September is always one of the two biggest months of the year for new car registrations as new number plates bring buyers into showrooms, but 2021 continues to ignore the usual scripts.
Toyota was the country’s biggest-selling car brand for the month, ahead of Kia, while perennial sales leader Ford slumped to ninth. EVs hit a new record market share, while diesel’s market share crashed to a new all-time low. And most car manufacturers struggled to get enough of any cars at all to sell to customers.
Ongoing shortages of crucial semiconductor chips continue to have a massive impact on new car registrations, and the top ten list for September reflected these supply issues. The Ford Fiesta, for example, had an absolutely disastrous month with fewer than 1,800 registrations – which doesn’t look good compared to the Vauxhall Corsa’s 5,200 sales for the month…
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 September 2021.
The UK’s top-selling cars, September 2021
1. Tesla Model 3
It’s not the first time that the Tesla Model 3 has topped the new car sales charts, but to do so in September is probably Tesla’s strongest sales achievement yet. 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 Tesla Model 3 currently holds an Expert Rating of 83% 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. Vauxhall Corsa
The Vauxhall Corsa recovered strongly in September after a poor couple of months, and it now looks a nailed-on favourite to end 2021 as the UK’s best-selling car with a lead of more than 6,000 units with only three months to go for the year. Vauxhall will presumably be begging its Stellantis overlords for as many cars as it can get to finally bring the Ford Fiesta’s long reign to an end.
The petrol and diesel versions of the new Corsa currently hold a rather poor Expert Rating of 63% on our industry-leading Expert Rating index, although the all-electric Corsa-e manages a few points better at 67%. 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.
3. BMW 3 Series
The BMW 3 Series continues its strong run through the second half of the year, improving from fifth last month to third in September. That also means that the 3 Series is closing in on the Toyota Yaris for eighth place in year-to-date registrations with just three months of the year to go.
The 3 Series currently rates two points better than the electric Tesla Model 3 in our Expert Rating Index, and a long way ahead of other petrol/diesel/plug-in rivals from Audi, Mercedes and others. As of October 2021, it has an overall score of 85%, which is exceptionally high.
4. Toyota Yaris
It was another great month for the Toyota Yaris, with fourth place in September resulting in selling a lot more cars than third place in August or second place in July. Toyota is coping much better with semiconductor supply than most manufacturers, which is certainly helping Yaris sales at the expense of rivals like the Ford Fiesta.
The Yaris currently holds an overall score of 67% on our Expert Rating Index, which has dropped from its previous rating of 76% since we updated our unique algorithm. This is a bigger fall than affected the Polo or Fiesta, but still keeps it four points above the Corsa.
5. Nissan Qashqai
September marked the market introduction of the all-new third-generation Nissan Qashqai, replacing one of the UK’s most successful vehicles and hoping for more of the same.
Nissan will be hoping that it can get production up to speed and maintain that level without being dogged by supply problems in order to give the new Qashqai a solid start in life. It’s certainly been a good start, and everyone up in Sunderland will have their fingers crossed…
We don’t yet have enough reviews of the new Qashqai to produce our Expert Rating report, but this will be coming soon. The previous model was competitive with other mainstream medium SUVs throughout its life, and the new one is a marked improvement in pretty much every area.
6. Kia Sportage
September was almost certainly the last big hurrah for the current Sportage, ahead of its replacement by an all-new model before the end of 2021. The Sportage also inched closer to the Volkswagen Polo in year-to-date sales, but the end-of-year result will very much depend on how much stock Kia has of both the outgoing car and the new model.
The Sportage currently holds an Expert Rating of 64% in our industry-leading Expert Ratings index, which puts it firmly in the bottom half of the medium SUV sector. Kia will hoping that its boldly styled replacement can improve on this score.
7. Volkswagen Polo
The Volkswagen Polo’s 2021 renaissance continued in September with another strong result. The facelifted Polo was supposed to have arrived in time for the September sales rush, but Volkswagen dealers are apparently still waiting to see the new models. Fortunately, they seemed to have about 4,000 of the current model in stock to deliver to customers…
The Polo currently holds an Expert Rating of 76%, which makes it one of the top-rated small cars according to our industry-leading Expert Rating index. Whether this will improve further once the facelifted model arrives remains to be seen.
8. Toyota Aygo
Helping Toyota top the sales charts in September was a fantastic result for the Aygo city car, making its first appearance (that we can remember, anyway) in the top ten.
The Aygo has been around since 2014, so it’s certainly in the autumn of its life and a new model is expected to arrive sometime next year. As of October 2021, it holds an Expert Rating of just 54%, so it’s well off the pace of other city cars like the Hyundai i10 and Volkswagen Up.
9. Kia Niro
The Kia Niro made a return to the top ten for the first time since February, helping Kia to second place in overall manufacturer registrations, just behind Toyota. Overall, the Hyundai-Kia collective appears to have managed its supply of semiconductors better than most car manufacturers, which has very much helped the results for both brands.
The Niro currently holds an Expert Rating of 62% in our aggregated Expert Ratings index, while the e-Niro is far more highly rated with a score of 84% – a whopping 22% better than the hybrid versions.
10. Volkswagen Golf
After disappearing from the top ten altogether last month, the Volkswagen crept back into tenth place in September. Mind you, that was still enough to overhaul a 1,600 unit deficit to the Ford Fiesta and overtake it for second place in year-to-date registrations. Volkswagen also strengthened its overall lead in the manufacturer sales race, and looks pretty certain to displace Ford as the country’s most popular car brand for 2021.
The Golf’s Expert Rating of 75% is a point behind the Ford Focus, as well as its electric sibling, the Volkswagen ID.3. However, it remains a few points better than either the Mercedes-Benz A-Class or the Audi A3.