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Britain’s best-selling cars, December 2021

December saw a stunning sales performance from the Tesla Model 3, while two new faces made their top ten debuts

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We round out the year with another month of topsy-turvy car sales figures, still significantly hampered by the semi-conductor chip shortage.

Ongoing supply problems continue to plague almost every car brand, with individual results up or down depending on whether manufacturers can get enough computer chips to be able to build cars.

Because of this, only five of December’s top ten appeared the yearly best-seller list, with Volkswagen missing out entirely this month, and two newcomers making their top ten debuts.

Ford completed its anticlimactic end to the year, with only one model in the top ten best sellers for the third month running. Continuing to struggle stocking its popular Fiesta supermini, Ford couldn’t manage to sell even half the cars it sold in December last year.

In contrast, Nissan had a fantastic December with three models appearing in the top ten. Vauxhall also sealed a strong end to the year with two of its cars appearing in the best-sellers list this month, including the sought-after Vauxhall Corsa, which started the month already the unchallenged champion of new car sales in 2021.

Also worthy of note is three of the top five cars in December are built here in Britain, which is good news for the UK economy.

We’ve published our normal report on the monthly new car registration figures, with plenty of detail that you won’t find elsewhere. So let’s now look at the mixed-up top ten results for November 2021.

The UK’s top-selling cars, December 2021

1. Tesla Model 3

Tesla Model 3 (2019) new car ratings and reviews | The Car Expert

After topping the sales charts in September, the Tesla returns to take the top spot once again. The American company continues to dominate the electric car scene, which will have other manufacturers scratching their heads as to why their own EVs are not selling up a storm in the same way.

The Model 3 recorded very impressive sales figures totalling nearly 10,000 new cars in the last month, more than double the numbers that December’s runner-up could muster. It should be noted that Tesla operates in a very different way to other car manufacturers as it doesn’t run conventional dealerships, so its results tend to be up and down to a far greater degree than other brands.

Tesla will be hoping it can continue this fine sales form into the new year, as the Model 3 surged past the likes of the Mercedes-Benz A-Class and Mini hatch to settle in second spot in the annual best sellers list, just as the year came to a close.

The Tesla Model 3 currently holds an Expert Rating of 84% according to our industry-leading Expert Rating Index, which is much higher than an Audi A4 or Mercedes C-Class, and just behind the BMW 3 Series.

2. Mini hatch

Minii 3-door wallpaper 2021

After taking top spot in October, the Mini continues its excellent end to the year by finishing in second place in the sales rankings for December. Despite being the oldest car in the top ten, the twice-facelifted Mini continues to sell strongly some seven years after the current model was launched, and its sales performance in the latter half of this year means that it has surged up the 2021 best-sellers list to finish third.

Mini and BMW UK employees should also be enthused by the sales figures of specifically the all-electric version of the Mini hatchback, which finished in seventh place in the annual battery electric vehicle rankings with over 6,000 sales, though that is some way short of the nearly 35,000 Tesla Model 3 EVs sold in 2021.

The Mini hatch still holds a very solid score of 76% in our Expert Ratings index, which is one of the top scores in its class. The electric version doesn’t score so well, with an Expert Rating of only 63% that puts it close to the bottom of its class.

3. Vauxhall Corsa

Vauxhall Corsa Ultimate

Although it was not the best-selling car in the last month, Vauxhall has plenty to celebrate as the year comes to an end. The Corsa’s sales dominance from January to December means that it is the unrivalled sales champion of 2021, with over 6,000 more registrations than any other car.

Despite its popularity, the petrol and diesel versions of the new Corsa hold a rather poor Expert Rating of 64% on our industry-leading Expert Rating Index, with the all-electric Corsa-e holding the same score. Those scores put the Corsa in the bottom half of the supermini class, suggesting that journalists are not as excited about the Corsa as customers seem to be.

4. Nissan Juke

Nissan Juke (2019 onwards) Expert Rating

The biggest surprise December has to offer, the Nissan Juke makes its debut in the monthly top-sellers list in the final month of 2021, grabbing an impressive fourth place. The first-generation Juke did make several appearances in the top ten during its production life, but this is the first time that the second-generation model has cracked the list since it was launched in 2019.

The British-built Juke was certainly helped by production shortages that have seen the Ford Fiesta, Volkswagen Golf and Polo, Mercedes-Benz A-Class and Kia Sportage all disappear from the best-sellers list. Nevertheless, Nissan will be very pleased by the Juke’s performance, capitalising on the UK’s rising demand for small SUV/crossovers.

The Nissan Juke currently has an Expert Rating of 65%, which places it well in the top half of all of the medium SUV marketplace according to our industry-leading Expert Rating index.

5. Nissan Qashqai

Best-selling cars 2021 | Nissan Qashqai

Right behind its little brother, the new Nissan Qashqai continued its strong debut by placing in the top ten best-sellers list for the fourth month running, rising to place in the top five in December after ranking seventh in November.

