Best-selling cars in Britain 2020

Will the start of a new decade bring any surprises to the new car market? Or will the same names reign supreme once more?

Simon Ostler
Feb 5, 2020

Click on the gallery above to look at the ten best-selling cars last month and how many they sold.

It's a new year, but not much has changed as far as the new car market is concerned. The Ford Fiesta regained its position as the most popular car in the UK, heading up something of a Ford domination as the Focus also performed well ahead of the Nissan Qashqai, which once again claimed the title of best selling SUV.

The SUV sector was again well represented, with the Kia Sportage and Vauxhall Grandland X joining the Qashqai in this month's top 10.

But it was hatchbacks that proved most popular overall, with the Fiesta and Focus joined by the Vauxhall Corsa, Volkswagen Golf, Mercedes A-Class and VW Polo in the top 10, the BMW 3 Series flew the flag for the dwindling saloon market.

Overall, the UK new car market saw an overall drop of 7.3% in registrations compared with January 2019, a disappointing start to the year after a strong end to the last decade. Diesel cars continued to suffer large falls in sales with a staggering year-on-year drop in registrations of 36%, while Petrol sales also fell by 9.5%.

Electric powered cars continued to see growth, with fully-electric models proving much more popular than they did 12 months ago. Over the entirety of 2019, 37,850 electric cars were registered - a growth of 144% on the 15,510 in 2018. It will be interesting to see how that trend continues as we head into a new decade already defined by its promise of new and improved electric cars.

In total, 149,279 new cars were registered in January 2020 according to the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT).

Ford remains the market leader, thanks to the success of the Fiesta and the Focus the manufacturer took 10.97% of the market share, way ahead of nearest challengers VW (8.84%) and Mercedes (7.46%).


Best-selling cars 2020

Best-selling cars in January 2020

Best-selling cars: the winners

Opening the new year on a high was MG. The fledgling revival of the iconic name saw its market share rise by 144.83% compared with 12 months ago, making a total of 1,846 registrations.

A relatively short list comprising Audi, BentleyDS, JeepLexus, Lotus, Mitsubishi and Nissan all saw demand rise by at least 10% compared with January 2019. 

Best-selling cars: the fallers

The woe continues for Smart, as it continues to suffer a catastrophic fall in sales. After a dreadful end to 2019, in which the manufacturer posted consecutive year-on-year drops of -85.9% in September, -92% in October, -91% in November and 90.1% in December, things would appear to have gotten even worse for the Mercedes-backed brand as it posted a year-on-year shortfall of 94.9% in January - when just 25 new Smarts were registered. Yes, we will be keeping this list up for as long as this awful run continues.

A long list of manufacturers that made losses of over 10% includes Abarth, Alfa Romeo, Alpine, Citroen, Dacia, Honda, Hyundai, KiaMaserati, MazdaMini, RenaultSsangyong, Subaru, Suzuki and Vauxhall.

Best-selling cars by fuel

Another year, another drop in the sales of diesel cars. In all, 29,605 diesels were registered in January, making up just 19.8% of the overall market and amounting to a year-on-year drop of 36%.

Overall diesel sales in 2016 reached 1.2 million accounting for almost half of all new cars sold in the UK. But with diesel emissions coming under greater scrutiny, and the threat of diesel surcharges and taxes growing, demand has decreased dramatically. In 2018 new diesel car registrations had dropped to 750,165 and made up just 32% of the overall market. By the end of 2019, the proportion of new cars that are powered by diesel had fallen to just 22.7%, and that trend shows no sign of abating.

As a result, petrol cars now make up almost two thirds of the UK's new car sales, however electric car sales are beginning to pick up some momentum. Electric cars are becoming a more and more viable option for a growing percentage of drivers, and although total sales reached only 4,054, that's still a growth of 203.9% on this time last year.

Hybrids also made gains across the board, plug-in variants saw a rise of 111.1% year-on-year, while mild hybrids also saw substantial gains during January - hybrid-diesels in particular, with 4,591 registrations.

Manufacturers planning to launch a raft of electric cars as we head into 2020 will be hoping this trend continues.

Best-selling used cars

The latest SMMT used car sales figures, released in November 2019, show that the Ford Fiesta remained the most popular car on the used market for the third quarter of 2019, with 90,428 cars changing hands.

As with the Fiesta's perfomance in new car sales, it appears totally unbeatable in the popularity stakes - as it was also the most popular used car for 2018 too, accrewing 322,532 transactions for the year.

In total, 2,076,382 used cars found new homes during the third quarter of 2019 - down 0.8% compared to the previous year.

Also in keeping with new car trends, hybrid, plug-in hybrid, and electric cars gained 13% year-on-year with used transactions totalling 37,589. In total, the share for these low-emission alternatives only accounted for 1.8% of all transactions - with conventional petrol and diesel engines making up 98.2% of the market. Petrol cars fell by 0.2% however, while diesel was slightly up by 1.4% year-on-year.


Read more about:

Latest news

  1. Renault Captur E-Tech plug-in hybrid specs revealed

  2. Renault Clio hybrid: specifications and prices

  3. Toyota Yaris GR hot hatch: specifications and details announced

What our customers say