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.
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.
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
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.)
Roomy rear seats
Not that cheap to buy
Skoda Octavia has a much bigger boot
9. Kia Niro
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.)
Ultra-low company car tax for the Niro PHEV
Other family SUVs are cheaper
Not much fun to drive
8. Ford Puma
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.)
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
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.)
An exceedingly comfortable ride with adaptive suspension
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
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.)
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
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.)
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
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.)
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
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.)
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
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.)
Great value – in the right spec
Good resale values
Decent rear seat space and boot
Diesel engines are very noisy
No AEB on the most recommendable versions
1. Vauxhall Corsa
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.)
Laggy and confusing infotainment system
Below-par safety rating
Poor resale values
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