Best-selling cars in Britain 2020

New car registrations continue to flounder post-lockdown, even the arrival of the latest 70-plate models has done little to steady the ship

Simon Ostler
Oct 19, 2020

September saw record lows in new car registrations in what is traditionally seen as a busy month for the car industry as the latest number plate is launched in the UK. Even with the introduction of the new 70-plate, the 328,041 cars sold during September was the lowest recorded since the new number plate system was introduced in 1999.

The -4.4% shortfall compared with September 2019 (-15.8% lower than the 10-year average) has been attributed to what the SMMT calls 'an erratic period of market performance' as the UK continues to reel from the effects of the coronavirus pandemic.

Despite this, the electric and plug-in hybrid car markets continued to see substantial growth, with 34,303 registrations attributing to more than one in 10 of all car sales. This is promising for the future of electric cars, although they currently make up just 6.7% of the total market, it's a number that continues to steadily rise.

It was once again the Vauxhall Corsa taking the crown as the best-selling car in September, while Ford also kept up appearances with the ever-popular Fiesta, along with the Focus and the new Puma crossover. The Fiesta remains the most popular car of the year to date by quite a margin.

The new Volkswagen Golf continued its strong start to life, while its smaller sibling the VW Polo sold over 7,000 units. The Mercedes A-Class will continue to provide competition in the larger family hatchback sector as it too delivered a relatively strong month of sales.

Ford continues to dominate the market with three models inside the top ten best-sellers in September, so it's no surprise the manufacturer saw its overall market share of 8.61% remain above that of Volkswagen (8.33%) Mercedes (7.17%) and Audi (6.67%).

Best-selling cars 2020

Best-selling cars in September 2020

Best-selling cars: the winners

Once again it was MG celebrating another big month of sales, with 3,668 vehicles rolling off its production line amounting to a 169.11% increase in market share compared to September 2019.

An short list comprising Audi, BentleyDacia, Skoda, Smart, Suzuki, Toyota and Volkswagen all saw demand rise by at least 10% compared with September 2019. 

Best-selling cars: the fallers

Among a long list of sufferers, it was Subaru that saw the biggest fall in market share compared with September 2019. The manufacturer made just 272 registrations which amounts to an overall market share drop of 48.29%. It's not the only manufacturer struggling to sell cars in 2020, but the Japanese brand will be hoping for better fortunes towards the end of the year.

A long list of manufacturers that made losses of over 10% includes Abarth, Alfa Romeo, BMW, CitroenDS, Ford, Hyundai, Jaguar, Land Rover, MaseratiMazda, Mercedes, MiniMitsubishi, Porsche, RenaultSeat, Smart, Vauxhall.

Best-selling cars by fuel

Another month, and another drop in the sales of diesel cars. Just 46,996 diesel registrations amounted to a massive 38.4% drop year-on-year. Diesel power made up just 14.3% of the overall market in September.

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.

Petrol cars on the other hand now make up more than half of the UK's new car sales, while electric cars are now beginning to pick up some momentum. Electric alternatives are becoming an increasingly viable option for a growing percentage of drivers, a total of 21,903 electric cars were sold in September, up from 7,704 (a growth of 184.3%) this time last year.

Hybrids also made gains across the board, plug-in variants saw a rise of 7,203 sales compared to September last year - a growth of 138.6% year-on-year, while mild hybrids also saw substantial gains during September - mild-hybrid petrols accounted for 30,382 registrations. Manufacturers planning to launch a raft of electric cars towards the end of 2020 will be hoping this trend continues.

Best-selling used cars

The latest SMMT used car sales figures released in August 2020 show that the Ford Fiesta remained the most popular car on the used market for the second quarter of 2020, with 41,778 cars changing hands.

As with the Fiesta's performance in new car sales, it appears totally unbeatable in the popularity stakes - as it was also the most popular used car for 2019 too, accruing 351,767 transactions for the year.

In total, 1,039,303 used cars found new homes during the second quarter of 2020 - down 48.9% compared to the previous year as the global pandemic rears its head once again.


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