2016 was another record year for Britain’s new car market with almost 2.7 million sold, according to annual registrations figures released by the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders.
Some 2,692,786 new cars were registered throughout 2016, marking a 2.3 per cent uplift on the previous year and making 2016 the fifth consecutive year of growth.
Don’t use that a measure of consumer confidence though, this growth was spearheaded by the fleet market and company car sales, which were up 4.8 per cent in 2016.
Private registrations in the retail market actually slipped by 0.2 per cent last year, so spending was stagnant if anything.
Britain has one of the most diverse new car markets in the world with 44 brands offering close to 400 different models, and that’s only set to grow in 2017, with nearly 70 new models expected over the next 12 months.
Before we get into the top ten rundown though, a slight disclaimer.
See, rather than actual sales, these figures refer to registrations – i.e. how many newly built cars were given a registration plate.
In October, it was claimed that up to a fifth of all new cars registered in the UK were ‘pre-reg’.
This meant that the physical car hadn’t been sold and was likely gathering dust on a forecourt.
Many are eventually sold with up to 20 per cent hacked from its OTR price but it’s a widespread practice employed by dealerships so they get their monthly bonus from the manufacturer.
We published a lengthy article about it in November, but for now, which cars were most in-demand in 2016?…
10. Audi A3 – 43,808 units
Audi’s biggest-selling model is unsurprisingly the A3.
It has one of the widest ranges of any car on sale and whatever you need from your new car, there’s almost certainly an A3 to fit the bill.
The premium hatchback is well-rounded and well-priced, mixing style and practicality with great performance and a hefty dose of refinement.
9. Mercedes-Benz C-Class – 44,184 units
The C-Class has had to deal with some tough competition of late in the face of the revitalised Audi A4 and Jaguar’s XE now in full flow.
Those models outclass the Merc in certain areas, but they’re nowhere to be seen in this list, which means that the C-Class remains Britain’s favourite compact executive car.
8. Mini Hatch – 48,328 units
It’s the best Mini ever (in our humble opinion) and it’s the go-to name for anyone after a cheeky but high-end supermini.
Size-wise, it may not be so mini anywhere but this third-gen Mini Hatch is completely reimagined, with new engines, terrific handling and a seemingly limitless amount of custom options to make your Mini one of a kind.
7. Volkswagen Polo – 54,448 units
If Dieselgate has damaged the public perception of VW, it certainly hasn’t dented their sales,.
Actually, they went up by 17 per cent in 2016 and the Polo is the first of two Volkswagens in the UK top ten.
The Polo may not be as fun to drive as Ford’s Fiesta, but it does offer a more upmarket alternative with a smart interior and loads of equipment.
6. Vauxhall Astra – 60,719 units
The Astra has been around since 1979 so it really spoke volumes when the critics hailed the current generation as the best yet.
It hasn’t always been the most competitive in its class, with the Focus and Golf leading the way, but that didn’t stop it from claiming the title of European Car of the Year in 2016.
5. Nissan Qashqai – 62,682 units
Even Nissan was caught off-guard when the first generation Qashqai sold by the boatload, and they’ve been keen not to fix what isn’t broke with its successor by simply fine-tuning what was so great about the hiked-up family hatch first time around.
It’s practical, well-built, great to live with and the only car of its kind in this list, which says it all really.
4. Volkswagen Golf – 69,492 units
The Golf is the biggest selling car in Europe and even with a revised Golf on the way, the seventh-generation model is still doing the business here.
That’s because it combines quality, practicality and a premium feel at the right price.
3. Ford Focus – 70,545 units
More than one in ten new cars registered in 2016 was a Ford, and 22 per cent of the blue oval’s 316,318 registrations was a Focus.
It was the UK’s best-selling car for years before the Fiesta took over in 2007 and it’s clear that many still love the Focus.
2. Vauxhall Corsa – 77,110 units
The Corsa has been locked in a tussle with the Fiesta pretty much since both of them have been in the marketplace.
The current model is a pleasant well-rounded supermini, but it needs to go some way to beat its famous rival and 2016’s best selling car…
1. Ford Fiesta – 120,525 units
The race wasn’t even close; the Fiesta outsold 2016’s runner-up by more than 43,000 units and it’s no mystery why.
The Fiesta is a sensational supermini with a vast and versatile range, excelling in pretty much every area.
You want economy? Every diesel returns more than 75mpg.
Performance? The ST200 does 0-62mph in 6.7 seconds.
Style? Well, just look at it!
July will see the arrival of an all-new model, suggesting that the party will just roll on for the Fiesta.
Which car in the UK top ten would you like to see on your driveway? Tell us in the comments section below…
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