can’t buy this model in the UK. If you really want a small saloon, you’re limited to around three options: an Audi A3 saloon, Mazda 3 Fastback, or Mercedes A-Class saloon.
JAPAN: Honda N-box – 241,870 sold
The best-selling car in Japan is the rather ingenious Honda N-Box. It’s classified as a ‘Kei car’ – of a small size to benefit from major tax benefits.
It looks like a cross between a training shoe and the box it comes in while a 57bhp 658cc makes it almost as cheap as walking to run. But it just about has room for four people.
At just 3395mm in length, it’s probably too small to really work in the UK, and its looks won’t be for everyone. As such, you can’t buy it here, though imports occasionally appear for sale. The closest car in size we recommend is the 3595mm-long Kia Picanto; it’s £10,045 on the road.
INDIA: Suzuki Alto – 234,471 sold
The Maruti Suzuki Alto is a locally produced version of the Alto sold in many other markets. Average incomes are much lower in India than the UK, and it appeals to Indian buyers for its cost-conscious price (around the equivalent of £3000) and 234,471 of them found willing homes in 2018.
As India is the fifth largest new car market in the world, the diminutive Alto is big news, accounting for one in every 14 new cars sold there.
Suzuki offers the Alto with a 796cc petrol engine, and it’s just 3430mm in length. In a country where it’s the next upgrade above a moped or motorcycle it makes sense.
BRAZIL: Chevrolet Onix – 210,451 sold
Brazil is the sixth largest new car market in the world and the leader there is the Chevrolet Onix. This makes up one-in-every-12 cars sold in Brazil.
This car’s five-door hatchback status is a very familiar one to UK buyers, but you haven’t been officially able to buy a Chevy here since 2015; before then it mostly imported re-badged Daewoos.
In the case of this model, we should perhaps be glad you can’t buy it here – in May 2017 it scored a shocking zero stars for adult safety in the Latin American version of the NCAP test.
GERMANY: Volkswagen Golf – 172,434 sold
You don’t really need to explain the Volkswagen Golf is the number one seller in Germany. It has been for most of its five-decade production span and 2018 saw it rack up 172,434 new registrations out of 3.4 million new cars sold. Sales were down on 2017’s, dropping almost 17,000 year on year.
The Golf makes up 5% of all new cars sold in Germany and the new generation Golf that arrived recently is likely to continue that trend. And it makes perfect sense in the UK, as if you needed to know.
Indeed, it was the UK’s second-biggest selling car in 2018, with 64,892 registrations.
FRANCE: Renault Clio – 151,434 sold
With the all-new Clio recently released, this small french hatchback is now better than it's ever been before. With that in mind, we expect the new small car to continue the legacy of its forebearer and remain the best selling car in France.
With the previous model finding 151,434 willing new homes in 2018, it saw off the Peugeot 208 by more than 20,000 and the Citroen C3 by a whopping 50,000.
It even managed to increase its sales from 2017 by a healthy 5%. In the UK, the Clio has never fully recovered the Nicole-and-Papa glory days sales of the first generation model, and has since been in the shadows of the Fiesta, the Vauxhall Corsa and the VW Polo.
THAILAND: Toyota Hilux – 149,336 sold
The Thai new car market boomed in 2018 and was up 19.2% on the previous year, so the Toyota Hilux has enjoyed a considerable bounce. That boosted its sales in this country to 149,336, which means this model alone enjoys a 15% slice of overall sales of one million cars.
The Toyota works in Thailand because income levels are rising, but the poor roads infrastructure encourages a tough truck like the Hilux. Toyota will happily sell you one in the UK too, but here the mud-plugging load-lugger tends to be more a favourite with self-employed building workers and the like rather than the everyday driver.
CANADA: Ford F Series – 145,694 sold
As already mentioned, the F Series makes perfect sense in the US and Canada but in the UK, not so much.
ITALY: Fiat Panda – 130,206 sold
Like several European countries, the Italians remain quite partisan when it comes to their favourite cars, so the Panda continues to top the sales chart here. Even though the overall market in Italy contracted by 3.1% in 2018 compared with 2017, the ageing-but-cheap Panda still accounted for one in every 15 cars sold.
