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Mike Hawes

Car industry risks ‘death by a thousand cuts’ without Brexit rethink

Mike HawesProgress on Brexit needs to speed up in order to allay growing automotive industry concerns and address a marked slowdown in investment, the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) has warned.

The automotive industry trade body is today presenting its latest report on the health of the UK car sector, which shows that manufacturing turnover hit a record £82 billion in 2017. However, it says this success risks being reversed without the speedy conclusion of a deal that clarifies Britain’s regulatory and customs relations with the EU.

Already in 2018, inward investment in the car industry has suffered a marked slowdown. Less than £350 million has been committed to new models and factories in the UK – that’s half the amount invested in the first half of 2017. Production output has slowed and there have been job cuts.

“There is growing frustration in global boardrooms at the slow pace of negotiations,” said SMMT chief executive Mike Hawes. “The current position, with conflicting messages and red lines, goes directly against the interests of the UK automotive sector which has thrived on single market and customs union membership.

‘No Brexit dividend for cars’

Vauxhall Ellesmere Port

“There is no credible ‘plan B’ for frictionless customs arrangements, nor is it realistic to expect that new trade deals can be agreed with the rest of the world that will replicate the immense value of trade with the EU.”

Hawes’ demand was stark: “Government must rethink its position on the customs union.

“There is no Brexit dividend for our industry, particularly in what is an increasingly hostile and protectionist global trading environment. Our message to government is that until it can demonstrate exactly how a new model for customs and trade with the EU can replicate the benefits we currently enjoy, don’t change it.”

Speaking earlier to the BBC, Hawes said the risk was “death by a thousand cuts”. The slowdown in investment would lead to a weakening of the UK car industry as manufacturers invested elsewhere. 

“With decisions on new vehicle models in the UK due soon,” said the SMMT, “government must take steps to boost investor confidence and safeguard the thousands of jobs that depend on the sector.”

Ford Fiesta

Diesel sales down a quarter as green cars hit new high

Ford Fiesta

New car registrations recorded a small 3.4 percent rise during May 2018, reports the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT). However, this wasn’t enough to offset a year-to-date decline of almost seven percent. 

Diesel once again bore the brunt of consumers’ scorn with overall sales down 23.6 percent. That’s the 14th consecutive month of decline for diesel.

Petrol registrations were up 23.5 percent and alternative fuel cars (that’s electric and hybrid) rose by a third, albeit from a small base. Even so, the 5.8 percent market share of hybrids and plug-ins is a new UK record; 11,240 alternative-fuel cars were sold in May.

The AFV breakdown shows a 72.7 percent rise for plug-in hybrids, a 22.6 percent boost for hybrids, but a more modest 18.7 percent boost for EVs.

Private sales rose by 10.1 percent, up to more than 83,000 cars. By contrast, the business and fleet sectors, declined 9.6 percent and 0.7 percent respectively.

Superminis were the most popular type of new car (up six percent), while the hottest May on record resulted in a big boost for convertibles – up 11.7% year-on-year.

Mike Hawes, SMMT chief executive, said: “May’s growth, albeit on the back of large declines last year, is encouraging and suggests the market is now starting to return to a more natural running rate.

“Now it’s time for government officials to show common-sense,” he added. “To ensure long-term stability, we need to avoid any further disruption to the market, and this will require sustainable policies that give consumers and businesses the confidence to invest in the new cars that best suit their needs.

“Fleet renewal is the fastest way to improve air quality and reduce CO2, and this applies to hybrid and plug-in technologies as well as the latest low emission petrol and diesels which, for many drivers, remain the right choice economically and environmentally.”

May 2018 top 10 best-sellers

1: Ford Fiesta

2: Ford Focus

3: Volkswagen Golf

4: Nissan Qashqai

5: Volkswagen Polo

6: Vauxhall Corsa

7: Mini

8: Mercedes-Benz C-Class

9: Mercedes-Benz A-Class

10: Audi A3

Read more:

Car industry warns of Brexit cliff-edge if no deal reached

Nissan JukeThe UK automotive industry has called on the government to prioritise an interim post-Brexit arrangement with the EU because it does not believe a beneficial deal can be arranged by March 2019.

Any deal must ensure business can carry on as normal – because the industry faces a post-Brexit cliff-edge if forced to trade under World Trade Organisation rules.

This could permanently damage the industry, warns SMMT chief executive Mike Hawes. 

In perhaps the organisation’s punchiest language yet, Hawes warned the government it was time to be pragmatic about what can be achieved in the time available – and the risks to the UK automotive industry if no deal is reached. 

“No deal is simply not an option. We accept that we are leaving the European Union and share the desire for that departure to be a success. But our biggest fear is that in two years’ time we fall off a cliff edge – no deal, outside the single market and customs union, and trading on inferior WRO terms.

“That’s why we have to be honest with ourselves. If the UK cannot secure – and implement – a bespoke and comprehensive new relationship with the EU in two years’ time, we need a back-up plan… we need government to seek an interim arrangement whereby we stay within the single market and customs union until that new relationship is implemented.”

The risk of no deal is uncertainty, which business hates. “We need certainty to encourage continuity,” said Hawes. The growth of the UK automotive industry depends on continued investment from manufacturers: the confidence to make these despite Brexit is vital.

“It is time to stop playing with words: industry needs clarity. Our sector needs a unique, comprehensive and bespoke EU trade agreement.”


More Brexit news on Motoring Research


It’s not just automotive businesses that are at risk, either: UK car buyers could also face price rises of an average £1,500 per car.

The SMMT stated before the European Referendum vote that its preference was for the UK to remain within the EU. This remains the case. “This is the best deal,” said Hawes, but the industry fully accepts the UK is leaving and now the challenge is “how to make a success of the departure”.

The UK automotive industry is currently thriving, adds the SMMT: turnover increased to £77.5 billion in 2016, the highest on record. Productivity is at a record high, with 11.8 vehicles produced per employee, production rising 8.9 percent and the value added to the UK economy by the sector rising 7.3 percent to £21.5 billion.

 

Revealed: the best-selling cars in May 2017

Revealed: the best-selling cars in May 2017

UK new car demand fell 8.5% in May, with 186,265 cars registered in the month. The Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) puts the decline down to politics as “buyers hold back ahead of June general election”. But what cars make the top 10? Spoiler alert: don’t expect any surprises.

10. Mercedes-Benz A-Class

10. Mercedes-Benz A-Class

And, in at number 10, it’s the Infiniti Q30. No, wait, that’s not right – this list is entirely predictable. Propping up the top 10 is the Mercedes-Benz A-Class, with 3,367 registrations in May 2017.

“We expected demand in the new car market to remain negative in May due to the pull-forward to March – which was an all-time record month – resulting from VED reform,” said Mike Hawes, SMMT chief executive. Hashtag positive spin.

9. MINI

9. MINI

A total of 3,535 MINIs were registered in May, as the big little car cements its place in the year-to-date top 10. Just under 20,000 MINIs have been registered in 2017.

Prices start from £14,620 for the three-door and £15,250 for the five-door version. These days, monthly costs are more relevant: MINI ownership starts from £169 with an initial rental of £2,949.

