For every year since 2009, the Ford Fiesta has been the UK’s best-selling car when it comes to the final, annual charts of vehicles shifted. However, following on from a Covid-ravaged 2020 – which saw overall car sales across the country plummet – the 2021 UK market performance has only been 1% better than the year before, with 1.65 million new vehicles registered, according to the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT). And there’s some surprising news – despite sitting in a relatively lowly 8th place (going by its previous standards) overall at the end of November 2021, the Fiesta hasn’t even made the top 10 in the final reckoning. Here, then, are the top 10 best-selling cars in the UK in 2021 – including 1 vehicle which shifted almost 10,000 units alone in the run-up to Christmas!
10 Toyota Yaris
Units Sold: 27,415
A late surge by the current-gen Toyota Yaris saw it slide into the top 10 for 2021 at the death, pipping Ford’s sales titan, the Fiesta. This is the 4th supermini on the list, technically, which means the Fiesta is now only 5th in its own particular class of vehicles – something unheard of ever since it first went on sale back in 1976. But enough of the fallen Ford. The reason the Yaris takes 10th on this list is that it is vastly improved in Mk4 format, compared to what went before. Its stylish exterior looks are a far cry from those of its bland predecessors, while the interior is nicely appointed and high-tech, and the hybrid drivetrain is far more appealing this time around. Add in a stonking halo model, in the form of the GR Yaris homologation special (which isn’t really a Yaris in the true sense, although we’ll gloss over that for now…), and you can see why the tiny Toyota has found such appeal in the UK in 2021.
9. Kia Sportage
Units Sold: 27,611
Here’s a vehicle punching above its weight, considering the product cycle timescales of most manufacturers. Kia’s lengthy 7-year warranty is probably responsible for the Mk4 Sportage continuing to do so well in 2021 (and very nearly eclipsing one of its nearest rivals, which clocked in at number 7 on this list), despite the fact an all-new and incredibly striking-looking Mk5 Sportage is due for 2022. Sales were obviously slowing towards the end of 2021, as in both November and December the Mk4 Kia did not appear in the best 10 monthly sellers at all, but a strong start to last year meant the Sportage was safely embedded just inside the top 10 for 2021’s overall sales.
8. Ford Puma
Units Sold: 28,697
This is the best-selling B-segment crossover of them all, and rightly so. Ford’s 1st effort at this formula, the lamentable EcoSport, was not a good machine. The 2019-launched Puma, however, might have upset some Ford purists by nicking its big-cat-inspired model name from a small coupe built between 1997-2002, but it’s a superb little high-riding vehicle nonetheless. With fluid chassis settings, a spacious and clever cabin (including the brilliant MegaBox in the boot), charming hybrid turbocharged petrol drivetrains and even a red-hot ST model – using the 200hp running gear from the Fiesta ST – the Puma has it all. The only slight fly in the ointment is slightly odd front-end looks, but that’s a subjective matter; otherwise, Ford has smashed this one out of the park. Which is fitting, because it turns out that – with almost 29,000 units sold in 2021 – this is now the Blue Oval’s most popular model in the UK. And almost certainly is partially responsible for the Fiesta’s sales demise, as the Puma will be siphoning customers from its supermini relation.
Units Sold: 29,922
The Qashqai, built in Nissan’s Sunderland plant, has long been the UK’s favourite midsized crossover-SUV (in what is known as the C-segment), but astonishingly the elderly Sportage Mk4 ran it mighty close for that honour in 2021. However, the tightness of that battle can in large part be attributed to the fact that last year was a ‘changeover’ for Nissan’s sales titan – the all-new Mk3 replaced the Mk2 during 2021. Furthermore, a really strong December increased the gap between the Kia and the Nissan, allowing the Qashqai (2122 units sold during the final month of 2021) to clamber into 7th place on this list. This is because Nissan’s 3rd-generation machine is a huge improvement on its predecessor in every way, with crisp, angular styling, a fabulous and high-tech interior, and improved driving manners and overall refinement. The Qashqai Mk3 will dominate this sector for many years yet, you mark our words, and continue to be the UK’s most favoured crossover or SUV of them all.
Units Sold: 30,240
From this point in the list onwards, it’s pretty much all hatchbacks in the top slots – with 1 exception. Anyway, in 6th place, it’s the familiar form of the Volkswagen Golf Mk8, being the first car on this countdown to surpass the 30,000 mark for units sold in 2021. Its long-standing blend of high-quality fixtures and fittings, combined with impeccable driving manners and smooth powertrains, means this automotive icon continues to march on strongly into a future where electric power – and VW’s own zero-emission ID.3 model – will be the norm. That said, a big part of the Golf Mk8’s appeal is the sheer breadth of its performance offering. Customers opting for the VW can choose from the diesel GTD, the plug-in hybrid GTE, the ‘regular’ 245hp GTI, the 300hp GTI Clubsport, or the 320hp, all-wheel-drive R. That’s a lotta fast Golfs, in anyone’s book.
