October was almost good news for new car registrations because private sales were up by about 0.4% compared to the same month last year. I say ‘almost’ because fleet registrations were down more than 3%, which pulled the overall numbers down slightly.
Still, a modest increase for private sales means showrooms would have been a bit busier, as dealers tried to get as many cars out the door ahead of the November lockdown across England.
We dug into the overall registration numbers yesterday, but it was another good month for electric and hybrid cars, which collectively outsold diesel cars for the second month in a row. However, the forecast for November and December look comparatively bleak, with showrooms closed for the next four weeks.
The UK’s best-selling cars, October 2020
1. Mercedes-Benz A-Class
Mercedes-Benz may try to position itself as a premium or luxury brand, but you can’t really get more mainstream or more common than the biggest-selling car in the country. And in October, the top-selling car in the UK was the Mercedes-Benz A-Class.
The A-Class has an Expert Rating of 77% in The Car Expert’s unique aggregated Expert Rating index, based on 44 UK reviews. It ranks highly for safety, winning awards from Euro NCAP, Thatcham and What Car? for its protective qualities.
- Mercedes-Benz A-Class (2018 onwards) – Expert Rating
- More Mercedes-Benz ratings, reviews, news and features
2. Vauxhall Corsa
It was another great month for the Corsa, outselling the Ford Fiesta yet again and continuing an impressive run for the new Vauxhall supermini. With only two months to go this year, it seems unlikely that the Corsa can catch the Fiesta for overall full-year sales honours, but it might run it close.
The petrol and diesel versions of the new Corsa currently hold an Expert Rating of 71% on our unique aggregator scale, based on 25 reviews we have gathered so far. That puts it in the bottom half of the supermini class, although the all-electric Corsa-e does score slightly better with an Expert Rating of 74%.
- Vauxhall Corsa (2020 onwards) – Expert Rating
- Vauxhall Corsa-e (2020 onwards) – Expert Rating
- More Vauxhall ratings, reviews, news and features
3. Ford Fiesta
Once again, the Ford Fiesta has to play second fiddle to the Vauxhall Corsa in the monthly sales race. Fiesta registrations were down nearly 20% compared to last October against an overall market that was down less than 2%. In year-to-date sales, the Fiesta still leads the Corsa by more than 3,500 units, so it’s likely to hold onto its crown as Britain’s best-selling car for another year, but it will probably be a close fight unless Ford can slow the Corsa’s momentum.
The Fiesta currently holds an Expert Rating of 81% in The Car Expert’s unique Expert Rating index, which aggregates reviews from 25 of the UK’s top motoring websites. This is a one-point slip in the last month, which drops the Fiesta further behind the SEAT Ibiza as class leader – although it’s still 10% better than the Corsa, so hopefully that will cheer up Blue Oval fans.
4. Volkswagen Golf
The Volkswagen Golf improved from fifth place last month to fourth this month, which pulled it another 1,000 units closer to the Ford Focus in year-to-date registrations. With two months to go, the Focus is just over 2,000 units ahead of the Golf, so the race between the two family hatchbacks could go down to the wire.
We’re beginning to see more local reviews of UK-spec Golf models being published in the media (as opposed to the initial reviews that took place at the international media launch), and the Golf’s formerly stellar Expert Rating is gradually starting to slip – although it’s still the top-ranked car in its class. The much-vaunted ‘all-digital’ interior has drawn criticism from several reviewers who have found it inferior to the more conventional cabin of the previous-generation model.
5. Ford Puma
The new Ford Puma makes its third appearance in three months, improving from seventh place in September to fifth place in October. Given the drop in sales for both Fiesta and Focus, it may be that there has been some cannibalisation among existing Ford customers going on. As long as those customers are staying within the Blue Oval family, Ford is unlikely to be too bothered.
The bug-eyed small SUV has been popular with critics, currently holding a rating of 83% on our unique Expert Rating index. This remains a best-in-class result, but it has slipped a couple of points in the last month as we’ve added some new reviews and other sources have revised their initial opinions. A hot new ST version may help swing that score back upwards in coming months, however.
6. Volvo XC40
The brilliant little Volvo XC40 makes its third appearance in the top ten list and the second in a row. It may be another quirk of a relatively strong consumer market/weak fleet market, and the addition of a plug-in hybrid version will probably help as well.
The XC40 is the class leader among small SUV/crossover models, with an Expert Rating of 84%. A new plug-in hybrid model has recently joined the range, while a fully-electric version is now in production and set to arrive either later this year or early 2021.
7. Mini hatch
The Mini hatch improved to seventh in October. The new-plate registration months are traditionally good for Mini, so there may be some carryover from September where the Mini was only eighth. It still holds seventh place in year-to-date registrations, inching towards the sixth-placed Nissan Qashqai in what should be another close race to the end of the year. The electric model has now launched as well, which certainly won’t do sales any harm.
The Mini hatch holds a very solid score of 80% in our Expert Ratings aggregator, which is better than most cars in its class despite being much older than many of its rivals. We’ve now indexed the new Mini Electric model as well, and interestingly its score is currently only 73% – although this may change by a few points (either up or down) as more reviews are published.
- Mini hatch (2014 onwards) – Expert Rating
- Mini Electric (2020 onwards) – Expert Rating
- More Mini ratings, reviews, news and features
8. Ford Focus
It was another below-average month for the Ford Focus, although eighth place in October is better than last month’s tenth place, as the brands family hatch fell from third place last month to tenth this month. It was also nearly 21% behind its registration numbers for last October against an overall market that was down by less than 2%.
The Focus was almost certainly the victim of a weak fleet market as well as the roll-out of its arch-rival, the new Volkswagen Golf, arriving in dealerships in large numbers to tempt away potential Focus customers. Having fallen from second place to fourth in year-to-date registrations last month, the Focus now looks like it may come under pressure from the Mercedes-Benz A-Class with two months left to go this year.
The Ford Focus currently holds an Expert Rating of 80% in our Expert Ratings database, which is better than most rivals but still a couple of points off the new Volkswagen Golf based on its reviews to date.
9. BMW 1 Series
Making its second appearance, and the first since May, is the new BMW 1 Series. BMW’s small hatchback breaks with a long-held company tradition by being front-wheel drive instead of rear-wheel drive, a point that has caused consternation among BMW enthusiasts but has been well received by most of the motoring media. However, it definitely follows modern BMW tradition by being really ugly…
The good news is that it drives better than it looks. It has been generally praised for its driving dynamics, despite the switch to front-wheel drive, and currently holds an Expert Rating of 81%.
10. Audi A3
Making its debut in the UK best-sellers list is the new Audi A3, joining its arch-rivals from BMW and Mercedes in the top ten. Available as both a five-door hatchback and a saloon, the new A3 went on sale in summer of this year and supplies now appear to be moving freely.
The Audi A3 has received generally good reviews from the UK media since it was launched, with an Expert Rating of 79% that puts it smack in the middle of the BMW 1 Series (81%) and Mercedes A-Class (77%). It’s still quite new to the market, so we may see this score fluctuate as more local reviews are added in coming months.