8. Mercedes-Benz C-Class

8. Mercedes-Benz C-Class

The C-Class is the second Mercedes-Benz to appear in the top 10, with a total of 4,046 registrations. That’s an awful lot of premium compact executive cars…

In fact, Mercedes-Benz registered 14,660 cars in May, which is more than Vauxhall. Come Thursday, folk will be arriving at the polling stations in posh motors.

7. Vauxhall Corsa

7. Vauxhall Corsa

A total of 4,056 Vauxhall Corsa were registered in May, precisely 10 more than the C-Class. At the opposite end of the spectrum, care to guess how many cars Lotus registered in May?

Two. Lotus registered two cars in May 2017, which is 60 fewer than McLaren. Even Chevrolet managed to shift four cars…

6. Vauxhall Astra

6. Vauxhall Astra

Back to the top 10, where we find the Vauxhall Astra in sixth position with a total of 4,170 cars registered in May 2017.

It means that the Astra is Britain’s most popular Vauxhall. And you were thinking it might be the Cascada. Evacuate the showroom floor.

5. Volkswagen Polo

5. Volkswagen Polo

Volkswagen shifted 15,656 units in May, putting it second behind all-conquering Ford. A total of 4,247 Polos were registered in May.

A new Volkswagen Polo is expected to be unveiled at the 2017 Frankfurt Motor Show, so now might be a good time to ask for a discount on the outgoing model. You might save a mint.

4. Ford Focus

4. Ford Focus

Year-to-date figures put the Ford Focus in second place, but the family hatchback must settle for fourth in May. A total of 4,455 units were registered in May.

Ford Focus prices start from £19,635, with the ST (pictured) starting from £25,235. Meanwhile, Ford now offers an ‘Option Pack’ for the RS model, which includes a mechanical limited-slip differential.

3. Nissan Qashqai

3. Nissan Qashqai

For a country supposedly in love with crossovers, the Nissan Qashqai is the only example of the breed to appear in the top 10. A total of 4,970 units were shifted in May 2017.

The current Qashqai – which is set to be replaced by a facelifted model – is ranked third overall, with 28,471 year-to-date registrations.

2. Volkswagen Golf

2. Volkswagen Golf

Meanwhile, the Volkswagen Golf enjoyed a terrific month, with 5,449 units registered. Year-to-date, the Golf is ranked fourth, which means the premium hatch is punching above its weight.

Prices start from £17,765 for the entry-level Golf S, rising to £32,310 for the Golf R. What’s number one? As if you haven’t guessed already…

1. Ford Fiesta

1. Ford Fiesta

Yep, it’s the Ford Fiesta. A total of 7,617 units were registered in May, edging the year-to-date figure above the 50,000 mark. Crazy.

You won’t be able to order a current Fiesta from the factory, as the all-new model is on the way. Some great deals are likely if you’re prepared to accept a pre-configured model.


More car sales figures on Motoring Research: 


Ultimate road test: 25 cars in one day

Ultimate road test 2017Imagine a test-track with more than 150 new cars, each parked with keys in the ignition. Choose whatever takes your fancy, then simply jump in and drive. That’s the reality of SMMT Test Day, the annual road-test event organised by the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders.

Now, we like a challenge, so we decided to see how many cars we could drive and review in one day. From an Aston Martin V12 Vantage S to a ‘classic’ Kia Pride, nothing was off-limits. The MR team comprised Richard Aucock (RA), John Redfern (JR) and Tim Pitt (TP), plus help from Mark Thomson of Tame Geek (MT).

Read on to see our highs and lows of SMMT 2017.

Mercedes-AMG E63 SUltimate road test 2017

Let’s start with one of the fastest cars of the day. Ballistic, bombastic, bahnstorming and more than a little bonkers, the E63 S is Stuttgart’s latest salvo in the super-saloon arms race. It packs a 4.0-litre twin-turbocharged V8, producing 612hp and a monstrous 627lb ft of torque.

On Millbrook’s high-speed bowl, the muscle-Merc accelerates from 100mph with more conviction than a Porsche Boxster at half that speed. It also has a drift mode, which we weren’t allowed to switch on. Probably for the best… (TP)

Lexus GS FUltimate road test 2017

How about another rear-wheel-drive super saloon? The naturally-aspirated 5.0-litre V8 in the Lexus GS F produces 467hp at a rev-tastic 7,100rpm, while torque is 391lb ft. That second figure seems low in a car that weighs over 1,800kg.

Unlike many of its rivals, the GS F needs to be worked hard to get the best from it. Only at the upper reaches of the rev range does it feel properly fast; you need to cling on to gears before pulling that paddle. Unmuffled by turbochargers, the GS F sounds intense. (JR)

Jaguar F-Pace SUltimate road test 2017

What to do when you want a luxury executive saloon, but with a driving position higher than everyone else? The answer used to be ‘buy a BMW X5’. Now, it seems everybody wants a Jaguar F-Pace.

Given the way it handles like a sports saloon and the 3.0-litre V6 diesel slingshots you between corners, the F-Pace makes a very convincing alternative to other similarly-priced saloons and SUVs. (MT)

Mitsubishi StarionUltimate road test 2017

According to automotive folklore, the Mitsubishi Starion got its name because Japanese engineers couldn’t pronounce the word ‘stallion’. Wide of wheelarch and squat of stance, this 80s throwback – part of Mitsubishi UK’s heritage fleet – looked fabulous in the scorching SMMT Day sun.

Despite those INTERCOOLER TURBO stickers, however, the 30-year-old Starion seems slow by modern standards. On Millbrook’s tortuously twisty city course, it felt cumbersome and uninvolving – not the ‘Japanese Porsche 944’ I’d hoped for. Like shell suits and shoulder pads, perhaps the Starion is best left in the past? (TP)

Audi TT RS CoupeUltimate road test 2017

Locked in continuous battle with the Porsche Cayman, the latest Audi TT RS has gained more oomph from its 2.5-litre five-cylinder turbo engine. Peak power is now a faintly ridiculous 394hp, with torque a chunky 354lb ft. Naturally, a Quattro 4WD system is standard, as is a seven-speed S Tronic semi-automatic gearbox.

Reaching 62mph takes just 3.7 seconds in the TT RS, and it feels every bit as quick as that claim. Bar some minor turbo lag, the TT RS fires on relentlessly, feeling almost hamstrung by the confines of Millbrook’s Alpine route. The exhaust note is a fitting reminder as to why five cylinders are inherently better than four. (JR)

Audi R8 SpyderUltimate road test 2017

The Audi R8’s 540hp 5.2-litre V10 is one of the best-sounding engines available: FACT. So why wouldn’t you give your eardrums unfettered access to that red-blooded howl by choosing the Spyder version? These are the important consumer questions we’re here to answer.

So yes, it sounds fabulous – even if that popping, belching exhaust alerts Millbrook’s over-zealous marshals even time I tickle the right pedal. What struck me most, though, is how easy the R8 is to drive. With light steering and a semi-auto ’box, it’s docile at low speed – yet savagely quick when the traffic clears. (TP)

Volvo V90 R-DesignUltimate road test 2017

Well, I can safely say that I didn’t expect to drive home from SMMT Test Day wishing I was making the five-hour trip in a Volvo. But the V90 is a genuinely handsome car – and a fantastic place to be.

