RAC Cars News


The UK’s 10 best-selling cars – and what we think of them

By raccars Published

With more than 2.6 million new registrations, 2015 was a record-breaking year for the UK car industry. Buyers flocked to showrooms, attracted by cheap finance deals and ever-increasing choice. The top 10 best-selling cars – supplied by the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) – reveal some interesting trends. There’s the popularity of premium brands for one, and the rise of crossovers such as the Nissan Qashqai and Vauxhall Mokka. Nonetheless, there are some very familiar names here, too. Let the countdown commence...


Vauxhall Mokka: 45,399 registrations

Just as our high streets have become crowded with coffee shops, so Brits have developed a taste for Vauxhall’s coffee-themed crossover. It was the UK’s 10th best-selling car in 2015.

The Mokka’s strengths include a spacious interior and affordable prices, although it isn’t fun to drive like the rival Mazda CX-5. A facelift for spring 2016 brings more tech (including Vauxhall’s OnStar in-car internet), plus a new name: Mokka X.


MINI: 47,076 registrations

Nostalgia ain’t what it used to be. Just don’t tell that to MINI. The British (albeit German-owned) brand has captured the hearts of buyers, despite high prices and – in the case of the MINI hatch – limited practicality.

MINI’s success can partly be attributed to power of a premium badge. But its cars are also stylish and enjoyable to drive. The range-topping John Cooper Works is one of our favourite hot hatches, while the standard Cooper is much cheaper and very nearly as good.


Audi A3: 47,653 registrations

Yes, it’s a posh Volkswagen Golf. And it’s markedly more expensive than a Golf. But that matters little to many buyers – the A3 appeals to our love for a premium brand. It notched up 47,653 registrations last year, making it the eighth best-selling car overall.

For us, the A3’s interior is what sells it. Its beautifully minimalist cabin easily eclipses anything in this class, including that VW. Many buyers choose a diesel engine, but we’d opt for one of the super-smooth TFSI petrols unless you cover a lot of miles.


Vauxhall Astra: 52,703 registrations

Considering the Astra was replaced towards the latter end of 2015, it did well to hold onto seventh place and nearly 53,000 registrations. Heavy discounting on the outgoing car doubtless helped – and the Astra has always been popular with fleet buyers.

The latest Astra is much improved, with plenty of new tech and driving dynamics that bear comparison with the benchmark Ford Focus. It’s stylish and good value for money, too.


Volkswagen Polo: 54,900 registrations

More comfortable than a Fiesta and better-built than a Corsa, the Polo is a thoroughly sensible supermini. There’s a wide range of refined and efficient engines, many with the option of VW’s excellent DSG semi-automatic gearbox.

The Polo’s sister supermini, the Skoda Fabia, uses the same platform and engines, but is significantly cheaper to buy. However, the car-park kudos of the Volkswagen badge boosts resale values for the German car, which narrows the price-gap if, like most new-car buyers, you opt for pay-monthly finance.


Nissan Qashqai: 60,814 registrations

We’re not sure the Qashqai was the first crossover – the Honda CR-V, for example, pre-dates it by more than a decade – but it’s certainly the car that has done most to popularise the genre. It also remains the UK’s best-selling car of this type, with 60,814 registered last year.

With SUV space and hatchback running costs, the Qashqai has much to recommend it. However, bear in mind that the mechanically-similar Renault Kadjar is roomier still, slightly cheaper to buy and comes with a four-year/100,000-mile warranty (versus three years/60,000 miles for the Nissan).


Volkswagen Golf: 73,409 registrations

Now into its seventh generation, Europe’s best-selling car manages fourth place in the UK. A total of 73,409 Golfs were registered last year, putting the ‘people’s car’ within striking distance of its arch-rival, the Ford Focus. That’s despite the ‘dieselgate’ emissions scandal, which caused a dip in VW sales towards the end of 2015.

The Golf is one of the most spacious cars in its class and its interior confirms every cliche about ‘Germanic build quality’. It’s effortless to drive, yet engaging enough to avoid feeling dull. The sporty GTI and R models, meanwhile, are among the best hot hatchbacks on sale.


Ford Focus: 83,816 registrations

The Focus spent a decade as Britain’s best-selling car, but has now been overtaken by its little brother, the Ford Fiesta. That’s more a reflection on the trend towards superminis than the Focus itself, which remains one of our favourite mid-sized hatchbacks.

Still the benchmark for driving dynamics, the Focus delivers a good compromise between comfort and agility. A facelift in early 2015 brought sharper styling and a new touchscreen media system. Even so, the Ford’s interior feels downmarket alongside some rivals, the Golf in particular.


Vauxhall Corsa: 92,077 registrations

It seems those annoying ads featuring Pepperami-style puppets have paid off. The Corsa was Britain’s second most popular car in 2015, with 92,077 registered. That’s more cars than some ‘mainstream’ manufacturers sold in total.

Affordable prices and low running costs are among the Corsa’s key selling points. And while it isn’t as practical as a Honda Jazz, or as fun-to-drive as a Fiesta, it does most things pretty well. We particularly like the super-smooth new three-cylinder petrol engines, which are peppy and impressively economical.


Ford Fiesta: 133,434 registrations

The ubiquitous Ford Fiesta doesn’t merely finish first. With 133,434 registrations in 2015, it’s more than 40,000 ahead of its second-placed rival. Not bad for a car that was launched in 2008 and is due to be replaced later this year.

The Fiesta has always been good looking (which probably shouldn’t matter, but it does) and it’s also decent value for money. However, it’s the way this little Ford drives that wins us over. From the eager 1.0-litre Ecoboost to the firecracker ST, the Fiesta can’t fail to put a smile on your face.

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