Britain’s best-selling cars, September 2020

Corsa back on top as supermini slugfest continues, but Ford Focus slides down the order

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Those hoping for a roaring September to offset months of dealership closures and poor sales will be somewhat disappointed with results published today. Overall new car registrations were down 4% on the same month last year, although private sales were only down by 1%.

We published our usual market analysis this morning, and now we turn to a more detailed look at the ten best-selling cars for September. It’s always a big month for private buyers, who tend to be more enthusiastic about the twice-yearly number plate changes than fleet buyers, but this year that was even more noticeable as fleet registrations continue to be weak. That has also played a part in shaping this month’s top ten list, with some new faces and a few poor results from some models that rely heavily on fleet sales.

The UK’s best-selling cars, September 2020

1. Vauxhall Corsa

The Corsa roared back to the top of the charts in September – despite recording 18% fewer sales than the same month last year – continuing an impressive run for the new Vauxhall supermini. To add further cause for celebration, it also overtook the Ford Focus to move into second place in year-to-date registrations. With only three months to go this year, it seems unlikely that the Corsa can catch its arch enemy, the Ford 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 72% on our unique aggregator scale, based on 24 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%.

2. Ford Fiesta

Ford Fiesta (2017 onwards) Expert Rating

Once again, the Ford Fiesta has to play second fiddle to the Vauxhall Corsa in the monthly sales race. Like the Corsa, Fiesta registrations were down 18% compared to last September against an overall market that was down just 4%. In year-to-date sales, the Fiesta still leads the Corsa by more than 3,700 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 82% in The Car Expert’s unique Expert Rating index, which aggregates reviews from 21 of the UK’s top motoring websites. This is a two-point slip in the last month, which now drops the Fiesta 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.

3. Mercedes-Benz A-Class

Mercedes-Benz A-Class hatchback | Expert Ratings

After slipping down to sixth place in August, the Mercedes-Benz A-Class rebounded to an excellent third place in September – although like the top two, its registrations were down 18% on the same month last year. Interestingly, that means that the top three places in September 2020 were exactly the same as September 2019.

The A-Class has an Expert Rating of 77% in The Car Expert’s unique aggregated Expert Rating index, based on 41 UK reviews. It ranks highly for safety, winning awards from Euro NCAP, Thatcham and What Car? for its protective qualities.

4. Volkswagen Polo

Volkswagen Polo (2018) - ratings and reviews | The Car Expert

It was a good month for the Volkswagen Polo, which rose from seventh place in August to fourth in September. That helped the Polo cement its eighth place in year-to-date registrations, closing in on the Mini for seventh place with only three months to go in 2020.

The Polo holds an Expert Rating of 80% in The Car Expert’s New Car Ratings calculator, which is good but still a few points behind its Spanish cousin, the SEAT Ibiza.

5. Volkswagen Golf

Volkswagen Golf (2020 onwards) Expert Rating

From a glass-half-empty approach, the Volkswagen Golf fell from second place last month to fifth this month, despite a much better year-on-year performance than the top three cars. That will be at least partly due to the fleet market underperforming relative to the private new car market. But from a glass-half-full point of view, it was a much better result than the Ford Focus managed, which allowed the Golf to leapfrog its arch-rival in the year-to-date sales race.

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.

6. Nissan Qashqai

2019 Nissan Qashqai wallpaper | The Car Expert

After a surprising absence from the August best-sellers list, the Nissan Qashqai bounced back into the top ten in September. It also retains its title as the best-selling British-built car over the Mini hatch, and looks set to hold onto that title for another year with only three months to go.

The ageing 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. A replacement is due to be revealed later this year, although the timeframe may be subject to change in light of the chaotic economic conditions currently enveloping the industry.

7. Ford Puma

Ford Puma (2020 onwards) Expert Rating

The new Ford Puma makes its second appearance in as many months with a very creditable seventh place. 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 84% 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.

8. Mini hatch

Mini three-door hatch (2018) ratings and reviews | The Car Expert

Like the Nissan Qashqai, the Mini hatch was another car that disappeared in August then reappeared in September. The new-plate registration months are traditionally good for Mini, so eighth place may actually be a bit of a disappointment for the brand’s BMW overlords.

It was another good month for the Mini hatch, eighth in July after being fifth last month and still holding seventh place in year-to-date registrations. 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 (eother up or down) as more reviews are published.

9. Volvo XC40

Volvo XC40 (2018 onwards) | Expert Rating

The brilliant little Volvo XC40 makes its second appearance in the top ten list, having previouly popped up during lockdown in May. 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. Another factor is that Volvo has been working closely with car buying site Carwow, which reported today that the XC40 was the most popular car sold through its service in September.

The XC40 is the class leader among small SUV/crossover models, with an Expert Rating of 85%. 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.

10. Ford Focus

Ford Focus review 2018 | The Car Expert

If you are a fan of terrible puns, you could say that Ford really lost its focus in September, as the brands family hatch fell from third place last month to tenth this month. It was also nearly 30% behind its registration numbers for last September against an overall market that was only down 4%.

The Focus was almost certainly the victim of a weak fleet market as well as its arch-rival, the new Volkswagen Golf, arriving in dealerships in large numbers to tempt away potential Focus customers.

A poor September result also means that the Focus has fallen from second place to fourth in year-to-date registrations, slipping behind the Vauxhall Corsa and Volkswagen Golf. It’s neck-and neck between Focus and Golf right now, but the momentum is certainly with the VW at the moment and it looks favourite to defeat the Focus in full-year sales in jut three months’ time.

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.

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Stuart Masson
Stuart Massonhttps://www.thecarexpert.co.uk/
Stuart is the Editorial Director of our suite of sites: The Car Expert, The Van Expert and The Truck Expert. Originally from Australia, Stuart has had a passion for cars and the automotive industry for over thirty years. He spent a decade in automotive retail, and now works tirelessly to help car buyers by providing independent and impartial advice.

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