Best-selling cars in the UK

11 January 2022 - autocar

Mercedes-Benz A-Class

Which car claimed the top spot in 2021? The latest SMMT data reveals all

The Vauxhall Corsa finished 2021 as the UK’s best-selling car, achieving the milestone for the first time in the model’s history, according to data released by the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders. 

The Corsa topped the rankings in an unusual year for car sales, the market having been hit hard by semiconductor shortages and ongoing upheaval due to the coronavirus pandemic. 

Vauxhall’s supermini took the top spot from the Ford Fiesta, which was affected by production cuts resulting from supply chain issues. The impact on the Fiesta was so significant that the model doesn’t appear anywhere in the final top 10. 

A total of 1.65 million cars were sold in the UK last year, representing an increase of 1%, or 16,000 units. The top 10 was nonetheless hotly contested with the Tesla Model 3 achieving a surprising second-place finish, while the Mini and Mercedes-Benz A-Class also challenged the Corsa throughout 2021.

For the full list, read on…

The best-selling cars of 2021

1. Vauxhall Corsa 40,919

The usual runner-up to the Ford Fiesta has finally become the best-selling car in the UK. It’s the first time a non-Ford car has finished a year in the number one spot in half a century. The revamped Corsa, first produced in 2019, topped the standings at the end of a year in which its US rival failed to even make the top 10. 

The Corsa's success reflects well on its PSA-developed underpinnings and mix of petrol, diesel and electric powertrains. The model sold more than 40,000 units in 2021, with the all-electric variant accounting for 5605 of those. “The Vauxhall Corsa fully deserves to be back at the top of the UK sales charts as the nation’s favourite new car,” said Paul Willcox, Vauxhall’s managing director. “Alongside its design, innovative technology and affordable pricing, a full choice of powertrain technologies has been very popular – with customers able to choose between the fully electric Corsa-e or our efficient petrol and diesel engines. 

We’ve just enhanced the range of the Corsa-e and made it even more attainable so we’re confident that Corsa will continue to prove popular with UK buyers.

2. Tesla Model 3 34,783

Tesla’s Model 3 had an incredibly successful year, finishing second only to the Vauxhall Corsa. A strong competitor in the top 10 since the start of 2021, the Model 3 is the only model listed that is available solely as an electric car, appealing thanks to its excellent entry-level range of 254 miles. A longer-range, 349-mile version and a performance variant with near-supercar-level performance also proved enticing options.

3. Mini 3dr/5dr 31,792

Despite its age, the Mini continues to be as popular as ever. It finished 2021 in third place, ahead of superminis including the Volkswagen Polo and Toyota Yaris. It, too, offers a versatile line-up, with electric, convertible and John Cooper Works performance variants all offering good drivability and alluring looks. A new Mini is set to arrive in 2023. 

4. Mercedes-Benz A-Class 30,710

The Mercedes-Benz A-Class ranked highly for most of 2021. Its success is understandable when you consider the sheer variety of drivers it suits, with a selection of petrol, diesel and plug-in hybrid options plus an overwhelming array of specifications and trim levels to choose from.

5. Volkswagen Polo 30,634

Volkswagen's ever-popular small hatchback spent much of 2021 in the top five and ended the year one spot ahead of its Golf sibling. A refreshed model has now hit UK roads, with Golf-inspired design features such as the firm’s now characteristic light bar. It’s one of the most expensive non-hybrid superminis, but we’d expect its success to continue well into 2022. An updated GTI is on the way, too. 

6. Volkswagen Golf 30,240

After several months of butting heads with the Corsa, the Golf ended the year down in sixth spot. It remains popular, though, and the eighth-generation car represents a more radical departure from its predecessor than any iteration since the Mk5. Improved dynamics and an overhauled interior were the headline changes when it was launched back in 2020.

7. Nissan Qashqai 29,922

When the Nissan Qashqai first arrived in 2006, it heralded the birth of the crossover class, which is now the most crowded and in-demand segment in the UK. Even now, 14 years later and with nearly 30 well-rounded opponents to fend off, the Qashqai continues to lead the way. It’s the UK’s best-selling SUV, and finished the year seventh overall.

8. Ford Puma 28,697

The Ford Puma crossover has proven a hit with buyers, no doubt as a result of its attractive pricing and surprisingly keen dynamics. The range has swollen recently with the addition of a plush Vignale trim and a warm-blooded ST version. Turns out that building a car for one of the UK's most popular segments on the underpinnings of the country's favourite supermini was a shrewd idea.

9. Kia Sportage 27,611

We will get a completely new Kia Sportage later this year, yet the current model continues to perform well in the UK market. Its selection of versatile powertrains means the SUV is as popular as ever. Ninth place is no mean achievement given the number of competitors vying to eat into its share. 

10. Toyota Yaris 27,415

The Toyota Yaris props up the UK’s top 10 best-sellers of 2021. The model was in and out of the rankings all year, proving the Japanese firm’s versatile, stylish little hatchback to be a serious competitor to the likes of the Volkswagen Polo and Mini. The range is topped by the five-star GR Yaris, a rally-bred pocket rocket that we think might be among the most exhilarating hot hatchbacks in a generation.

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