The latest ’61’ numberplate was introduced last month, and a total of 332,476 new cars were registered in September. According to figures from the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT), that’s 0.8% down on last year – but the Ford Fiesta kept its place at the top of the sales chart.
Another Ford – the new Focus – was in second place, with the Vauxhall Corsa, Volkswagen Golf and Vauxhall Astra making up the top five.
But are the bestselling cars also the most popular with owners? To find out, we looked at the owner satisfaction scores for each car in the 2011 Which? Car Survey. This is the largest survey of its kind; more than 52,000 drivers took part last year. Read on to find out how the top 10 bestselling cars fared.
1. Ford Fiesta – 15,647 sales
The evergreen Fiesta has held the title of Britain’s bestselling car for the past two years. Ford shifted 15,647 examples in September, putting it comfortably ahead of the newer Focus. Impressive reliability and agile handling no doubt contribute to the Fiesta’s decent customer score of 81%. We particularly like the frugal diesel-engined versions, although the forthcoming ST hot hatch looks tempting. Customer score: 81%
2. Ford Focus – 14,754 sales
The Focus was the UK’s most popular car for 10 years, from 1998 to 2008. Nonetheless, despite the arrival of a new Mk3 version in March, it couldn’t reclaim the top spot from the Fiesta. Perhaps tighter budgets or the general downsizing trend are to blame? The family Ford performed well in our road and lab tests, but we’ll have to wait until next year’s Which? Car Survey for owner feedback. Customer score: n/a (too soon to say)
3. Vauxhall Corsa – 14,339 sales
Launched in 2006, the Corsa is starting to feel its age now, although a recent facelift and some hefty discounts have kept sales strong. A total of 14,339 61-plate Corsas were sold in September, putting the Vauxhall supermini in third place. Corsa owners are the joint least satisfied (with Vauxhall Astra owners) of all those in our top 10. The car’s firm ride and disappointing fuel economy are both contributing factors. Customer score: 70%
4. Volkswagen Golf – 10,628 sales
Much like that other German automotive icon, the Porsche 911, the Volkswagen Golf has evolved gradually, getting steadily better with time. And owners seem to love it. The latest Mk6 Golf was introduced in 2009 and was the UK’s fourth bestselling car last month, with 10,628 examples registered. If you’re on a budget, the 1.6 TDI Bluemotion diesel is very efficient – we achieved a fuel economy figure of 68.9mpg in our test. Customer score: 85%
5. Vauxhall Astra – 10,462 sales
The Astra finished an impressive fifth in the 61-plate sales showdown, with 10,642 sales. That performance is likely to be boosted by the forthcoming GTC three-door model, which may edge it ahead of the similarly-sized Golf in the coming months. Many Astras are sold as company fleet cars, which could be one reason for owners’ general lack of enthusiasm. Iffy reliability can’t help either. Customer score: 70%
6. Volkswagen Polo – 8,607 sales
Calling the Polo the ‘sensible supermini’ almost sounds derogatory, but if you value build quality and strong resale values over sleek styling or driving excitement, this could be the small car for you. A total of 8,607 people bought a Polo in September, and owners who contributed to the 2011 Which? Car Survey seem very satisfied so far. Be warned, though: rear-seat and boot space are limited. Customer score: 84%
7. Vauxhall Insignia – 7,323 sales
Another fleet favourite – and another Vauxhall with a disappointingly low customer score – the Insignia notched up 7,323 sales in September. That makes it the UK’s most popular large car, ahead of the much pricier BMW 3 Series. In fact, rapid depreciation means the Insignia makes more sense as a nearly-new or used purchase – especially the practical Sport Tourer estate. Customer score: 72%
8. Mini hatchback – 6,903 sales
Like wearing black, the Mini never seems to go out of fashion. The hatchback version managed eighth place in the September, when 6,903 Minis left showrooms. Although it’s pricey to buy, best-in-class resale values mean overall running costs are reasonable, and the Mini is great fun to drive, too. The 164 owners who responded to our 2011 survey were generally satisfied with their cars. Customer score: 83%
9. BMW 3 Series – 6,352 sales
The BMW 3 Series retains an aura of upmarket exclusivity, despite being a regular feature in the UK’s top 10 bestselling cars. It finished ninth last month, with 6,352 sold. We enjoyed the car’s agile handling and communicative steering when we tested it, but it’s starting to feel dated now (a new 3 Series is due in 2012). Owners aren’t happy about the number of electrical faults. Customer score: 79%
10. Nissan Qashqai – 6,068 sales
Who could have predicted that Nissan’s hatchback/4×4 crossover would be such a runaway sales success? Rivals such as Citroen have since launched imitators, but the Qashqai remains the crossover king for now, with 6,068 sales in September. Reliability isn’t great by Japanese car standards, so it’s not surprising that owners’ feelings about the Qashqai are lukewarm. Customer score: 77%