Vauxhall Corsa SMMTThe new car market has grown non-stop for a full 24 months, latest figures from industry body the SMMT reveal.

A rise in new car registrations of 3% in February means the new car market has risen for two consecutive years – and grown by 17.4% in that time.

It is “a real endorsement of consumer confidence and the attractiveness of the new car market,” said SMMT chief executive Mike Hawes.

Although volumes of 68,736 new cars represents “a quieter month ahead of the March registration plate change, we expect the arrival of the new 14-plate and increasing economic confidence to maintain a steady rate of growth”.

Sakes to private car buyers showed a welcome improvement over last year, accounting for 45.4% of the market compared to 42.9%. These sales are more profitable for brands, and are preferable to pure fleet sales: these subsequently declined, from 52.7% to 50.3%.

This may partly be influenced by fleets waiting for the arrival of the new registration plate.

Britain’s best-selling cars, February 2014

The Ford Fiesta remained Britain’s most popular car by a clear margin: sales of 4,415 were a staggering 40% ahead of the next best selling car.

In second place was the Vauxhall Corsa – and in a further fillip for Vauxhall, the British-built Astra emerged in third place, ahead of the Ford Focus (although this would have been affected by the reveal of the facelifted Focus at the Geneva Motor Show).

Mercedes-Benz proved the arrival of a replacement is no barrier to strong sales, with the C-Class beating the Vauxhall Insignia to seventh place, and the Volkswagen Polo made a long-awaited return to the top 10 best sellers by emerging in sixth plate.

Audi’s pride at being Britain’s favourite luxury car brand without having a model in the top 10 took a hit, though – the A3 emerged in ninth place, ahead of the BMW 3 Series.

UK best sellers – February 2014

1 Ford Fiesta: 4,415

2 Vauxhall Corsa: 3,138

3 Vauxhall Astra: 2,707

4 Ford Focus: 2,566

5 VW Golf: 1,628

6 VW Polo: 1,450

7 Mercedes-Benz C-Class: 1,231

8 Vauxhall Insignia: 1,164

9 Audi A3: 1,148

10 BMW 3 Series: 1,085