The most popular cars on sale this year
Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders’ (SMMT) latest vehicle registration figures for 2023 show the top 10 most popular cars in the UK so far this year.
Sales since the pandemic struck, followed with semi-conductor shortages , have meant car sales have been limited. Waiting times have been excruciating, while the encouraged move to electric vehicles without previous subsidies has meant the market has struggled to pick up.
However, new car registrations have seen a comeback and September marked a record 14th consecutive month of year-on-year sales growth in the UK.
Getting back to business
Some 272,610 new cars were registered last month, according to the SMMT. Fleet and business sales took the lion’s share, with 54.9% of the market, but private sales made up 45.1%.
This represents a 21% increase in sales compared with the same month in 2022. However, registrations are still 20.6% down on pre-pandemic levels.
“A bumper September means the new car market remains strong despite economic challenges,” said Mike Hawes, SMMT chief executive.
“However, with tougher EV targets for manufacturers coming into force next year, we need to accelerate the transition, encouraging all motorists to make the switch. This means adding carrots to the stick – creating private purchase incentives aligned with business benefits, equalising on-street charging VAT with off-street domestic rates and mandating chargepoint rollout in line with how electric vehicle sales are now to be dictated.
“The forthcoming Autumn Statement is the perfect opportunity to create the conditions that will deliver the zero emission mobility essential to our shared net zero ambition.”
The best-selling cars of 2023
But what are the most popular car models of 2023 so far? Here is the official list of top 10 best-selling vehicles in the UK, according to SMMT new car registration figures.
1. Ford Puma
Previously associated with a niche but beloved, sporty 1990s coupé, this Fiesta-based crossover SUV is a sales success. One of the best-handling and most practical cars in its class.
It was the best-selling car of all in April, May, July and August, putting it at the top of the chart for the year to date, perhaps Ford has made the right call.
2. Nissan Qashqai
The Nissan Qashqai, another compact SUV, ended the first quarter of 2023 at the top of the charts. It dropped to fourth before a bumper September resulted in it surging back up to second best-seller for the year to date.
The Qashqai helped popularise the crossover genre, an impact which has also helped it rivals such as the VW T-Roc, Tesla Model Y, Kia Sportage, Ford Kuga and Hyundai Tucson.
It’s a decent and able family car, with good fuel economy, a smart design and lots of tech at an affordable price. It’s also built in Sunderland.
3. Vauxhall Corsa
In May the Corsa was knocked off the number one spot by the Ford Puma for the second month in a row. It has now dropped to third in the sales charts, but considering it isn’t a cross-over its still doing pretty well. Traditional superminis aren’t dead quite yet.
It will benefit from the Fiesta’s end of production going forward too.
Relaunched in 2019, there’s even an all electric version. Affordable electrification could mean that it is a strong seller for a few years more yet.
4. Tesla Model Y
Tesla’s sales and delivery model does away with traditional car dealers in favour of online purchasing. But it tends to mean deliveries come in bursts rather than a trickle as and when a shipload arrives on these shores.
August was a big one for the electric crossover and come the end of the year it could end up even higher in the table. The order book is extremely strong and more batches of vehicles will arrive.
The Model Y builds on the Model 3’s strengths (they share around 95% of their components), adding extra space and crossover styling. Two versions are available — Long Range (315 miles) and Performance, both with all-wheel drive.
Spacious and competent with loads to recommend, not least Tesla’s enviable Supercharger network. Ride quality can prove a little harsh though especially with the state of our roads.
5. Kia Sportage
The Kia Sportage family SUV was relaunched in 2022. Interior quality is excellent and there’s plenty of tech.
Top of the Sportage range is a plug-in hybrid model. A non-plug-in hybrid is available on this generation Sportage, with the same 1.6-litre petrol engine on its own producing 226bhp. There are other mild-hybrid petrol models as well as a diesel.
6. Hyundai Tucson
The Tucson offers fierce competition for Kia’s Sportage and the Nissan Qashqai. The fact that all three are on this list just goes to show the strength of the family SUV market.
Smart exterior design, ‘hidden’ headlights, and a cool new cabin complete with a big touchscreen and digital instrument display.
There’s a wide range of powertrain options, including petrol, diesel, hybrid and plug-in hybrid, all of which are smooth, quiet and efficient.
7. Nissan Juke
Qashqai’s smaller sibling, Nissan will be delighted that it has two of the top six best-selling cars in the UK.
A bit of a ‘Marmite’ car, but the second generation model is an objectively more attractive proposition. A hybrid version has clearly caught the eye of many new car buyers who value fuel economy.
It’s also built in Sunderland, drives well, has plenty of tech and is competitively priced.
8. Vauxhall Mokka
Vauxhall’s answer to the Ford Puma and the Nissan Juke. Not quite the best car in its class, but the combination of fresh, modern styling and compact dimensions, have kept the little SUV high in the sales charts.
A number of different trim levels and engine options are available, though the diesels have been discontinued. There is a pure-electric Mokka-e form though.
9. Mini Hatch
UK’s third best-selling car last year, it has a premium feel, sporty handling and retro styling. Despite more more than 20 years in production, the “New Mini” remains popular, attractive and a great drive.
There’s a huge choice, from the Mini One right up to the hooligan John Cooper Works model, as well as a pure-electric version. There’s also the choice of three- or five-door bodystyles.
Built in Oxford too, its a highly competitive choice and still quite refreshing.
10. Ford Fiesta
It will be banished to the history book shortly, and production has already ended. Ford is now concentrating on electrified crossovers and SUVs such as the Puma, Kuga and forthcoming Explorer. It marks a dramatic end for the Fiesta, which in 2014 became the best-selling car ever in the UK.
The final seventh-generation model is probably the best version of all; class-leading handling and ride quality. Well-made, reliable and a joy to drive.