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Updated: 9 Jun 2022

The most popular cars of 2022 so far

Iconic models and EVs remain popular in the midst of a huge sales slump
Car showroom

The ongoing effects of the pandemic and the constrained supply of components is continuing to affect the UK car market, with the industry facing the biggest slump in new car registrations in decades.

If you're in the market for a new car, you won’t have failed to notice limited supply, lengthy order lead times and rigid pricing. This is all due to manufacturers unable to produce cars quickly enough to satisfy demand, which has bounced back after the pandemic lockdowns.

In fact, the situation is so bad that new car registrations were down a whopping 20.6% last month compared to the same period last year, making it the poorest May in 30 years (bar May 2020, when dealerships were largely closed).

Overall, car manufacturers also remain 32.3% below pre-pandemic 2019 registration figures, despite showroom footfall returning.

Car showroom

The figures, released by the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT), indicate that some areas of the market are showing growth. Electric cars in particular are gaining increased traction with buyers, with sales in 2022 up 71.2% since this time last year. Hybrid models, too, are finding more homes, with new model sales up 12% compared to 2021.

When it comes to the big winners – the models topping the 2022 sales charts – it’s familiar and perennially popular models that make up the top five.

Read on to find out which models are enjoying soaring popularity, and which fuel types have found favour with new car buyers since the start of the year.

Whatever your budget or preferred fuel choice, browse the cars that have shone in our independent lab tests, in our guide to the best cars for 2022.

The top 5 cars of 2022

1. Vauxhall Corsa (2020-)

The Corsa’s position as the UK’s most popular car isn't hard to fathom. Its easy-going driving experience, low running costs and compact dimensions appeal to learners and old hands alike, and there’s a decent choice of engines and equipment.

It’s a superbly well-rounded model that simply suits UK motoring life well. It’s available as a full electric model (the Corsa-e) that looks indistinguishable from the petrol version.

 As always, there are things to look out for in both cars. Find out what these are in our full Vauxhall Corsa (2020-) and Vauxhall Corsa-e (2020-) reviews.

2. Ford Puma (2020-)

The number of small SUVs among the top 10 bestsellers shows just how well the idea of a city-friendly off-roader resonates with buyers. It’s Ford’s cutesy-styled Puma crossover that’s proved most popular, though, taking over from the Fiesta as the bestselling model from the brand.

It’s got the raised ride height and increased road presence small SUV buyers love but is also shot through with Ford’s famed driver appeal, with even entry-level models offering an engaging drive and impressive agility – not something many rivals can lay claim to.

Is it the perfect family car? Find out in our full Ford Puma (2020-) review.

3. Nissan Qashqai (2021-)

Arguably the model that kicked off the trend towards small SUVs in the UK, the Qashqai crossover has remained a firm favourite since its introduction in 2007.

This third generation is the most advanced yet and comes with generous equipment levels – including crucial active safety equipment – to boost its appeal to the family-car buyers that choose it in droves.

It’s available as a mild petrol hybrid for now, but an ‘e-Power’ range-extender electric version is due for launch this summer. Watch out for our first drive review coming soon.

If you’d rather not wait, find out how the mild-hybrid version fared in our independent road and lab tests in our full Nissan Qashqai (2021-) review.

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4. Mini Hatch (2014-)

Mini’s current hatchback may have been on sale since 2014, but the launch of an electric model has seen the retro-styled model enjoy sustained popularity.

The Mini’s secret is that it trades on much more than its nostalgic design. It’s among the best-quality small cars available and draws on excellent technology from parent company BMW. Add into that a decent selection of engines and countless options for customisation inside and out, and it’s not hard to understand its enduring appeal.

But has Mini addressed the boot and rear passenger space concerns we had about previous iterations? Find out in our Mini Hatch (2014-) and Mini Electric (2020-) reviews. 

5. Kia Sportage (2022-)

Kia’s stellar rise from obscure budget carmaker to one of the UK’s leading mainstream manufacturers is hugely impressive – so much so that we awarded Kia our car brand of the year award for 2022.

Its success is down to models such as the Sportage, which showcase the brand’s attention to everyday usability and practicality, but which now also has the style, equipment and cabin ambience to stand out from the raft of competitors – a fact that clearly hasn’t been lost on buyers.

We’re currently finalising our lab test of the all-new Kia Sportage. If you’d rather not wait, see what we thought of its predecessor in our Kia Sportage (2016-2021) review.

Find out which zero-emissions models we recommend in our guide to the best electric cars for 2022.

The top 10 UK bestseller list in full:

Make & model (click for review)

Registrations (year to date)

1. Vauxhall Corsa


2. Ford Puma


3. Nissan Qashqai*


4. Mini Hatch


5. Kia Sportage*


6. Hyundai Tucson


7. Ford Kuga*


*Previous generation reviewed

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Electric cars surge in popularity

Despite the downturn in sales, registrations of new electric cars have risen by a staggering 71.2% in the year to date, compared with 2021. Battery-powered models now account for over 14% of new cars sold and represented one in every eight new cars that joined the roads last month.

Conventional hybrids are also seeing soaring popularity, as drivers not yet ready to commit to an EV seek to reduce their running costs. Registrations across all full hybrid models has increased 35.9% in the year to date over 2021.

Conversely, plug-in hybrid models have suffered a slight (5.5%) downturn in popularity. As we’ve seen in our tests, the fuel-economy benefit of such models is entirely dependent on the owner’s ability to regularly keep it charged, if they’re ever to recoup the additional purchase price over a conventional model.

Regardless, electrified vehicles across all types now account for three in 10 new cars delivered, and uptake is only expected to increase as the 2030 combustion-engine ban draws ever closer.

Commenting on the most recent industry figures, Mike Hawes, SMMT Chief Executive, said: 'In yet another challenging month for the new-car market, the industry continues to battle ongoing global parts shortages, with growing battery electric vehicle uptake one of the few bright spots.

'To continue this momentum and drive a robust mass market for these vehicles, we need to ensure every buyer has the confidence to go electric. This requires an acceleration in the rollout of accessible charging infrastructure to match the increasing number of plug-in vehicles, as well as incentives for the purchase of new, cleaner and greener cars.'

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