Cute styling we grant you, but the Panda on sale in the UK is largely the one you could first buy back in 2003, and is today hopelessly outclassed by newer machinery – not to mention its zero NCAP rating.
SOUTH KOREA: Hyundai Grandeur – 113,101 sold
Hyundai remains the biggest player in South Korea by a large margin, though its associate company Kia is narrowing the lead Hyundai has over it. Even so, Hyundai still lays claim to the best-selling car in the country with its Grandeur large saloon.
It’s not a bad-looking machine, but you can’t buy it in the UK.
RUSSIA: Lada Vesta – 108,363 sold
New car sales boomed in Russia and the market in 2018 was up 12.8% compared with 2017. Lada remained the most popular brand overall and its Vesta easily took the number one spot with a 17.5% share of new registrations all to itself.
We know you’re queuing up to buy a new Lada, but unfortunately you haven’t been able to in the UK since 1997.
There is nothing quite like the Vesta available for sale here at present; because this saloon looks like a hatchback, your closest and best bet is the Dacia Sandero 0.9 TCe 90 Essential.
MEXICO: Nissan Versa – 91,320 sold
The Nissan Versa is a compact saloon that’s sold in North and South America largely on the fact that it’s extremely cheap. Indeed, it’s currently the cheapest new car you can buy in America, at the dollar equivalent of £9450.
There’s no such thing as a budget small saloon on sale in the UK at present, so again we suggest looking at the Dacia Sandero 0.9 TCe 90 Essential hatchback.
UK: Ford Fiesta – 95,996 sold
New car sales were down 7% in the UK in 2018, but there was little change in the overall best sellers. Ford remains the dominant brand with a 10.7% share of new vehicle registrations and the Fiesta was its most popular model, accounting for 95,996 sales.
That means the latest Fiesta launched in 2017 made up 37.8% of the firm’s UK sales volume.
In its segment, the Fiesta comfortably beat off the Vauxhall Corsa and even managed to displace the Corsa from top position in Scotland for only the second time in 11 years.
The only other small hatchbacks that made it in the UK’s top 10 best sellers were the Volkswagen Polo and Mini, though even their combined sales couldn’t beat the Fiesta’s.
INDONESIA: Toyota Avanza – 82,167 sold
Toyota’s Avanza MPV retained its number one position in Indonesia for the 13th consecutive year, but it was a close-run thing against the surge of sales for the Mitsubishi Xpander.
The MPV may be in decline in many countries, but it’s still a very popular choice in those where incomes are low and fuel expensive. You can’t buy an Avanza in the UK – your best bet is the Citroën Berlingo.
MALAYSIA: Perodua Axia – 78,425 sold
Perodua dominates its home market and often accounts for more than half of all new car sales in Malaysia on a monthly basis. For 2018, its overall market share was 43% and the Axia’s 78,425 sales made up 14.2% of all Malaysian new car registrations.
AUSTRALIA: Toyota Hilux – 51,705 sold
While others had to endure tough times in 2018, the Toyota Hilux went from strength to strength in Australia. Not only did it record a third straight year at the top of new car sales, it did it with a 9.8% boost in sales where its rivals all suffered dropping numbers.
By the end of the year, the Hilux was responsible for 4.5% of the entire market.
ALGERIA: Dacia Logan – 46,270 sold
Algeria may not be a country that immediately springs to mind as a large market, but it features here because Dacia dominates this country’s new car sales. In 2017, it was the Sandero that wracked up the biggest number, but for 2018 the mantle passed to the Logan.
The Logan is only sold in MCV estate form in the UK and can be had for £8,495 in Access trim.
TURKEY: Fiat Egea – 36,649 sold
It’s three year on the trot for the Fiat Egea as Turkey’s best-selling car, even if the country’s new car market fell by a whopping 35.1% in 2018 compared with 2017. If you think this car is familiar, that’s because it’s essentially a Fiat Tipo with a boot.
