The UK's best selling cars right now

January's sales are well down on last year, but a continued switch to online selling and a rapid rise in demand for electric cars means it's not all bad news...

Sales of new cars in the UK were down by almost 40% in January compared with the same month last year, new figures have revealed, as the ongoing coronavirus pandemic continues to stunt sales.

Car dealership

In total, 90,249 new cars left showrooms in January, thanks to dealers operating using socially distanced click and collect services. Of the cars sold in January, less than half went to private owners, with the majority going to fleets to be used as company cars.

Petrol-powered models made up almost half of January's sales, with diesel's market share falling to just 12%. Conversely, sales of electrified cars have made a strong start, with more than 2000 extra electric cars sold in January 2021 than in the same month last year. Sales of plug-in hybrid cars are up by 28%, too.

Intro (cont.)

Mercedes EQC Ionity

It's important to note that, despite the current lockdown restrictions, you can still buy a new car in the UK, including by using our own New Car Buying service to chat with approved dealers. In fact, consumer confidence around car buying has risen steadily over the course of the last year, with recent What Car? research revealing that one-in-five (20.4%) potential buyers are looking to purchase within the next month. During the first lockdown last March, that figure was just 3.5%.

Our latest research has revealed that more buyers are now looking towards British brands, too, with 44% of our survey respondents saying that they were more likely to consider a car built in the UK as a result of the latest lockdown. That number has risen by 5% since we asked the same question last July.

So which were the most popular cars in January? Below we count down the top 10.

10. Ford Focus

2020 Ford Focus front action

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

January sales 1686

Ford Focus (cont.)

2020 Ford Focus dashboard

Great handling
Well equipped
Roomy rear seats

Not that cheap to buy
Low-rent interior
Skoda Octavia has a much bigger boot

9. Kia Niro

Kia Niro front three quarters

Available as a hybrid, a plug-in hybrid or as a fully electric car, the Kia Niro SUV is proof that going green can be the right choice for most drivers. It's well equipped, offers low running costs and comes with the reassurance of a seven-year warranty should anything go wrong.

January sales 1741

Kia Niro (cont.)

Kia Niro Hybrid - interior

Ultra-low company car tax for the Niro PHEV
Well equipped
Seven-year warranty

Other family SUVs are cheaper
Not much fun to drive
Small boot

8. Ford Puma

Ford Puma 2021 COTY

The Puma is a fantastic all-rounder and our reigning champion in the small SUV market, thanks to an alluring mix of practicality and low running costs, combined with an engaging driving style.

January sales 1760

Ford Puma (cont.)

Ford Puma 2021 dashboard

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

7. Volkswagen Golf

2020 Volkswagen Golf front action

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.

January sales 1779

Volkswagen Golf (cont.)

2020 Volkswagen Golf dashboard

An exceedingly comfortable ride with adaptive suspension
Tidy handling
Strong and frugal 1.5 TSI 150 engine

The frustratingly fiddly infotainment system is full of software bugs
Interior quality could be better
There are more spacious rivals


6. Mercedes A-Class

Mercedes A-Class A250e AMG Line front

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

January sales 1859

Mercedes A-Class (cont.)

Mercedes-Benz A-Class A250 2020 dashboard

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

5. Volvo XC40

Volvo XC40 2021 COTY image

The Volvo XC40 is a former What Car? Car of the Year and is our reigning Family SUV of the Year too. It's good to drive, spacious inside for both people and luggage, and has a well-built interior.

January sales 2201

Volvo XC40 (cont.)

Volvo XC40 2020 RHD dashboard

Stylish and high-quality interior
A comfortable ride on most versions
Comprehensive safety kit

Lacks the rear seat flexibility of some rivals
Fiddly infotainment system
Road noise on the motorway

4. Ford Fiesta

Used Ford Fiesta long-term test review

The Ford Fiesta was Britain's best-selling new car in 2020, but has gotten off to a slow start in 2021. Don't let that put you off, though; it's a cracking small car that's superb to drive and won't cost you much to run.

January sales 2594

Ford Fiesta (cont.)

Ford Fiesta 3dr dashboard

Brilliant to drive
Punchy Ecoboost engines, especially the Hybrid versions
Good fuel economy and CO2 emissions

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

3. Nissan Qashqai

Nissan Qashqai

It may be one of the older entrants into the family SUV class, but that doesn't stop the Qashqai shifting in big numbers. It's good to drive, relatively practical and is usually available with decent discounts, too. An all-new version is coming later this year.

January sales 2835

Nissan Qashqai (cont.)

Nissan Qashqai - interior

Big discounts
Quiet and smooth 1.3 petrol and 1.5 diesel engines
Surefooted handling and easy to drive

Top-end versions are very pricey
Ride comfort isn't great on 18in and 19in wheels
Reliability is a concern

2. Kia Sportage

Kia Sportage front - 20-plate car

If you're looking for a family SUV that won't cost a lot to buy or run, then the Sportage is well worth considering. It offers excellent value for money if you stick to the lower trim levels, and is decently spacious too. 

January sales 2986

Kia Sportage (cont.)

Kia Sportage - interior

Great value – in the right spec
Good resale values
Decent rear seat space and boot

Diesel engines are very noisy
Lumpy ride
No AEB on the most recommendable versions

1. Vauxhall Corsa

Vauxhall Corsa 2019 front left wide cornering RHD

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).

January sales 3078

Vauxhall Corsa (cont.)

Vauxhall Corsa 2019 dashboard RHD

Well equipped
Decent boot
Efficient engines

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

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