With a twin-turbo four-cylinder diesel engine, four-wheel drive and an eight-speed gearbox, the V90 feels like a car that will offer you decades of style and comfort. (MT)

Rover 45Ultimate road test 2017

Apparently, this is Britain’s cheapest car. A motoring writer bought it on eBay for £3.19, which, he told me, is the same price as a jar of mayonnaise in his local supermarket. “Ironic, really, given the Rover K-Series’ propensity to blow its head gasket.”

Go on – you’re thinking it was horrendous, aren’t you? Actually no, it was much more solid, rattle-free and robust than I expected. It didn’t feel like a car on its last legs, rather a perfectly inoffensive hack to get you to the station and back for the price of a coffee once you actually get to said station. A geriatric gem. (RA)

Porsche Panamera TurboUltimate road test 2017

Praise be, Porsche has finally designed a Panamera that isn’t offensively ugly. And the Turbo has the coolest rear spoiler since the original 930 Turbo whale tail. There’s also the small matter of 550hp, which equates to 62mph in 3.8 seconds and a 190mph VMax. That’s one seriously hot hatch.

At this point, I should probably admit to being a fully-paid-up Porsche fanatic. But even so, the Panamera Turbo was genuinely the most impressive car I drove all day. Switching drive modes from Normal to Sport Plus utterly transforms its character, from comfortable cruiser to savage supercar-slayer. (TP)

Aston Martin DB11Ultimate road test 2017

The car in the highest level of demand all day was, unsurprisingly, an Aston Martin. The DB11 is an all-new car from the ground up and feels it. Its twin-turbo V12 delivers 608hp and 516lb ft of torque to the rear wheels via an eight-speed gearbox.

This drivetrain, combined with an excellently-appointed cabin, allows the DB11 to shift from long-range grand tourer to corner-conquering supercar with the press of two buttons. It’s a bona fide British hero. (MT)

Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT 6.4 V8 HemiUltimate road test 2017

Does anybody really need an SUV with 475hp and 460lb ft? Perhaps not, but the SRT Hemi dishes up a super-sized slice of American pie. A 4WD system helps control all that power, while the automatic gearbox has a launch mode setting. Braking is via a suitably huge Brembo set-up.

Predictably, the Hemi engine dominates proceedings, hoofing the Grand Cherokee along with a V8 bellow. We were confined to the high-speed bowl with this one, so couldn’t test how well it fared beyond straight-line drag races. Circling the bowl also highlighted that the SRT’s interior won’t be giving BMW or Mercedes-Benz sleepless nights. (JR)

Subaru BRZUltimate road test 2017

Being crowned Jeremy Clarkson’s car of the year clearly didn’t do the Toyota GT86 many favours – it remains a rare sight on UK roads. And the Subaru BRZ version is even rarer. Which is a shame, because the Toyobaru is still, for our money, the best budget driver’s car on sale.

It’s easy to get fixated on how readily – and enthusiastically – the BRZ goes sideways. That’s all good fun, of course, but it’s the sublime steering and chassis balance that really excites. I can ignore the rubbish infotainment system, and the fact that it’s pricier than an MX-5. For now, I just want to keep driving. (TP)

Ford Focus RSUltimate road test 2017

Unless you happened to be living ‘off-grid’ during 2016, you’ll know the Mk3 Focus RS was the single most talked- and written-about car last year. Still, in case you missed it, the key facts are a 2.3-litre Ecoboost turbo engine (shared with the Mustang), six-speed manual gearbox and – for the first time in a Focus RS – power going to all four wheels.

The RS is truly a car that more than matches the hype surrounding it, with feelsome steering, nimble turn-in, a confidence-inspiring 4WD system and an engine that just keeps pushing. The pops and bangs from the exhaust system only add to the sense of riotous fun. Unquestionably deserving of its RS badge. (JR)

Mazda MX-5 1.5Ultimate road test 2017

The world’s best-selling sports car returns for its fourth act, with Mazda taking inspiration from the lightweight original. It isn’t quite a Lotus Elise, but the MX-5 – in entry-level 1.5-litre spec – is about as basic as ‘mainstream’ cars get. And all the better for it.

Driving the MX-5 back-to-back with the Subaru BRZ was an interesting – if unplanned – twin-test. The Mazda is markedly slower, but feels lighter on its feet; few cars change direction so keenly. Highlights include a super-slick gearshift and pedals that are perfectly spaced for heel-and-toe ’changes. Nonetheless, it’s still the BRZ for me. (TP)

Mazda MX-5 RF 2.0Ultimate road test 2017

Intended to be the practical and grown-up version of the MX-5, RF stands for Retractable Fastback. Gone is the folding soft-top, replaced by a folding metal roof, along with some neat flying buttresses on the rear deck. However, it comes at a cost of 40kg extra weight in this diminutive sports car.

Perhaps it was too much sun, or too much exposure to turbocharged engines, but the 160hp MX-5 RF seemed notably sedate when tackling the steep climbs of the Millbrook hill route. At least working the six-speed manual gearbox was a pleasant affair, while the delicate handling and quick steering made the twisty bits fun. Wind noise was also rather apparent, despite the RF being the ‘refined’ MX-5. (JR)

MINI John Cooper Works ChallengeUltimate road test 2017

Limited to just 52 examples, the JCW Challenge is MINI raiding the aftermarket parts bin for the best components. Nitron supplies the adjustable suspension, Team Dynamics the lightweight wheels and Michelin the Pilot Sport Cup 2 tyres. There’s also an exhaust system, controlled by Bluetooth, that’s so loud it’s not meant for road use.

Describing something as ‘go-kart-like’ is a horrible cliché, but it’s almost impossible to avoid with the JCW Challenge. The steering is so direct and immediate on turn-in, the comparison feels almost inevitable. The exhaust is very loud, while the limited-slip differential is brutal in deploying 228hp through the front wheels. (JR)

Kia PrideUltimate road test 2017

Don’t laugh. The Pride was the first supermini Kia sold in the UK and it wasn’t half bad. In truth, the Pride was simply a rebadged Mazda 121 (Ford Festiva in some markets), but it did have the unique option of whitewall tyres – sadly not fitted here.

Hammering around the hill route in the Kia, Aston DB11 looming large in my mirrors, will be my abiding memory of Test Day 2017. There’s just something about driving the doorhandles off a small, underpowered car. Was it comfortable? Was it practical? Should you buy one? No idea, I was just trying – desperately hard – to avoid being overtaken. (TP)

Audi S4Ultimate road test 2017

The new Audi S4 couldn’t be any more ‘Q car’ if it tried. With almost every option available fitted here, it comes to more than £55,000. Which makes it a somewhat decadent purchase.

If you do make that choice, though, you will be rewarded with an executive saloon that holds its own against most sports cars, but then allow you cruise home in comfort and style. (MT)

Ford Mustang 2.3 Ecoboost convertibleUltimate road test 2017

The Mustang’s 2.3-litre four-cylinder Ecoboost engine is the sensible way to own a muscle car. With 313hp and 319lb ft of torque, it promises the performance of a V6, but with downsized turbo engine economy. This should, in theory, be the perfect Mustang for the UK.

