UK new car registrations hit record high in 2016

  • Largest number of new cars ever registered in the UK
  • Up 2.3% from 2015 to more than 2.6 million cars
  • Demand for hybrids and EVs on the up

Figures released by the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders – the SMMT – reveal the UK new car market to be at an all-time high, with 2,692,786 new cars registered in 2016.

That’s an increase of 2.3% over 2015, making it the fifth consecutive year of growth in the UK.

What are the most popular cars in the UK?

The Ford Fiesta continues to sit at the top of the charts, with the company selling a whopping 120,525 units in 2016, despite the new 2017 model being just around the corner. 

Next up is the Fiesta’s main rival, the Vauxhall Corsa, shifting 77,110 models last year – a huge 43,000 less than the Ford.

Making up the rest of top three is the Ford Focus, with 70,545 cars sold in 2016.

The rest of the top 10 is as follows:

4) Volkswagen Golf – 69,492

5) Nissan Qashqai – 62,682

6) Vauxhall Astra – 60,719

7) Volkswagen Polo – 54,448

8) MINI – 48,328

9) Mercedes-Benz C-Class – 44,184

10) Audi A3 – 43,808

More people are buying EVs and hybrids

While diesel and petrol cars continue to be the most popular fuel in the UK, alternatively fuelled cars – electric, hybrid and plug-in hybrids – are becoming more popular with British buyers.

Plug-in hybrid sales have grown by 41.9% in the last year, while regular hybrids are up 25.1%. This type of car now holds a 3.3% market share in the UK, with more models becoming available than ever.

Company cars are fuelling the growth

In 2016, fleet sales were responsible for the majority of new car sales, with 1.38 million units being for fleet drivers. Private buyers were accountable for 1.2m – the majority of which were bought through finance thanks to low interest rates and flexible payment options.

Some big names down on 2015

Despite the impressive overall figures for 2016, a lot of large volume brands are down on the previous year. Fiat, Ford and Peugeot all saw a drop of more than 5% on 2015, while Vauxhall and VW were around 7% short on the previous year, too. The same goes for Toyota and Nissan - both saw a negative fall behind 2015's sales by around 2%.

However, Nissan's premium arm - Infiniti - saw a 142% increase on 2015, thanks in large part to the new Q30 hatchback and QX30 crossover.

Will this trend continue into 2017?

That remains to be seen (think Brexit and potentially higher tariffs for imported goods), but SMMT Chief Executive Mike Hawes thinks that ‘with interest rates at historic lows and a range of new models arriving in 2017, there are still many reasons for consumers to consider a new car’.

Last year was such a strong year for new car sales thanks to tempting finance offers – the latest of which you can check out in our weekly Deal Watch page – and the availability of a diverse range of new cars. Check out what's being launched in the coming year.