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1 Mar 2022

New '22' number plates out now: are the 5 most popular cars worth buying?

With car sales due to ramp up this month following the first new number plate of 2022, we list the top-selling cars and reveal which truly deserve their popularity.
Kia Niro with 22 plate

If you're thinking of snapping up a new car with a '22' plate, you're not alone. March typically sees the biggest sales of new cars, followed by September when the second plate of the year launches (this year it's the '72' plate).

Car sales are still well below pre-pandemic levels (22.9% lower than in January 2020), partly owing to the semiconductor shortage limiting the production of new cars.

But according to data from industry body the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT), 115,000 newly bought cars were registered in January this year, up 27.5% compared with the same month last year, when the UK was in lockdown.

Below, we look at the five bestselling cars in the UK (based on January 2022 data from the SMMT), along with a few alternatives. We also provide links to our full, in-depth and independent reviews, allowing you to discover which cars are worth spending your money on and which are best left on the forecourt.

Petrol or electric, new or used - see the top cars across all classes and budgets in our guide to the best cars for 2022

1) Kia Sportage, £23,445*

The Kia Sportage has long been Kia's bestselling car in the UK, and sales have gone through the roof following the fifth-generation model's launch in the UK in late 2021. It was also the bestselling car in January by a big margin - with 3,458 sold compared with 2,608 for the second-placed Ford Puma.

The Sportage is a mid-size SUV, and the new model has a bold and somewhat futuristic exterior. In addition to the mild hybrid petrol and diesel options of its predecessor, you can now also get the Sportage as a full hybrid.

We haven't yet reviewed this latest Sportage, but you can find out what we thought of the previous-generation version in our expert Kia Sportage review.

Choose well, buy better and save money using our expert tips: Get our Weekly Scoop newsletter - it's free

2) Ford Puma, £21,154*

Despite both having previously featured highly on UK bestseller lists for years, neither the Ford Fiesta or Ford Focus is the top-selling car from Ford so far this year.

Instead, it's the five-door Ford Puma with its crossover SUV styling that makes the top five, with 2,608 bought in January this year compared with 1,822 for the Focus (putting the Focus in eighth place). Surprisingly, the Ford Fiesta doesn't even make the top 10.

The Puma is available as a conventional petrol-powered car with 125hp, or a mild hybrid petrol - the latter has two variants, letting you choose between 125hp and 155hp.

It's also got a versatile boot that features Ford's new 'megabox' - a deep waterproof box with its own drain that lets you store muddy, wet or leaking cargo without dampening your boot or backseats.

Get our initial impressions of the Puma in our Ford Puma First Drive review (full review coming soon).

3) Kia Niro, £24,298*

Kia is having a great start to 2022, grabbing both first and third place in this list, with the Niro mid-size SUV selling 2,372 models in January alone, despite originally launching back in 2016.

The Niro is available as a full hybrid, which combines a 1.6-litre petrol engine with an electric motor. It can run in all-electric mode for short distances - for instance, when setting off, under gentle acceleration and when descending hills - but for the most part the electric motor is designed to boost fuel economy of the petrol engine.

If you want to rely solely on electric power, there's the full-electric e-Niro, which is available from £29,912.

Keep your eyes peeled for the new Niro planned for next year, with its new look, 74-colour ambient lighting inside and 10.25-inch digital driver's display.

Find out how the hybrid version performs in our full Kia Niro review.

Prefer to go electric? Check out our Kia e-Niro review.

4) Mini, £17,013*

There's seemingly no stopping the immense popularity of the iconic Mini, with 2,313 sold in January. The Mini also came third in sales for the entirety of 2021, selling 31,792 models - behind the new Vauxhall Corsa (40,914) and Tesla Model 3 (34,783).

What's more, it's the only top-selling car in this list that isn't an SUV. You can choose between a traditional three-door or a five-door version, and there's a wide choice of petrol and diesel engines, including the high-performance John Cooper Works.

But what's the Mini like to drive and how likely is it to let you down? Find out our Mini review.

In 2020, Mini launched a pure electric version (from £26,000), with a claimed 144-mile driving range - our independent tests reveal whether it lives up to this promise.

Is electric power a perfect pairing for the Mini? All is revealed in our Mini Electric review.

5) Vauxhall Corsa, £16,232*

Vauxhall's off to a superb start to 2022 with its latest Corsa, selling 2,285 in January and being by far the bestselling car in the whole of 2021, with 40,914 sold in total. Needless to say, it's a very familiar sight on British roads.

The latest model, which launched in 2020, brought in a striking sporty-looking design that's incredibly popular.

However, in falling to fifth position for sales in January, is the Corsa's honeymoon period over?

Read our full Vauxhall Corsa review to find out if it's worth buying.

What about Tesla?

Tesla didn't make the top five cars sold in the UK in January this year, but it's currently ramping up production and the Tesla Model 3 (£40,490*) was the second bestselling car in the UK for the whole of last year, selling 34,783 in total.

Tesla's made a big impact on the market with its pure electric vehicles, and the Model 3 is the company's cheapest and most compact car.

Tesla claims the Model 3 has a 305-mile driving range. Upgrade to the Performance or Long Range model and this range increases to 340 miles and 360 miles, respectively. Impressive claims, but our tests often show these to be well short of what you can expect from real-world use.

Find out whether Tesla's electric range is all it's cracked up to be in our expert Tesla Model 3 review.

*New prices based on what people pay (including discounts), sourced from 500 franchised dealers across the UK each month