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Best-selling cars in the UK 2017

The Volkswagen Golf ended the year on a high, but the Ford Fiesta was Britain’s best-selling car in 2017

The Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders confirmed the UK’s best-selling cars for 2017 with the release of new car registration figures for the year.

Overall car sales fell 5.7 per cent in UK year-on-year in 2017, but while the industry declined for the ninth consecutive month in December, 2017 still proved to be the third biggest in a decade with 2,540,617 vehicles registered.

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UK plans petrol and diesel sales ban by 2040

The size of the UK market relative to previous years will be somewhat of a silver lining for the industry, which endured a turbulent year thanks to a number of contributing factors.

Political uncertainty - largely in the form of Brexit and the snap General Election in May - has frequently been cited by manufacturers and industry experts as a driving force behind falling sales. It’s thought that the upheaval had a negative effect on consumer confidence with the knock-on impact being a fall in the number of cars purchased.  

According to research, the threat of leaving the European Union without a trade agreement could add £2,300 to the price of cars in the UK, while the cost of German vehicles in Britain could rise by 10 per cent under World Trade Organisation rules.

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In November, SMMT president Tony Walker implored the Government to pursue a ‘frictionless’ Brexit in order to guarantee growth and productivity.

However, other factors also contributed to the decline of the UK car industry in 2017. In April, the Government introduced higher VED road tax rates for new cars, making petrol and diesel vehicles costlier to tax on average. Only zero emissions cars are now tax exempt.

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Meanwhile emissions penalties for older cars - such as the T-charge zone in London and the £2 diesel parking surcharge in Islington - were followed by the announcement of diesel car tax increases in the Autumn Budget.

These events coincided with a sharp fall in diesel car sales over the course of 2017, they plummeted by 17.1 per cent compared with 2016 figures. In contrast, petrol car sales actually rose by 2.7 per cent.

With the vilification of diesel a recurring theme throughout 2017, it came as little surprise that the UK’s CO2 emissions average had risen from 120.1g/km to 121.0g/km - the first such rise since records began two decades ago. SMMT CEO Mike Hawes lambasted the increase as “bad for the environment and bad for the country”. Although, the switch to petrol cars with their higher CO2 emissions and fuel consumption on average will have given a boost to Government coffers in the form VAT from increased fuel sales.

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But while diesel car sales provided little to cheer about, there was better news from the alternative fuelled vehicles sector, which posted a 34.8 per cent rise in sales in 2017.

119,821 cars powered by electric, hybrid, plug-in hybrid, and hydrogen fuel cell systems were sold in 2017, lifting AFV’s market share from 3.3 per cent to 4.7 per cent. This tallies with polls conducted by Auto Express, which suggest that UK buyers are warming to the idea of investing in cleaner, more efficient technologies.

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That said, it’ll be a while before an electric car appears in the top 10 best-selling cars list, with favourites such as the Volkswagen Golf, Ford Fiesta and Nissan Qashqai maintaining a firm grip on the UK market. But exactly what finished where in the best-selling cars of 2017 list? Let’s take a look…

Top 10 best-selling cars of 2017

Below is the final table of the top 10 best selling cars of 2017. Click the links for the full reviews on each model and scroll down the page for full details and sales figures on each of the UK's favourite cars of the year...

  1. 1. Ford Fiesta
  2. 2. Volkswagen Golf
  3. 3. Ford Focus
  4. 4. Nissan Qashqai
  5. 5. Vauxhall Corsa
  6. 6. Vauxhall Astra
  7. 7. Volkswagen Polo
  8. 8. MINI hatchback
  9. 9. Mercedes C-Class
  10. 10. Mercedes A-Class

1. Ford Fiesta - 94,533 registrations

It must've been tempting for Ford to simply not bother launching the all-new Fiesta in the UK, as the previous model was so dominant in the sales charts. Despite its advancing years, it’s still one of our favourite superminis, and thousands of motorists chose to spend their hard-earned cash on a Fiesta in 2017. 94,533 to be precise.

2. Volkswagen Golf - 74,605 registrations

The Volkswagen Golf ended 2017 on a high as December’s best-selling car in the UK, shifting 6,209 units - comfortably clear of the Fiesta in second place. However, overall it has to settle for the runner-up spot behind the popular supermini, with the newly facelifted model not quite doing enough to help it into top spot. Still, it’s one to watch in 2018.

3. Ford Focus - 69,903 registrations

The Ford Focus is another stalwart of the best-seller charts, and it’s been a favourite with families ever since the first-generation car launched back in 1999. The current model hasn’t strayed too far from the formula, remaining reasonably practical, good-looking and most importantly great to drive. Little surprise that it’s a podium finisher for 2017.

4. Nissan Qashqai - 64,216 registrations

The Nissan Qashqai has been hugely popular ever since it was launch, hence its strong showing in the 2017 best-sellers charts. The current model is getting slightly long in the tooth, and is in danger of being outclassed by models like the Renault Kadjar and SEAT Ateca, but it's still popular with the British public and should continue to be in 2018.

5. Vauxhall Corsa - 52,722 registrations

The Vauxhall Corsa finishes a disappointing fifth place on the 2017 list, down from second spot in 2016. With so many strong contenders in the supermini class, combined with uncertainty regarding the brand’s future with the PSA Group, Vauxhall will be keen to see sales rise again in 2018.

6. Vauxhall Astra - 49,370 registrations

The Astra is a true product of Britain, as it’s currently built in Vauxhall’s plant in Ellesmere Port in Cheshire. Whether that matters or not is up to you, but in other ways – style, driving ability and fuel economy – the Astra is up there with the best in its class. It’s so good in fact that we awarded it Best Compact Family Car at the 2016 New Car Awards, although the VW Golf has since taken that title. Vauxhall will want that crown back in 2018.

7. Volkswagen Polo - 47,855 registrations

After a slow start to 2017, the Volkswagen Polo bounced back with a strong spring and a steady summer, consolidating its place in the top ten. Buyers clearly like the Polo's blend of image, well-built cabin and space. Plus, it's also great to drive. With a new model now on sale, it’ll be interesting to see if the Polo can climb the ranks in next year’s list.

8. MINI - 47,669 registrations

A strong end to 2017 for the MINI - with an impressive 4,370 cars sold, the third most of any in the UK in December - saw hatchback reclaim eighth position in December. Already a force to be reckoned with in the premium small car class, the announcement that MINI is pursuing an even greater range of personalisation options will make it worth keeping an eye on in the near future...

9. Mercedes C-Class - 45,912 registrations

After finishing in ninth place on 2016’s best-sellers list, the Mercedes C-Class has repeated the trick in 2017. Fleet and business sales no doubt helped the compact Merc achieve such strong figures, though private buyers could easily be swayed by its S-Class aping looks and beautifully crafted interior.

10. Mercedes A-Class - 43,717 registrations

Rounding off the top ten is the Mercedes A-Class hatch, wading in as the second Mercedes on the list. Fleet buyers continue to show a soft spot for the sleek looks of the A-Class and aggressive offers from the manufacturer has seen the cars fly off the showroom floors.

Do you own one of the UK’s best-selling cars? Let us know what you think of its performance in the comments section below…

Read more of our best car recommendations...

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Web producer

Pete has over 20 years journalistic experience. Having previously worked for Ladbrokes and the Racing Post, he switched from sports writing to automotive journalism when joining Auto Express in 2015.

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