It might be the Mustang you should buy, but it’s hard to see this as the one you’d truly want. Despite feeling bombastic in the Focus RS, the Ecoboost engine seems strangely devoid of character here. Although hardly slow, the lack of theatre is disappointing. If you’re going to buy a drop-top Mustang, the 5.0-litre V8 really needs to be beneath that long bonnet. (JR)

Volkswagen Golf GTIUltimate road test 2017

The most obvious update for the Mk7.5 Golf GTI is Active Info Display: VW’s take on Audi’s Virtual Cockpit, which replaces the dials with a configurable 12.3-inch screen. Also nicked from Audi are the pointless-but-cool ‘dynamic’ rear indicators, while restyled bumpers and new alloys complete the changes.

I’ve owned numerous Golf GTIs over the years, and a five-door Mk5 GTI is the current Pitt family wagon. So it’s fair to say I’m a fan of these cars. Like its predecessors, the new GTI doesn’t instantly wow you. But it feels like a car that would win your affections over thousands of miles – just like my trusty Mk5. (TP)

Volkswagen e-GolfUltimate road test 2017

Electricity is the future of motoring and, after all VW has been though with diesel, they are pushing forward with electrification. If the e-Golf is any indication, the future will great.

The e-Golf feels oddly but enjoyably light to drive. It rewards you with instant torque, meaning at no point does it feel slow or underpowered. How long before we see an electric Golf GTI? (MT)

Aston Martin V12 Vantage SUltimate road test 2017

I rounded off my day at Millbrook with the Aston Martin V12 Vantage S – this one fitted with a dog-leg seven-speed manual gearbox. The on-paper stats are impressive: 573hp, 3.9 seconds to 62mph and 205mph flat-out. The interior looks hopelessly dated, but that’s soon forgotten when you fire-up the thunderous V12.

For the uninitiated, a dog-leg gearbox means first is down and across, where reverse might normally be. This makes the Vantage awkward to get going, but no matter: there’s more than enough torque to start in second gear. Indeed, I manage a – pretty swift – lap of the hill route without shifting out of fourth gear. You can’t do that in a Kia Pride. (TP)

Mercedes-Benz E 220d CoupeUltimate road test 2017

I hopped up to Merc trying to get hold of a V6 petrol. I drove off in a four-cylinder diesel. Short straw? If it were the old 2.1-litre diesel, maybe. But this all-new 2.0-litre turbodiesel is one of the best oil-burners Benz has made. And the E Coop itself is lovely.

It was scorching hot, so I needed to cool off. Thus, after a forgettable couple of laps of the hill course, I hit the high-speed bowl, set the cruise at 100mph and chillaxed. It was bliss. An archetypal Mercedes-Benz in all the best ways. (RA)

Volvo S90 D4 R-DesignUltimate road test 2017

The saloon brother to the V90 estate, the S90 is a truly giant four-door. D4 spec means a 2.0-litre diesel with 188hp and 295lb ft of torque, powering the front wheels through an eight-speed automatic gearbox. But this car isn’t about speed. Rather, it’s an alternative to the obvious German choices.

Calm, soothing, and tranquil. Somehow the S90 manages to make everything in the world seem fine once you’re behind the wheel. It may not have been the fastest or most powerful car I tested, but it was a strong favourite for the one I’d take home. (JR)

Porsche 911 Carrera GTSUltimate road test 2017

The 911 was quite a tease, given that it was the shortest drive of the day – clocking in at total of 30 yards due to the Alpine course being closed early. In that brief distance however, I can confirm that the GTS sounds great at low speeds, has a very well-appointed cabin and a responsive throttle. After the slowest doughnut ever, there’s not much more to say except that the 911 feels every bit the super sports car at all times. Ahem. (MT)

Ford Fiesta

UK new car registrations down 20% as VED changes introduced

Ford Fiesta

New car registrations plummeted by 19.8% in April as new car tax rates were introduced.

That’s according to data released this morning by the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) which shows 152,076 new cars were registered last month – making it the worst April since 2012.

The new VED rates, which were brought into force on on 1 April 2017, introduced a flat-rate of £140 for all petrol and diesel vehicles after the first year, compared to the CO2-based system used previously.

While electric cars continue to be tax-free, alternative-fuel vehicles including hybrid and plug-in hybrid models face a £130 yearly fee. This has resulted in the first downturn in alternatively-fuelled car registrations in nearly four years, as registrations dropped by 1.3% compared to April 2016.

“With the rush to register new cars and avoid VED tax rises before the end of March, as well as fewer selling days due to the later Easter, April was always going to be much slower,” said SMMT chief executive, Mike Hawes. “It’s important to note that the market remains at record levels as customers still see many benefits in purchasing a new car. We therefore expect demand to stabilise over the year as the turbulence created by these tax changes decreases.”

Registrations by private buyers were down by 28.4%, while businesses and large fleets also registered fewer cars (-21.0% and -12.3% respectively).

Despite the substantial hit in April, the SMMT says the overall new car market remains ‘strong’, with registrations over the first four months of 2017 up 1.1% compared to 2016.

April 2017 best sellers top 10

  1. Ford Fiesta: 4,957
  2. Nissan Qashqai: 4,430
  3. Mercedes-Benz C-Class: 3,777
  4. Mercedes-Benz A-Class: 3,608
  5. Ford Focus: 3,421
  6. Vauxhall Astra: 3,346
  7. Volkswagen Golf: 3,223
  8. Audi A3: 3,000
  9. Volkswagen Polo: 2,800
  10. BMW 1 Series: 2,740

Road tax deadline pushes car sales to record high

Road tax deadline pushes car sales to record highThe UK car market hit an all-time high last month as buyers rushed to beat the April 1 road tax changes. In total, 562,337 new cars were registered in March 2017 – a jump of 8.4% versus last year. It was also a record first quarter for the car industry, with 820,016 units sold. Let’s count down the top 10 best-selling cars…

10. Mercedes-Benz C-ClassRoad tax deadline pushes car sales to record high

No C-words for Mercedes: its C-Class edged the BMW 3 Series out of the UK top 10 last month. A total of 9,471 were registered.

The sheer breadth of the C-Class range – comprising saloon, coupe, estate and convertible, not forgetting ballistic AMG versions – means there is a model to suit most. Attractive finance deals have also helped its cause.

9. Ford KugaRoad tax deadline pushes car sales to record high

We wonder how many of the Kuga’s 9,561 sales were the top-spec Vignale seen here. Ford’s new sub-brand has an uphill struggle to convince buyers of its premium credentials, but the Kuga itself is proving popular.

One of the Kuga’s strengths is that it feels much like a Ford Focus to drive, with direct steering and good road manners. Its Sync 3 voice-activated media system is impressive, too.

8. MINIRoad tax deadline pushes car sales to record high

Retro design is here to stay: just compare the fortunes of MINI (owned by BMW) and Smart (owned by Mercedes-Benz). Trading on classic cool helped MINI to 10,003 sales last month.

In contrast to the Issigonis original, the modern MINI is all about choice. There are numerous body styles and engines, plus a seemingly endless list of personalisation options. We’ll have ours in red with a white roof, please.

7. Volkswagen PoloRoad tax deadline pushes car sales to record high

A new Polo arrives later this year, but the current model soldiers on. Dealers registered 10,711 in March, helping the VW to seventh place in the UK sales chart.

Commenting on the March sales stats, Mike Hawes, SMMT chief exec, said: “These record figures are undoubtedly boosted by consumers and businesses reacting to new VED changes, pulling forward purchases into March… This bumper performance probably means we will see a slowdown in April.”

