September is one of the two biggest months of the year for new car registrations – along with March – because of how the UK number plate system works.
Private new car buyers tend to be more interested in having the latest number plates than fleet buyers. A higher proportion of private car buyers also means that the type of cars that sell well in March and September can be quite different from the rest of the year.
Private buyers tend to buy fewer diesels, more EVs and hybrids than hard-nosed fleet buyers, who are driven by the overall bottom line and are generally far less interested in environmental matters. Consumers also tend to buy more small cars and more aspirational models, which means the registration results for each manufacturer may be completely different to other months of the year.
It was good news for Alpine, Bentley, Dacia, DS Automobiles, Lexus, Mazda, MG, Mini, Porsche, Renault, SEAT, Skoda, Suzuki and Volkswagen (and presumably Tesla), who all recorded sales increases of at least 10% year-on-year for September.
Meanwhile, it was a disappointing September for Abarth, Citroën, Fiat, Honda, Hyundai, Infiniti, Jaguar, Jeep, Maserati, Smart, SsangYong and Subaru, whose numbers fell by more than 10% compared to the same month last year.
The top ten list also saw some major shifts in September, so let’s have a closer look:
The UK’s ten best-selling cars, September 2019
1. Vauxhall Corsa
The Vauxhall Corsa achieved a mighty victory in September, becoming the first car in two years to knock the all-powerful Ford Fiesta off the top of the charts.
September has always been a good month for the Corsa, which continues to yo-yo its way up and down the sales charts in 2019, having only raned ninth in August and now moving up to second place (up from fourth) in year-to-date registrations . With stocks presumably running low ahead of the all-new model arriving in January, this was probably the last hurrah for the current Corsa.
It might have been the best seller, but the Vauxhall Corsa only holds an Expert Rating of 64%, which is the lowest score among this month’s top ten cars according to our Expert Rating aggregator.
- Vauxhall Corsa (2014 – present) – ratings and reviews
- More Vauxhall news, reviews, features and offers
2. Ford Fiesta
All good things must come to an end, and so it is with the Fiesta’s two-year unbroken run atop the UK new car sales charts. Mind you, it wasn’t what you’d call a disaster – the Fiesta only dropped to second and there’s every chance it will return to the number one position next month.
The Fiesta currently holds an Expert Rating of 86% in The Car Expert’s all-new New Car Ratings database, which compares reviews from across the UK motoring media. This is higher than any other car in the supermini class and the second-highest rating in this month’s top ten best-sellers list, so it seems that motoring journalists and the buying public are in agreement on the Fiesta’s qualities.
3. Mercedes-Benz A-Class
The darling of the aspirational small car set continues to be the Mercedes-Benz A-Class which jumped up to third place in September, a strong performance that also elevates the A-Class to fifth in year-to-date results ahead of the Nissan Qashqai.
The Mercedes-Benz A-Class has an Expert Rating of 77% in The Car Expert’s New Car Rating system. The overall score is dragged down somewhat by lower ratings from a couple of performance car titles (Evo and Top Gear), otherwise it would be a solid 80% or more. However, it does rank highly for safety, winning awards from Euro NCAP, Thatcham and What Car? for its protective qualities.
- Mercedes-Benz A-Class (2018 – present) – ratings and reviews
- More Mercedes-Benz news, reviews, features and offers
4. Mini hatch
Another popular car with private buyers has always been the Mini hatch, so it’s not surprising to see it doing well in September. The Mini hatch range bounced back from outside the top ten to claim fourth spot this month, which is the first time we’ve seen it in the best-sellers chart since June. The Mini has been yo-yoing its way up and down the sales charts this year, and September’s good result has helped push it up one place to seventh in the year-to-date results.
The Mini hatch holds a very solid score of 80% in our New Car Ratings aggregator, which is better than most cars in its class despite being older than many of its rivals.
5. Nissan Qashqai
The Qashqai was only the the second-most popular British-built new car in Britain in September thanks to strong sales for the Mini hatch. It’s also slipped to sixth place in year-to-date registrations. However, it was still the leading SUV/crossover model as usual, and makes a reappearance in the top ten chart after disappearing in August.
The Nissan Qashqai currently holds an Expert Rating of 74% in our New Car Ratings database, which is midfield for the compact crossover segment and in the bottom half of scores for a Top Ten-selling car.
6. Ford Focus
The flip side of a strong private sale month is that fleet favourites tend to suffer in comparison. In that respect, the Ford Focus has done well to end up in sixth position and edge out its arch rival, the Volkswagen Golf, for the first time since May. The two cars are practically neck-and-neck in year to date registrations, with the Focus now less than 600 units behind the Golf.
The Ford Focus currently holds an Expert Rating of 81% in our New Car Ratings database, just 1% lower than the Golf, and was also listed by safety gurus Thatcham Research as one of the ten safest cars for 2019.
7. Volkswagen Golf
The Golf was Volkswagen’s only car in the Top Ten this month, with the Polo and T-Roc falling out altogether. It wasn’t a great month for the Golf, either, with an even bigger drop than the Ford Focus pushing it down to seventh place. Plus the success of the Vauxhall Corsa means it has slipped back to third in the year-to-date numbers, with a narrow margin of just over 500 units back to the Focus.
Despite an all-new eighth generation set to be unveiled before Christmas, the current Volkswagen Golf still holds an Expert Rating of 82% in The Car Expert’s New Car Ratings database, which is the best rating of any car in its class.
- Volkswagen Golf (2012 – present) – reviews and ratings
- More Volkswagen news, reviews, features and offers
8. Kia Sportage
Another re-entry thanks to the September plate change was the Kia Sportage. It was a good month for Kia’s biggest-selling model, which remains in tenth place in year-to-date registrations.
The Sportage currently holds an Expert Rating of 72% in our aggregated New Car Ratings database, which is midfield for medium SUVs but a couple of points behind the best-selling Nissan Qashqai and quite a margin behind the top cars in the mid-size SUV segment.
9. Ford Kuga
It was a third month in a row for the Ford Kuga in the top ten in September, falling back from sixth place in August. The current model is not long for this world, with an all-new replacement announced back in March. Year-to-date the Kuga remains in eighth place, overtaking the Volkswagen Polo but having been leapfrogged by the Mini hatch.
The Kuga has a relatively poor Expert Rating of 65% on our New Car Ratings aggregator, which is the second-lowest score for a top ten car. Ford dealers will be keenly awaiting the new model to take the fight to the Nissan Qashqai, although the company hasn’t announced when it will arrive in the UK.
10. BMW 3 Series
Rounding out the Top Ten is a debut appearance for the all-new BMW 3 Series, with many buyers clearly waiting for the new 69-plate season to start before taking delivery.
At this stage, the 3 Series is only available as a saloon, with estate (knows as Touring) models due to reach UK dealerships in coming months.
With a score of 90%, the new BMW 3 Series has comfortably the highest Expert Rating of any car in the top ten, according to our unique New Car Ratings aggregator. As more variants of the new 3 Series make their way to UK roads for testing, it’s possible that this could start to change to some degree.