It could be said that 2021 was the year of the electric car, as these battery-powered models seemingly went from niche to mainstream. 

Accounting for 11.6 per cent of total car sales, it meant that almost 200,000 new EVs joined the UK’s roads last year, and this number will only increase in 2022. 

Considering all three of the top-selling cars last year are either EVs or available as one, it shows their importance too. But what were the UK’s most popular cars in 2021? Let’s take a look. 

1. Vauxhall Corsa, 40,914 registered


It’s been 50 years since a Ford wasn’t at the top of the new car sales charts, but with the Blue Oval being badly hit by the coronavirus pandemic, it was time for a new model to take over – the Vauxhall Corsa

With more than 40,000 registered last year, it’s the comfortable leader, with this supermini’s mix of value and style really appealing to buyers. There’s also the electric Corsa-e available, offering a range of up to 222 miles. 

2. Tesla Model 3, 34,783 registered


It’s a sign of just how far the car market has changed, that a Tesla is now the UK’s second most popular car. The Model 3 has ripped up the rule book with its sublime performance, tech-laden cabin and generous electric range of up to 360 miles, and it’s now tempting many buyers out of more conventional executive cars. 

With close to 35,000 Model 3s registered last year, it makes this Tesla nearly three times as popular as the next EV. 

3. Mini, 31,792 registered


Mini’s refreshed Hatch went on sale earlier in 2021, and it’s clearly gone down a storm with buyers, with the Oxford-built supermini proving far more popular than usual, and taking the title as the third best-selling car last year. 

Its combination of fun, style and quality are unmatched in the small car segment, while the broad range of petrol engines – as well as the new Electric option – ensures there’s plenty for buyers to choose.

4. Mercedes A-Class, 30,710 registered


Premium brands have really grown in popularity in recent years, and especially when it comes to the more affordable end of the spectrum. And badge-loving buyers absolutely flocked to the Mercedes A-Class in 2021, with more than 30,000 examples of this upmarket hatchback and small saloon registered. 

There’s a lot more to the A-Class than just its badge, though, as it’s got a stunning, tech-laden interior and a huge suite of powertrains from, including frugal plug-in hybrid options. 

5. Volkswagen Polo, 30,634 registered


While there’s been a big switch in the charts this year, more conventional cars like the Volkswagen Polo are still proving popular with buyers – no surprise given this supermini is one of the best options in its class. 

Its combination of refinement, comfort and quality are rare to find in the small car segment, while the Polo recently benefited from a mid-life update, introducing a more stylish look and additional standard equipment.

6. Volkswagen Golf, 30,240 registered


Though the Polo might have overtaken the Golf in Volkswagen’s sales charts, it was a narrow victory, as more than 30,000 new Golfs were registered in the year.

Thanks to arguably one of the most diverse ranges of models for customers to choose from of any car – ranging from powerful hot hatches to frugal hybrids and efficient diesels – it’s easy to see why many buyers still favour it. 

7. Nissan Qashqai, 29,922 registered


Nissan’s Qashqai has pretty much been the best-selling SUV/crossover ever since it was introduced 15 years ago, so there was a lot resting on the 2021 third-generation model to continue this. 

It appears it hasn’t disappointed either, as it continues to feature in the charts in this hugely popular segment. Built in Sunderland, the new Qashqai is roomier, more stylish and gets a far better interior than its predecessor. 

8. Ford Puma, 28,967 registered


As we’ve already mentioned, Ford has been badly hit by the coronavirus pandemic, and it’s meant that traditional best-sellers like the Fiesta and Focus are both absent from 2021’s list. It’s not all bad, though, as the brand’s Puma crossover continued to prove popular with buyers, with sales actually increasing compared to 2020. 

Its fun driving experience combined with stylish looks and roomy interior mean it ticks lots of boxes for buyers in this class. There’s even a sporty ST version available for those wanting something even better to drive. 

9. Kia Sportage, 27,611 registered


Kia had a really strong year in 2021, and it’s now one of the UK’s biggest car firms, with its sales only just falling behind Vauxhall. But the South Korean marque’s most popular option is the Sportage – its mid-size crossover that goes up against the Nissan Qashqai and Ford Kuga

Though a replacement is set to hit showrooms shortly, the outgoing model’s combination of space and value meant that it still proved a huge hit with buyers.

10. Toyota Yaris, 27,415 registered


Toyota’s range of cars continues to expand, but its more traditional nameplates continue to prove the most popular – namely the Yaris and Corolla. It’s the former that rounds off our top 10, with more than 27,415 examples of this supermini registered in 2021. 

This latest Yaris is also a big step up compared to its predecessor, having a far more pleasant interior and improved dynamics behind the wheel. Now available exclusively with a hybrid powertrain, it should prove very frugal to run too.