6. Volkswagen GolfRoad tax deadline pushes car sales to record high

The Golf was actually the UK’s second best-selling car in February, as dealers discounted pre-facelift versions of the current Mk7. Last month, it slipped back to sixth, with 10,819 cars registered.

Interestingly, the four-wheel-drive Golf R outsells the cheaper GTI in the UK – although both are comfortably beaten by the hot GTD diesel.

5. Vauxhall AstraRoad tax deadline pushes car sales to record high

PSA Peugeot-Citroen will be pleased with the Astra’s strong showing; the French company has just bought the Vauxhall (UK) and Opel (Europe) brands from General Motors. A total of 11,680 Astras were registered in March.

The Astra’s success is also good news for the UK, as the car is built at Ellesmere Port in Cheshire. Will Vauxhall jobs be safe after Britain leaves the EU? Let’s hope so.

4. Nissan QashqaiRoad tax deadline pushes car sales to record high

Here’s another model that’s built in the UK. The all-conquering Nissan Qashqai is made in Sunderland, with one car leaving the line every 62 seconds. No wonder it gains fourth place, with 13,742 registered.

Nissan revealed the facelifted Qashqai – seen here – at the Geneva Motor Show. Apart from some extra chrome, it features an updated media system and the option of Nissan’s ‘ProPilot’ autonomous driving tech.

3. Vauxhall CorsaRoad tax deadline pushes car sales to record high

Propping up the top three is the ubiquitous Vauxhall Corsa, with 16,045 sold. A yellow Corsa like the one seen here actually made the news recently after being vandalised for ‘spoiling the view’ in a picturesque Cotswolds village. A parade of yellow cars drove through the village to show solidarity with its owner.

We rather like the Corsa VXR hot hatch, although – inevitably – we’d rather have a Ford Fiesta ST. That’s true for most cars, though.

2. Ford FocusRoad tax deadline pushes car sales to record high

Crossovers may steal the headlines, but the mid-size family hatchback is far from dead. The Ford Focus took second place in the March sales bonanza, shifting 17,119 units.

Some elements of the car market are changing, though. Sales of petrol-engined models are up 13.2 per cent following all the negative publicity about diesels. And alternatively-fuelled vehicles, such as hybrids, were up a whopping 31 per cent.

1. Ford FiestaRoad tax deadline pushes car sales to record high

Its replacement is just a couple of months away, but that can’t stop the evergreen Ford Fiesta topping the UK sales stats. An incredible 25,428 new Fiestas found homes in March.

We’ll miss the current Fiesta when it’s gone. Few small cars are so joyous to drive; even the basic models get the recipe right. Stay tuned for the Motoring Research verdict on the new 2017 Fiesta this June.

Revealed: the best-selling cars in January 2017

Revealed: the best-selling cars in January 2017

Revealed: the best-selling cars in January 2017Figures from the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) reveal the UK car market has soared to a 12-year high. In total, 174,564 new cars were registered in January – the most in one month since 2005. Here, we count down the 10 most popular cars in reverse order, and reveal how many were sold.

10. Kia SportageRevealed: the best-selling cars in January 2017

Propping up the top 10 is the Kia Sportage. With 3,063 sold, this five-seat family SUV is Kia’s best-selling car in the UK. It comes with plenty of equipment and an impressive seven-year warranty.

We said: “The latest Sportage builds on the strengths of the outgoing car, with good road manners, lots of space and impressive value for money. Shame they made it uglier in the process.”

9. Audi A3Revealed: the best-selling cars in January 2017

Being based on a Volkswagen Golf hasn’t done the premium-priced Audi A3 any harm, and a total of 3,118 left dealers in January. A3 sales are helped by the sheer number of derivatives available: three-door hatchback, five-door Sportback, saloon and cabriolet.

We said: “(The A3 isn’t) the sort of car that necessarily appeals to the heart, but it’s a really well-polished contender. Buy one (or, perhaps more likely, consider one as a company car), and you’ll be treated to the best interior in its class, a plethora of new tech and sensible running costs.”

8. Nissan QashqaiRevealed: the best-selling cars in January 2017

The king of crossovers is the UK’s eighth best-selling car. Nissan shifted 3,500 Qashqais in January, which must have kept the production lines in Sunderland busy. The current Qashqai has been on sale since 2013.

We said: “A Qashqai doesn’t make for an exciting purchase, but it is a really easy-to-live-with crossover that will tick all the boxes for many families. There are more interesting rivals out there, but the Qashqai is a quality all-round package.”

7. Vauxhall CorsaRevealed: the best-selling cars in January 2017

Frequently Britain’s second best-seller, the Corsa has slipped down the rankings to seventh. Could recent news stories about Vauxhall fires be to blame? A total of 3,898 were sold last month.

We said: “A stream of tempting finance offers, combined with desirable special editions, could make the Vauxhall Corsa a very sensible proposition for those looking for an affordable supermini.”

6. Nissan JukeRevealed: the best-selling cars in January 2017

When the Nissan Juke was launched, we predicted a car that looked so, ahem, ‘controversial’ would never sell in big numbers. Shows what we know: the Juke took the sixth spot in January, with 3,929 sold.

We said: “In some areas the Nissan Juke is starting to feel its age. But gloss over some interior parts and the high-riding, solid and involving drive is still what defines the Juke, along with its styling.”

5. Vauxhall AstraRevealed: the best-selling cars in January 2017

We’re big fans of the latest Astra – and it seems the British public are, too. Vauxhall sold 4,065 examples in January. We’ll have the Sports Tourer estate, please.

We said: “For the first time in quite a while, we can wholeheartedly recommend a Vauxhall Astra. It’s much, much nicer to drive than ever before and if you’re fortunate enough to be given the Elite trim, you’ll be pleasantly surprised by the overall quality and spec.”

4. Mercedes-Benz C-ClassRevealed: the best-selling cars in January 2017

What’s this? The Mercedes C-Class is the fourth best-selling car? Methinks some attractive finance deals are at work… An impressive 4,230 cars were snapped up by British buyers in January.

We said: “The Mercedes-Benz C-Class firmly bats the ball back into BMW’s court. Appealing styling, a high quality interior, myriad clever systems and a much-improved driving experience means the Merc gets closer to the 3 Series than ever.”

3. Ford FocusRevealed: the best-selling cars in January 2017

The Ford Focus topped Britain’s sales charts for many years, but has since been surpassed by the smaller Fiesta. And as, we’ll discover, another mid-size hatchback. Nonetheless, Ford sold 4,796 cars last month.

We said: “The Focus has always been a family car for people who actually like driving. And while the latest model isn’t a dynamic benchmark like the 1998 original, it’s still an engaging and entertaining steer.”

2. Volkswagen GolfRevealed: the best-selling cars in January 2017

With a facelifted Golf on the horizon, it’s no surprise to see discounts on the outgoing car. They have pushed this much-admired Volkswagen into second place overall, with 5,455 cars sold.

We said: “The Golf is the consummate, classless all-rounder. There’s a lot it does very well, and nothing it does badly. High-ish prices are the only fly in the ointment. We love the sporty GTI and R models, too.”

1. Ford FiestaRevealed: the best-selling cars in January 2017

So here it is: Britain’s best-selling car. The venerable Fiesta held onto the top spot in January – and by some margin. Ford sold 8,495 Fiestas last month, more than 3,000 cars ahead of the second-placed Golf.