You can’t buy an Egea in the UK, but you can buy the Tipo; cheap though that car is, we can’t recommend it. Once again, we suggest looking at the Dacia Sandero instead.
SPAIN: SEAT Leon – 34,764 sold
The Spanish are nothing if not loyal to their home-grown car maker and the Leon sits at the top of the sale pile for a fifth year in a row.
It managed this despite only taking the monthly top step of the podium three times, yet consistency across the whole year is what matters and underpins the Leon’s performance.
The Leon is very much on sale in the UK, and is a fine car.
TAIWAN: Toyota Corolla – 28,184 sold
The Toyota Corolla has been Taiwan’s number one choice and has been for the past 15 years.
The Corolla name had been absent from the UK in favour of the Auris since 2003. That’s all changed now, and we rather like the all-new Corolla, especially in hybrid-engined form – it costs from £24,140 on the road.
VIETNAM: Toyota Vios – 27,188 sold
The Toyota Vios is a small car that’s big news in Vietnam, where it recorded its fifth successive year as the number one seller in 2018.
It’s another example of the ultra-cheap saloons that sell by the truckload across East Asia and the Americas, but is not a popular class in the UK.
CZECH REPUBLIC: Skoda Octavia – 25,834 sold
The Skoda Octavia remains the favourite car of Czech buyers and 2018 saw it take one in every 10 new sales.
Prejudiced towards their home-grown brand they may be, but their taste is excellent as it’s our current favourite family car, especially in 1.5 TSI 150 SE L form.
ROMANIA: Dacia Logan – 24,955 sold
Few cars can claim such a winning streak as the Dacia Logan enjoys in its home country and 2018 is the 14th consecutive year it’s occupied the top spot in the sales rankings and just as impressively it’s never once relinquished that position for a single month since its launch in 2004.
SWEDEN: Volvo S90 & V90 – 24,346 sold
In a year of two halves, the Swedes have again propelled a different model to the number one step of the new car sales podium.
This is the fourth year in a row where a new car has taken this mantle and for 2018 it fell to the Volvo S90 (saloon) & V90 (estate) range and its 6.9% market share. You can buy both cars in the UK, and they’re very respectable.
PORTUGAL: Renault Clio – 15,076 sold
Renault Clio sales in Portugal rose 6.7% to sell 15,076 cars in 2018 and claim the top spot in that country. We predict sales will only be boosted by the arrival of the fifth gen Clio.
NETHERLANDS: Volkswagen Polo – 14,757 sold
Volkswagen’s new Polo model has been a smash hit in the Netherlands, with the model’s sales rising 68.5% compared with 2017.
The Polo ended the year with 14,757 sales and helped VW to be the best-selling brand with a 11.3% share of new registrations. The Dutch are clearly a canny bunch, as the Polo’s our favourite car in its class.
NORWAY: Nissan Leaf – 12,303 sold
Helped along by cheap hydro-generated electricity and tax advantages, Norway is a leading light when it comes to electric vehicles and the Nissan Leaf was the country’s best-selling car in 2018. It achieved 12,303 sales. You can buy the Leaf here in the UK and in 2018 it took home our Electric Car of the Year Award.
Despite concerns over its real-world range – it achieved just 128 miles in our Real Range test – the latest variant of the Leaf boasts much better mileage, making it a real contender against traditional combustion engine hatchbacks.
In the UK, the on the road price for the Leaf is £26,345.
CHILE: Mitsubishi L200 – 11,312 sold
The rugged terrain of Chile and its large agricultural sector goes a long way to explaining why the Mitsubishi L200 is the biggest seller in this South American country.
The L200 is available in the UK, but our road testers didn't rate it very highly with the pickup only achieving three out of five stars.
HUNGARY: Suzuki Vitara – 11,123 sold
The Hungarian new car market grew 17.5% rise in 2018, which helped the Suzuki Vitara to its third year in a row on the top step of the podium.
Its sales were up by 26.6% to outperform the market and was the first model to exceed 10,000 sales in a single year since the Suzuki Swift back in 2007.
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