It was a slow start to the year for the car industry, with private new car sales down 14% in January compared to the same month last year. Although consumer hesitation was unexpected as Brexit frenzy peaked ahead of the UK’s departure from the EU at the end of the month, the scale of the fall will have been painful for dealers and manufacturers.
Still, clouds and silver linings and all that, with some brands doing better than others. Audi, Bentley, DS Automobiles, Jaguar, Jeep, Lexus, Lotus, MG, Mitsubishi, Nissan and Porsche all reported double-digit growth against a market that fell by 7% overall.
Meanwhile, it wasn’t as much fun for several other brands. Abarth, Alfa Romeo, Alpine, Citroën, Dacia, Honda, Hyundai, Kia, Maserati, Mazda, Mini, Renault, Smart, SsangYong, Subaru, Suzuki and Vauxhall all took a double-digit dive in January.
Ford certainly started the year strongly, with the Fiesta and Focus locking out the top two spots on the sales charts, while the locally-built Nissan Qashqai also had a good month to place third. As for the rest of the top ten, read on…
The UK’s ten best-selling cars, January 2020
1. Ford Fiesta
The champ has taken a bit of a pummelling in recent months, with the Vauxhall Corsa and Volkswagen Golf taking turns at the top of the charts late in 2019. There have even been reports that Ford is cutting European production of the Fiesta due to a slowdown in UK demand.
However, the Fiesta certainly started 2020 with a bang, with more than 6,000 cars registered in January. That’s nearly 13% better than last year in a market that fell 7%, which is impressive.
The Fiesta currently holds an Expert Rating of 86% in The Car Expert’s 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.
2. Ford Focus
Like its little brother, the Ford Focus had a strong month in January. Not only was it second on the charts, but Ford registered 20% more Focus models this year than in the same month for 2019. Given that its two top models had a stellar month, the rest of the Ford range must have underperformed since the brand sold fewer cars in total than this time last year.
The Ford Focus currently holds an Expert Rating of 81% in our New Car Ratings database, just 1% lower than the outgoing Volkswagen Golf. However, a new Golf is looming on the horizon and will present the Focus with a tough new challenge this year.
3. Nissan Qashqai
The Nissan Qashqai keeps on keeping on, finishing 2019 in sixth place on the sales charts and starting 2020 in third place. Not bad for a model that is expeced to be replaced by an all-new model later this year.
As usual, the Qashqai maintained its title of the best-selling British-built car. In fact, it was the only British-built car in the top ten this month. It was also comfortably the most popular crossover model, with almost double the registrations of the Kia Sportage
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.
- Nissan Qashqai (2014 – present) – reviews and ratings
- More Nissan news, ratings, reviews and features
4. Vauxhall Corsa
It’s the last days on sale for the current Vauxhall Corsa, as the all-new model starts making its way onto British roads. Still, the old one keeps racking up sales as Vauxhall clears out the remaining stock, starting 2020 exactly where it ended 2019 in fourth place.
It might have been a popular car over the last six years, 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. Reviews for the new model have been significantly better, so we expect it to achieve a better Expert Rating once we collate them all shortly.
- Vauxhall Corsa (2014 – present) – ratings and reviews
- More Vauxhall news, ratings, reviews and features
5. Volkswagen Golf
Third, fourth and fifth places were all filled by models in run-out mode. Like the Corsa, the current Volkswagen Golf is about to make way for an all-new model that should land in the next month or two. ANd like the Corsa, the outgoing model keeps on selling in numbers that newer rivals would kill for.
The Golf enjoyed a titanic sales tussle with the Ford Focus throughout 2019, eventually winning that battle by just over 2,000 units. After the first month of 2020, however, it’s already 1,300 units behind the Focus. Volkswagen dealers will be looking forward to getting the new Golf Mk8 into their showrooms very soon.
Despite being on sale since 2012, the Mk7 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. Can the new model top this?
- Volkswagen Golf (2012 – present) – reviews and ratings
- More Volkswagen news, reviews, features and offers
6. Mercedes-Benz A-Class
The darling of the aspirational small car set continues to be the Mercedes-Benz A-Class. It was the fifth best-selling car in the UK in 2019, and starts 2020 only just down on that in sixth place. Mercedes-Benz overall was the third best-selling brand in the UK, so maybe it’s time we stop referring to it as a premium brand and recategorise it as a mainstream or volume brand.
The Mercedes-Benz A-Class has an Expert Rating of 77% in The Car Expert’s New Car Rating system. It ranks 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
7. Kia Sportage
A regular lurker in the lower half of the top ten is the Kia Sportage, which reappeared in January. It was a good month for Kia’s biggest-selling model, which finished in tenth place in full-year registrations for 2019.
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.
8. BMW 3 Series
It was a good start to the year for the BMW 3 Series range, continuing on its strong end to last year.
The 3 Series range continues to grow, with the Touring (estate) models now on sale alongside the saloon, and an ever-increasing number of variants available.
With a score of 88%, the new BMW 3 Series has the highest Expert Rating of any car in the top ten, according to our unique New Car Ratings aggregator. Even though this has fallen slightly since launch, when it rated more than 90%, it’s still comfortably clear of anything else in its class.
9. Volkswagen Polo
The Volkswagen Polo was the ninth best-selling car in the UK in 2019, and that’s exactly where it starts 2020. It’s the third of three superminis in the top ten chart this month, although a long way off the numbers generated by the Ford Fiesta and Vauxhall Corsa.
The Polo holds an Expert Rating of 79% in The Car Expert’s New Car Ratings calculator, which is good but a fair way behind the class-leading Fiesta.
- Volkswagen Polo (2017 – present) – ratings and reviews
- More Volkswagen news, ratings, reviews and features
10. Vauxhall Grandland X
It’s a new face in the final place of the top ten this month, as the Vauxhall Grandland X makes an appearance. The largest of Vauxhall’s crossover has been buoyed by a growing model range, with a plug-in hybrid powertrain now available.
Like the Corsa, the Grandland X doesn’t let average media reviews get in the way of scoring decent sales numbers. The Grandland X currently holds an Expert Rating of 69% based on 16 UK media reviews, according to our unique aggregator, which is in the bottom half of its class and well off the pace of the class-leading Peugeot 3008.