We said: “The Fiesta is replaced this summer, but few cars near the end of their production life feel so youthful. This car positively fizzes with joie de vivre. Only the interior betrays its age, and that will be fixed when the 2017 Fiesta is launched in June.”

Revealed: Britain’s favourite car brands in 2016

Revealed: Britain’s favourite car brands in 2016

Revealed: Britain’s favourite car brands in 2016

The Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) has revealed its official car sales figures for 2016 – and they make for fascinating reading. Can you guess the brand that has more than doubled sales in 2016, for example? What about the one that has taken a 19% nosedive? Read on to discover which car companies are starting 2017 in a good mood…

Abarth: UP 44.6%

It’s been a storming 2016 for Fiat’s performance brand, which has seen a 44.6% sales increase versus 2015 – up to 3,966 cars. The new Abarth 124 Spider sports car, which shares its platform with the Mazda MX-5, has undoubtedly helped.

Alfa Romeo: DOWN 3.7%

The critically-acclaimed new Giulia saloon should boost Alfa sales over the coming year. Unfortunately, it arrived too late to make an impact in 2016, and the number of Alfa Romeos sold was down 3.7% to 4,881 cars.

Aston Martin: DOWN 4.5%

This independent British manufacturer shifted 906 cars in 2016, a 4.5% decrease compared with the year before. However, the promised Aston SUV – to be built in Wales – should see sales ramp up significantly in future.

Audi: UP 6.4%

Audi: UP 6.4%

Audi’s range has expanded to the point that being one of its salespeople requires Mastermind-levels of product knowledge. With so many cars to choose from, including the new Q2 small SUV, it’s no surprise that sales are up. Audi sold 177,304 cars in total.

Bentley: UP 41.3%

If in doubt, build a new 4×4. That’s the strategy most upmarket carmakers have taken in recent years, and Bentley is a case in point. The new Bentayga helped it to a 41.3% leap in just one year, with 1,948 cars sold in 2016.

BMW: UP 9.1%

The 3 Series may be showing its age, but that hasn’t stopped BMW recording a respectable 9.1% increase in 2016. In fact, it edges ahead of its arch-rival overall, with 182,593 BMWs sold versus 177,304 Audis. Mercedes-Benz follows with 169,828 sales.

Chrysler: DOWN 100%

No surprises here, Chrysler has quit the UK (tail firmly between its legs), so it sold zero new cars in 2016, compared with 167 in 2015. Do we miss it? Not really.

Citroen: DOWN 21.3%

Citroen: DOWN 21.3%

Citroen’s figures included DS models until May 2015, but the two badges are now considered separately – hence Citroen’s apparent 21.3% sales drop – down to 62,991 cars. In reality, the marque has it strongest range of cars in years, with a new C3 leading the charge into 2017.

Dacia: UP 1.0%

There was much scepticism from motoring journalists when Renault’s back-to-basics budget brand arrived in the UK. However, Dacia has found its niche and sales are remaining steady. An impressive 26,499 new Dacias found owners last year.

DS: UP 84.6%

As noted previously, DS is now counted separately from Citroen, meaning it appears to have vastly increased its volumes last year. As ever, the bulk of sales come from the DS 3 supermini, but plenty of new models are promised. A total of 15,898 cars were sold.

Fiat: DOWN 5.7%

A three-star Euro NCAP safety rating for the new Tipo won’t have helped Fiat’s cause in 2016. Nor, frankly, does a 500 city car that has only been mildly updated since 2007. The Italian carmaker’s showrooms were slightly quieter this year, with 60,581 cars sold.

Ford: DOWN 5.1%

Ford: DOWN 5.1%

Ford remains the UK’s favourite car brand, with an 11.8% market share – much of that from the Fiesta and Focus alone. Nonetheless, its sales were down to 318,316 cars in 2016. Perhaps the 2017 Fiesta will revive them?

Honda: UP 10.7%

Honda launched a lot of new cars in 2015 and it has reaped the benefits in 2016. Sales figures are up 10.7% and the new HR-V crossover is proving particularly popular. In all, 59,106 Hondas found new homes.

Hyundai: UP 4.9%

Hyundai’s range of cars is getting more interesting. The latest i30 (pictured) is stylish and capable, while the Ioniq is available in all-electric, hybrid or plug-in hybrid guises – a first. The latest Tucson is a credible Qashqai-rival, too. Sales were up to 92,419 cars in 2016.

Infiniti: UP 141.9%

Wow. Infiniti has shown the biggest sales gain in 2016, up a whopping 141.9%. However, don’t forget that Nissan’s luxury brand started from a pretty low base: 1,195 cars in 2015. Last year, it managed 2,891 sales, helped by the new Sunderland-built Q30 crossover.

Jaguar: UP 45.4%

Jaguar: UP 45.4%

Jaguar sales are up… can you guess why? Yes, it’s built an SUV – the first in its history, in fact. The F-Pace, along with the XE saloon, boosted Jag volumes by 45.4% in 2016. It shifted 34,822 cars in total.

Jeep: UP 30.5%

A 30.5% boost is good news for Jeep – up to 14,090 cars in 2016 – even if the increase comes almost entirely from the Renegade. This Fiat 500X-based small SUV looks the part, and has some off-road ability. It’s pretty forgettable to drive, though.

Kia: UP 13.9%

The Kia Sportage was the 12th best-selling car in the UK last year, which helped its maker to a 13.9% sales increase overall. A total of 89,364 new Kias found owners in 2016. Will the arrival of the updated Picanto city car (pictured) boost that further this year?

Land Rover: UP 19.5%

Land Rover attributes some of its success to the Range Rover Evoque, which was up 31% last year (thanks to the new convertible, perhaps?). The British brand recorded a 19.5% increase overall, lifting its sales to 79,534 cars.

Lexus: UP 4.9%

Lexus: UP 4.9%

The news isn’t so positive for its parent company, Toyota, but Lexus starts 2017 with a smile – and sales up 4.9%. Nonetheless, with 13,915 cars registered, the Japanese marque has a long way to go before it troubles Audi, BMW or Mercedes-Benz.

Lotus: DOWN 9.6%

There’s a lot of love for Lotus in the MR office, but the Great British Public is more sceptical. Sales of these superb sports cars were down 9.6% in 2016, with just 339 registered – less than one car a day.

Maserati: UP 0.1%

An entry-level Ghibli diesel and the new Levante SUV haven’t helped Maserati meet its targets. Sales remained stagnant, with just a single additional car sold in 2016 versus the year before – 1,435 cars in total.

Mazda: UP 2.4%

We reckon Mazda has one of best ranges of cars on sale – from the 2 supermini to the MX-5 roadster – so it’s gratifying to see sales up 2.4% in 2016. It sold 46,609 cars in total.

Mercedes-Benz: UP 16.9%

Mercedes-Benz: UP 16.9%

The fifth-generation Mercedes-Benz E-Class went on sale in 2016, and that – along with a very successful C-Class – will have helped contribute to Mercedes-Benz registrations increasing by almost 17%.

MG: UP 33%

MG sales shot up a third last year with the launch of its GS crossover. But when sales in 2015 were a smidgen more than 3,000, that’s not a hard figure to improve on. The company’s given up the pretence of producing cars in the UK at the historic Longbridge site, which might harm its chances of improving sales in 2017. That and the fact its cars fall short compared to rivals.