Units Sold: 30,634
Quite a remarkable result for Volkswagen’s 2nd-smallest car (as the Up soldiers on in production into 2022) here, as it comfortably beats the Ford Fiesta despite being of similarly advanced years. A round of updates introduced ready for 2022 will have given the Polo fresh showroom impetus, but it’s still somewhat surprising that one of the most expensive superminis of them all continues to be a top-seller. That’s largely down to the fact that, in an understandable move, the Mk6 Polo is essentially a boil-washed Golf Mk8 – same classy composure, same rock-solid interior, same diffidently cool driveway kudos. Good showing from VW, this.
Units Sold: 30,710
Are you shocked to see a Mercedes-Benz so high up? Don’t be. The secret of the A-Class’ success is that its stronger residual values mean it costs about the same to lease as more mainstream cars like the Ford Focus, Vauxhall Astra and Toyota Corolla. And so people inevitably flock to the 3-pointed star for their family hatch duties, given it represents desirable prestige qualities at affordable prices. Engines range from the demure to the demented, as the flagship A-Class is a 4-wheel-drive AMG model called the A45S with 421hp and a sub-4-second 0-62mph time, but whichever version of the baby Benz you go for, you get an incredibly high-tech interior packed with show-stopping goodies – and that’s a huge part of this hatchback’s undoubted allure.
3. MINI Hatch
Units Sold: 31,792
This is a surprising one, because MINI is basically injecting the current Hatch model with Botox every 3 or 4 years to prolong its ageing form. So this 3rd-generation car, which arrived way back in the dim and distant past of 2014, has had 2 facelifts in the interim, as MINI attempts to keep it going until an all-electric new model arrives in the mid-2020s. That said, consumer appetite for the MINI’s particular set of charms – its quirky styling, its quality interior and its long-held legacy as, well, a MINI – mean that it can continue to outstrip ostensibly better, newer vehicles in the showroom stakes. Indeed, the 2nd of its major updates in the middle of 2021 probably accounted for a huge December surge from the MINI, which shifted fully 4625 units in that month alone – a number only eclipsed by car number 2 on this list for that month, as well as being more than 2000 units in excess of the number 1 vehicle’s performance for December, and enough to propel the MINI from 7th place at the end of November to the podium positions for the year overall.
Units Sold: 34,783
An outrageous late dump of Tesla Model 3s on the UK market saw the American electric vehicle record a whopping 9612 sales in December alone – that’s almost an incredible 28% of its overall annual sales figure for 2021 of 34,783 units. In 1 month. This phenomenal late showroom performance was enough to see the Model 3, which was nowhere to be seen on the top 10 list at the end of November, into 2nd place overall for the year. It is, though, one of the best electric cars there is right now, with a line-up of versions offering incredible performance, impressive driving range and a minimalist interior which is unlike anything else in the automotive industry. The Tesla Model 3 will likely continue to be the UK’s best-selling electric vehicle into 2022 and beyond – proving that the appeal of this game-changing company is not diminishing just yet.
Units Sold: 40,914
The Corsa has long been locked in a duel with the Ford Fiesta and, frankly, it’s a battle which the Vauxhall has rarely won. But now, after more than a decade of watching the Fiesta top the annual sales charts, the newest Corsa ‘F’ (making it the Mk6, but only the 5th car to wear the Corsa badge in the UK, as the Mk1 was sold here as the Nova) takes the overall crown.
The 2019-launched Mk6’s strengths are that it looks good on the outside, it has a spacious and nicely appointed interior, and the input of the PSA/Stellantis parent groups of Vauxhall have blessed it with a range of smooth engines – including a natty all-electric version called the Corsa-E.
One final point: the Corsa’s dominance of 2021 was immense. Despite shifting a reasonable 2608 units in December, the MINI (number 3, 4625 units) and the Tesla Model 3 (number 2, 9612 units) comfortably outperformed it in showrooms in the run-up to Christmas. But regardless of those 2 winning the December battle, the Corsa was victorious in the overall 2021 war. No other car on this list sold more than 35,000 units in 2021. The Corsa? That shifted in excess of 40,000 units, or – more accurately – just shy of 41,000 units. Emphatically proving that Britain’s favourite car in 2021, by some distance, was Vauxhall’s talented supermini.