Rolling off the production line at the Nissan plant in Sunderland, the Nissan Qashqai is the third british-built model to finish in the top five best sellers this month, an accolade that British manufacturing should be proud of.

Nissan will be more pleased by the fact that the Qashqai’s continued strong sales numbers means that the SUV has placed seventh overall in the 2021 best-sellers list, outselling rivals like the Ford Puma and Kia Sportage.

Our Expert Rating Index ranks the latest iteration of the Nissan Qashqai right in the midfield with a score of 71%. It’s still early days and there’ll be more reviews to be published, so this could change – either up or down – in coming months.

6. Ford Puma

Ford Puma (2020 onwards) Expert Rating

Usually a rather dominant force in the car sales charts, Ford finished its rather flat end to the year with only one of its models placing in the top ten, the Ford Puma.

This is actually the Puma’s first appearance in the top ten sales rankings since finishing top of the pile in August 2021, suggesting that the small SUV would have been a top sales contender if Ford had not been hampered by the semi-conductor chip shortage.

In terms of critical appraisal, the Ford Puma currently holds an Expert Rating of 76%; the second best combustion-powered small SUV ranked in our Expert Rating Index.

7. Vauxhall Mokka

Vauxhall Mokka-e (2021 onwrds) – Expert Rating

The second car to make its debut in December’s best-sellers list is the Mokka SUV, much to Vauxhall’s delight. It has been quite some time since Vauxhall had two entrants in the top ten, underlining the British manufacturer’s impressive finish to 2021.

Vauxhall will be hoping that the Mokka, including the well-regarded all-electric Mokka-e model, will be able to continue its sales upswing into the new year, as its annual sales numbers for 2021 fall behind its key rivals, including the Ford Puma and Nissan Qashqai.

Much like the Corsa hatchback, the Vauxhall Mokka appears to be much more popular with the British public than media critics, its Expert Rating of 68% not correlating with its high sales figures. The Mokka-e is more popular with UK reviewers, with an Expert Rating of 73% that earned it the crown of Best New Small SUV at The Car Expert’s 2021 Car of the Year awards.

8. Volvo XC40

Volvo XC40 (2018 onwards) – Expert Rating

Rising from tenth to eighth place in December, this is the third month in a row where the Volvo XC40 has appeared in the top ten sales rankings. Despite being on sale for nearly four years, the XC40 continues to sell well and remains highly rated by critics.

Although the XC40’s consistent sales figures were not enough to place in the annual best seller’s list, Volvo can take pride from the XC40’s fourth place finish in the 2021’s plug-in hybrid sales charts.

The XC40 has been a class leader among premium small SUV/crossover models ever since it was launched, with an Expert Rating of 79% for the petrol/diesel/plug-in hybrid version that ranked it as the Small SUV Class Champion in The Car Expert’s 2021 Car of the Year Awards. The electric XC40 Recharge doesn’t fare quite so well, with an Expert Rating of 68%.

9. Peugeot 2008

Peugeot 2008 (2019 onwards) Expert Rating

After making its top-ten debut in October, the Peugeot 2008 popped up again in ninth place in December. Registration numbers will also include the electric e-2008. It’s likely to be a short-lived in the best-sellers list, its top ten ranking inevitably assisted by several of the usual suspects underachieving, but it’s always good to see brands with a smaller share of the market doing well.

Based on the 208/e-208 small car, the latest 2008 is rated as one of the better contenders in the small SUV segment. Our industry-leading Expert Rating Index scores the petrol/diesel 2008 at 70% and the electric e-2008 at 72%, both of which are scores that put the car in the top tier of the class – although still a few points behind the very best.

10. Nissan Leaf

Nissan Leaf (2018 onwards) Expert Rating

Completing the top ten best-sellers for December is the third and final Nissan Model, the all-electric Leaf hatchback. The Nissan Leaf has made an appearance in these rankings before, but that was in April 2020 – the worst month in new car sales history, all thanks to the original Covid lockdown beginning. This time around, the Leaf has more respectable sales numbers.

Providing a cheaper EV alternative to the premium Tesla Model 3, the Nissan Leaf leaves 2021 with rather admirable annual sales numbers, recording a fourth-place finish in 2021’s sales rankings for battery electric vehicles.

One of the most popular electric cars the world over, the Nissan Leaf has had a positive reception from members of the media since its UK arrival in 2018. It currently holds an Expert Rating of 71% which, while being a decent score, falls somewhat short of the all-electric class-leader, the Hyundai Ioniq 5.

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Sean Rees
Sean Rees
Sean is the Deputy Editor at The Car Expert. A enthusiastic fan of motorsport and all things automotive, he is accredited by the Professional Publishers Association, and is now focused on helping those in car-buying need with independent and impartial advice.