MINI: UP 8.5%

The fashionable MINI brand is showing no sign of losing its appeal any time soon – with sales up 8.5% to nearly 69,000 cars in 2016. The MINI Hatch was the eighth most popular car last year, and the fifth most popular in December.

Mitsubishi: DOWN 19.6%

The danger of a small model line-up is reflected in Mitsubishi’s sales, which were down a hefty 19.6% in 2016. The once-popular Outlander PHEV has been attracted a deal of bad publicity, with many complaining about poor fuel consumption and short electric range. Incentives for plug-in hybrids are being reduced as well, while other Mitsubishi models such as the Mirage and Shogun just don’t stack up against rivals.

Nissan: DOWN 0.9%

Nissan: DOWN 0.9%

Despite its Qashqai being one of the top 10 best-selling cars in 2016, Nissan sales saw a small decrease in 2016. We saw its new Micra at last year’s Paris Motor Show, and first impressions are incredibly positive – it looks to be a huge improvement over the outgoing model. If it can attract even a slice of the Fiesta’s sales, it’ll be a good result for Nissan.

Peugeot: DOWN 5.5%

Sales were down 5.5% to 98,529 cars for Peugeot in the UK last year, but it’ll be pinning its hopes on the new 2008 and 3008 SUVs for 2017. The French manufacturer has taken the radical step of replacing its frumpy MPVs with desirable crossovers – we’ll see if that pays off.

Porsche: UP 7.6%

In the year that Britain voted for Brexit, we also bought more Porsches than the year before. That’s despite controversially giving the Cayman and Boxster turbo power – while we continue to buy the Macan by the bucketload. A total of 13,097 Porsches were sold.

Renault: UP 12.5%

It’s been a good year for Renault in the UK (85,102 cars sold), and that success is likely to continue following the launch of its desirable new Scenic people carrier (yes, we did call an MPV ‘desirable’). The Scenic will sit alongside the popular Captur and Kadjar crossover in Renault’s range.

SEAT: DOWN 0.4%

SEAT: DOWN 0.4%

It’s bad news for VW’s Spanish brand, with sales down a smidgen to 47,456 cars last year. Ageing models such as the Leon and Ibiza could explain the falling figures, but SEAT’s fortunes are likely to change in 2017. The new Ateca crossover is now on sale, while the Ibiza is due to be replaced in summer and the Leon is receiving a facelift.

Skoda: UP 7.6%

The days of pre-Volkswagen Skoda feel a long time ago now, with sales passing 80,000 in the UK last year. Models such as the Octavia represent excellent value for money, and Skodas are often available with tempting finance deals. Sales don’t seem to have been hit by the Dieselgate emissions scandal.

Smart: UP 42.2%

Smart is showing no sign of becoming last year’s fad, with sales up an impressive 42.2% in 2016. Tempting finance deals on its ForTwo two-seater combined with a general move towards smaller vehicles across the board help to explain Smart’s rise in popularity.

SsangYong: UP 32.9%

SsangYong isn’t a big player in the UK, but it does offer tough, low-cost 4x4s. It’s seen a rise in popularity in 2016 – up to 4,444 cars – no doubt helped by its affordable Tivoli crossover.

Subaru: UP 4.5%

Subaru: UP 4.5%

Subaru sales are up 4.5% compared to 2015, but we’re still not talking massive numbers, with 3,612 cars registered in 2016. Subaru remains a relatively niche manufacturer here in the UK, with models such as the Outback and Levorg. Most Subaru buyers hold onto their cars longer than those of other manufacturers – meaning Subaru’s slow sales could, in part, be down to the loyalty of its customers.

Suzuki: UP 10.8%

Plucky Suzuki has boosted UK sales by more than 10% in 2016. That success is likely down to the excellent value offered by models such as the Swift and Celerio, while the Vitara is a commendable crossover. We’re huge fans of the new Ignis – hopefully its quirky looks won’t put off UK buyers in 2017.

Toyota: DOWN 2.0%

Sales were down a little for Japanese firm Toyota in 2016 (96,746 cars sold). A reputation for reliability means it has a loyal customer base, and a trendy new crossover in the form of the C-HR could poach customers from other manufacturers this year.

Vauxhall: DOWN 7.0%

Bad news for GM’s British strand, registrations of new Vauxhalls were down 7.0% to 269,766 cars in 2016. This could partly be down to the ongoing fires issues plaguing models including the Corsa – which clung onto its position as the UK’s second best-selling car, despite seeing a fall in sales of nearly 15,000.

Volkswagen: DOWN 7.5%

Volkswagen: DOWN 7.5%

It’s been another turbulent year for Volkswagen, so it’s no surprise to see sales down 7.5%. But it could have been a lot worse – indeed, SMMT chief executive Mike Hawes told us he thought it has been “a very good year for Volkswagen”. It’ll be interesting to see whether buyers start to forget about Dieselgate in 2017 – a year the brand has described as “very exciting”.

Volvo: UP 7.5%

With new models including the brilliant XC90, V90 and S90, it’s no surprise that 2016 was a very strong year for Volvo. It sold 46,696 cars last year – and a new XC60 expected in summer 2017 could boost sales figures even more.

Revealed: Britain’s top 20 best-selling cars in 2016

Revealed: Britain’s top 20 best-selling cars in 2016

Revealed: Britain’s top 20 best-selling cars in 2016

Figures released today by the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) reveal that new car registrations in the UK hit a record high in 2016, with more of us buying new cars than ever before. That success is largely down to tempting finance packages, along with a wide choice of new models – but which cars are the most popular in the UK? We’ve analysed the data to pick out the top 20 best-selling cars in 2016.

20: Peugeot 208

The 208 was launched back in 2012, but some great deals – including Peugeot’s ‘Just add fuel’ offer – keep it inside the UK’s top 20 best-selling cars. Rivals include the Ford Fiesta, Renault Clio and VW Polo.

Engines for the 208 range from a three-cylinder 1.0-litre petrol to the 1.6 GTI. There are plenty of MINI-style personalisation options available, while Peugeot’s trademark small steering wheel provides a sporty feel. A total of 28,146 Peugeot 208s were sold in 2016.

19: Toyota Yaris

The Yaris has been around in various guises since 1999, and this third-generation car was launched in 2011. Reliability and interior space are two of its key strengths. And unlike most superminis, it’s available as a hybrid. Toyota shifted 30,741 last year.

The petrol/electric Yaris Hybrid would be our choice. It isn’t cheap to buy, but it costs pennies to run. CO2 emissions of just 75g/km (on the smallest wheels) mean you won’t pay any road tax – at least until the rules change in April 2017.

18: BMW 1 Series

18: BMW 1 Series

The 1 Series seemed a brave move when first launched in 2004. However, it soon proved that the premium BMW badge could sit happily on a family hatchback, and 34,379 UK buyers took one home last year. What will they make of the next, front-wheel-drive 1 Series? We’ll find out in 2018.

BMW has covered all bases in the engine department. The line-up stretches from the ultra-efficient 116d diesel (83.1mpg and 89g/km of CO2) to the 140i hot hatch (0-62mph in 4.6 seconds). Whichever engine you choose, the 1er is fun to drive. Just don’t expect class-leading space for passengers or luggage.

