The best-selling cars list is the Premier League of the domestic car market, where every car manufacturer wants its new models to be. Here at Auto Express we test over 1,000 cars every year and have strong opinions about all of them but the final verdict is always passed by you, the UK’s car buyers.
Whether you’re in 1970, 1980, 2013 or 2014, if a car sells well it’s a success. If it doesn’t, no matter how vociferously the die-hard fans suggest otherwise, it isn’t.
There are obviously many cars created to appeal to smaller, more exclusive groups of buyers that could never trouble the list of the top 10 best-selling cars in the UK. However, even these niche models aim to dominate their market sectors from a sales point-of-view or at least shift their entire production allocation each year. It all comes down to sales in the end.
There might not be any supercars, luxury saloons or large SUVs among the UK’s most popular cars in 2014 but the spread of different kinds of car is wider than it has been in years gone by.
With the usual superminis and family hatchbacks supplemented by a city car, crossover SUVs and a premium hatchback, the bestsellers reflect both the increasingly diversified product ranges offered by manufacturers and the UK public’s broadening tastes.
1. Ford Fiesta – 39,240 registrations in 2014
The leading car in the supermini segment, Ford’s Fiesta is also the top-selling car in the UK. Ford’s finest manages to tick the practicality and economy boxes that are so crucial for any small car but it’s also a blast to drive, whether you opt for the entry-level version or the Fiesta ST hot hatch.
2. Ford Focus – 24,759 registrations in 2014
Alongside the Fiesta, the Focus is the powerhouse of the Ford range. It’s big enough to cope with the demands of family life but sufficiently compact to keep running costs to a minimum. As we’ve come to expect from modern Fords, the driving experience is first class and the Focus is about to get a styling refresh that should enhance its appeal further.
3. Vauxhall Corsa – 23,839 registrations in 2014
The current Corsa is no spring chicken but that hasn’t stopped Vauxhall selling its supermini in big numbers. A facelifted Corsa is set to come out soon but tight pricing and attractive finance deals are helping the existing car more than hold its end up while we wait for the replacement to hit the showrooms.
4. Volkswagen Golf – 19,160 registrations in 2014
The Volkswagen Golf is a thoroughly impressive family hatchback. It has a high quality feel that none of its mainstream rivals can match and the potential to pinch sales from premium hatches in the class above. Brilliantly-judged suspension, high-tech turbocharged engines and that classy VW image all count in its favour.
5. Vauxhall Astra – 17,465 registrations in 2014
Vauxhall’s long-time rival for the Ford Focus continues to hold its place in the sales charts. The Astra is a big, comfortable car for the family hatch class with attractive styling that’s shown-off best by the coupe-like GTC versions.
6. Volkswagen Polo - 13,631 registrations in 2014
The Polo is, to all intents and purposes, the junior Golf and it mirrors the qualities of its big brother in the smaller supermini segment. Despite its compact dimensions, the Polo has that highly prized ‘big car feel’ in spades. It’s pricier than its direct rivals but that doesn’t seem to be deterring buyers. A revised Volkswagen Polo with engine and spec upgrades is set to cement its stay at the top.
7. Nissan Qashqai – 12,937 registrations in 2014
We have the Qashqai to thank for kick-starting the current crossover SUV boom. By taking compact 4x4 looks and high-riding practicality then marrying the to the polished driving dynamics of a conventional car, the Qashqai has proved a sales sensation for Nissan. The second generation model launched in 2013.
8. Fiat 500 – 11,685 registrations in 2014
Fiat hasn’t been having the best of times recently but the 500 city car is a big, retro ray of light for the company. Such is the 500’s sales success that Fiat has expanded the family to include MPVs and hot Abarth versions. It might not be the most technically adept city car but people just love the way it looks.
9. Audi A3 – 11,583 registrations in 2014
The Audi A3 uses the same platform and many of the same engines as the Volkswagen Golf but flexes its premium brand muscles to command higher prices. It’s a tactic that’s clearly working, however, because the A3 has muscled its way into the top 10 best sellers in the country.
10. BMW 3 Series – 11,583 registrations in 2014
The BMW 3 Series is one of the best executive cars you can buy, so it's no surprise to see it get into the top 10 - but a slow start to the year means it can only manage a 10th place finish. A strong March (with the new 14-plate registrations) was good news for BMW, though.