THE Volkswagen Golf was Britain's top selling car in June knocking the Ford Fiesta off the top of the sales charts for the first time in eight years.
Last month VW notched up 8,808 Golf sales - 207 more than the Fiesta and 525 more than the Ford Focus, the third most popular vehicle.
Nevertheless the Fiesta, which is due for replacement with an all-new model in the next few weeks, remains top seller in the first six months of the year with 59,380 registered.
Year-to-date the Golf is the third most popular model, selling 36,703 units with the Focus second on 40,045.
Overall, the new car market in the UK declined for a third consecutive month with 243,454 new vehicles registered in June, according to the latest figures from industry trade body the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders.
Registrations fell at a slower pace than in the previous two months, by 4.8 per cent, as demand continued to stabilise following a record first quarter and the subsequent market turbulence caused by the recent changes to Vehicle Excise Duty.
The market is now more in line with expert forecasts but in the details the sale of diesel cars fell by nearly 15 per cent to 103,564 in June while hybrid and electric vehicle sales soared 29 per cent to 10,721.
Demand in the month was down across private, fleet and business registrations, recording falls of 7.8 per cent, 2.4 per cent and 8.3 per cent respectively.
So called alternative fuel vehicles - hybrid and electric - now account for four per cent of the new car market.
Petrol registrations rose by 2.5 per cent in June to almost 130,000 vehicles.
Compact cars, typically powered by smaller petrol engines, proved most popular for all buyers, with superminis and small family cars accounting for almost 60 per cent of the market in June.
Small family cars and SUVs were the only two areas to register growth in June, up six per cent and 11.3 per cent respectively.
The SMMT said that year-to-date overall performance remains strong, falling slightly by 1.3 per cent to1,401,811 units and putting the new car market on track to meet 2017 forecasts.
Fleet and business buyers drove demand across the first six months with registrations up 1.5 per cent and 2.7 per cent respectively in contrast to a 4.8 per cent drop in private purchases, although almost 650,000 consumers have chosen a new car so far this year.
Graham Hill, car finance expert at the National Association of Commercial Finance Brokers, said the current slump in new car sales was worrying and added: "New car registrations have continued to fall, albeit at a slower pace,for a third consecutive month as VED tax changes and dwindling consumer confidence start to bite.
"It was always forecast that March's stampede to beat the VED deadline would in turn mean less registrations in consequent months, so this is no great surprise."
Shaun Armstrong, managing director of car finance provider Creditplus.co.uk, said:"It's been a truly awful period for diesel sales. In March, diesel new registrations were close to 250,000, and above petrol new registrations.
"In June, new (diesel car) registrations were just above 100,000 and almost 15 per cent lower than petrol. That's a serious and possibly fatal fall from grace.
"The new car market needs a serious injection of confidence from somewhere. Manufacturers looking for stronger sales in the second half of the year will turn to providing larger discounts and bonuses to make car finance deals look more attractive."
JUNE TOP TEN
BMW 3 Series