17: Vauxhall Mokka X

This Corsa-based crossover was rebranded ‘Mokka X’ in 2016, becoming the UK’s 17th bestselling car in 2016 in the process. In total, 34,809 left Vauxhall showrooms last year. The Mokka X is is larger and more practical than its main rival, the Nissan Juke – but still noticeably smaller than Nissan’s other popular crossover: the Qashqai.

Unlike many cars of its ilk, the Mokka is available with four-wheel drive. It’s well equipped and spacious enough for a family of four. However, it’s utterly yawn-inducing to drive.

16: Fiat 500

Young buyers love the Fiat 500 – which is why the Italian manufacturer has barely messed with the formula since it was launched in 2007. It’s not the best city car available, but it’s comfortably the best-selling in its segment.

A respectable 35,148 Fiat 500s were registered in the UK last year. Rivals such as the Skoda Citigo and Hyundai i20 didn’t even make the top 20.

15: Ford Kuga

15: Ford Kuga

Ford is by far the UK’s most popular manufacturer, but its mid-size Kuga SUV is often overlooked by buyers. Tempting deals help sales, however – and a facelift in 2016 might cement its place in the top 15 for this year.

New for the Kuga is Ford’s Sync 3 infotainment system and 1.5-litre diesel engine, along with a refreshed appearance. Will it remain in 15th place in 2017?

14: BMW 3 Series

While the BMW 3 Series is a company car driver favourite, it’s a surprise to see it lagging behind a certain rival which appears five places ahead in the rankings. That’ll partly be down to the age of the current F30 3 Series. Launched in 2011, the sixth-generation model is starting to feel old.

It’s still one of our favourite cars in its segment, however, and keen drivers love a BMW 3 Series. With 36,732 registrations in 2016, it’s also in a position that even the Jaguar XE would love to be in – the British 3 Series rival isn’t to be seen in the top 20.

13: Nissan Juke

The Nissan Juke divided opinion when it was launched in 2010 – some just couldn’t get past its bold appearance. But those who could found a funky, fun-to-drive crossover that’s tempting buyers away from traditional superminis.

While the Juke lives in the shadow of the larger Qashqai, a solid 13th place ranking and 38,803 registrations is commendable. In fact, it was the best-selling compact crossover in the UK in 2016. Now that’s something to tell your friends about.

12: Kia Sportage

12: Kia Sportage

The striking new Kia Sportage was launched in 2016, and already sales seem to be off to a flying start – they’re everywhere on UK roads. Despite the production switchover, the Sportage was Britain’s second most popular crossover last year.

An attractive start price of £18,250, combined with good practicality and commendable efficiency make the Kia Sportage worthy of its 12th place in the UK 2016 sales rankings. A total of 40,083 new Kia Sportages were registered last year.

11: Mercedes-Benz A-Class

The A-Class is a competent compact executive – although we’d buy an Audi A3 or BMW 1 Series over the baby Merc.

UK car buyers disagree with us, though – in terms of the BMW 1 Series at least. The A-Class edges ahead of the BMW with 41,183 registrations in 2016, narrowly avoiding the top 10. But how does the Audi A3 fare?

10: Audi A3

The top 10 kicks off with the popular Audi A3. It’s no surprise to see Audi’s hatchback here – fleet drivers and private buyers alike love the A3, and there’s a bodystyle and engine to suit everyone.

A total of 43,808 Audi A3s were registered in 2016 – that’s out of more than 177,000 Audis sold overall. Despite being rocked by the Dieselgate emissions scandal, the total number of cars sold by the German manufacturer increased by more than 6%.

9: Mercedes-Benz C Class

9: Mercedes-Benz C Class

In ninth place is the Mercedes-Benz C Class. You might be surprised to see premium manufacturers such as Mercedes in the top 10, but they’re increasingly affordable. Low depreciation means premium cars can actually work out cheaper to ‘own’ over three years, meaning lower PCP and PCH finance deals can be offered.

Mercedes-Benz registered 44,184 C-Class models in 2016, marginally more than the number of new Audi A3s. It’s interesting that it outsold competitors such as the BMW 3 Series and Audi A4 – but with the new Audi A4 becoming ever more commonplace on UK roads, will the Mercedes hold onto its position in 2017?

8: MINI

It’s 15 years now since BMW launched the MINI brand – and what a clever move that’s proving to be. The MINI hatch is one of our favourite small cars. It’s genuinely premium inside, while the handling is easily best-in-class.

More than 48,328 MINI hatches were registered in the UK last year, making it easily the brand’s best-selling model. Overall, MINI sold 68,984 cars across the UK in 2016 – up from 63,581 in 2015.

7: Volkswagen Polo

The Volkswagen Polo is due to be replaced this year, but sales of the current model are showing no signs of slowing, with 54,448 registered in the UK in 2016.

The VW Polo comes third in the supermini sales league, behind the Vauxhall Corsa and Ford Fiesta.

6: Vauxhall Astra

6: Vauxhall Astra

The trusty Vauxhall Astra was replaced in 2016, and the new model was a huge improvement over its predecessor. In February, it was crowned the European Car of the Year. Has that success been reflected in its sales?

The Astra has always been a strong seller. Even so, with 60,719 sold last year, it’s still some way behind its arch nemesis, the Ford Focus.

5: Nissan Qashqai

Ah, the untouchable Nissan Qashqai. The Sunderland-built Qashqai has been widely credited as the car to bring crossovers truly into the mainstream, and it’s the only crossover to appear in the top 10.

The Qashqai’s success is deserved – the second-generation model, on sale since 2013, combines excellent practicality and reliability with the price tag of a conventional hatchback. An impressive 62,682 were registered in 2016.

4: Volkswagen Golf

Despite the shock of 2015’s emissions scandal, Volkswagen’s sales in the UK don’t appear to have been hit too heavily. In December alone, 5,355 Volkswagen Golfs were registered – putting it in the top three best-sellers for that month.

Over the entire year, however, it didn’t quite make the top three. An impressive 69,492 Golfs were registered in 2016, only slightly behind its contender from Ford in the sales stakes…

3: Ford Focus

3: Ford Focus

Yes, the ubiquitous Ford Focus takes third position in the UK’s most popular cars of 2016. The Ford Focus has constantly sold well in the UK since it was launched in 1998, and the latest model is great to drive.

A whopping 70,545 were registered last year, with nearly 5,000 passing through dealerships in December alone. But it’s still some way behind the top two…

2: Vauxhall Corsa

If you’ve ever travelled on UK roads you won’t be surprised to read that the Vauxhall Corsa is one of the most popular cars on sale. From grans to boy racers, everyone loves the Corsa, and the latest model is undoubtedly one of the strongest in the supermini segment.

More than 77,000 Vauxhall Corsas were registered in 2016, although a quiet period in December saw it relegated to sixth place for that month. That didn’t affect the Corsa’s yearly sales but, of course, it has a thorn in its side…

1: Ford Fiesta

Yes, the Ford Fiesta, despite being largely unchanged since 2008, it remains Britain’s favourite car by some margin. A staggering 120,525 were registered in 2016, with 8,198 bought in December alone.

That means more than 43,000 more Ford Fiestas were registered in 2016 than Vauxhall Corsas – and almost three times as many Ford Fiestas as Audi A3s. The Fiesta’s replacement is due in 2017 and first impressions are positive – but is it good enough to cling onto number-one spot? Time will tell.