THE Vauxhall Corsa was the UK's best-selling new car in 2021 in a year dominated by the Covid pandemic, a shortage of semiconductors and one in which the top selling vehicle was a van.
Figures released by industry body the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders show the Ford Transit Custom was the nation's biggest seller last year with almost 54,000 sold.
The Corsa dominated new car sales notching up 40,914 sales while for the first time Volkswagen was the UK's favourite brand with 147,826 models sold - 8.97 per cent of the total car market.
Overall, the new car market was down 28.7 per cent on pre-pandemic 2019, making 2021 the second worst year for sales since 1992.
In total 1.65 million new cars were sold, up one per cent on pandemic-ravaged 2020 as Covid, Brexit and the global semiconductor crisis all hit home.
Mike Hawes, SMMT chief executive, said, "It's been another desperately disappointing year for the car industry as Covid continues to cast a pall over any recovery.
"Manufacturers continue to battle myriad challenges, with tougher trading arrangements, accelerating technology shifts and, above all, the global semiconductor shortage which is decimating supply."
Petrol vehicles remained the most popular with more than 762,000 sold accounting for 46.3 per cent of the new car market and down 15.7 per cent on 2020.
The slump in diesel popularity continued, down 48.1 per cent with 135,773 models registered while battery electric vehicles boomed with 190,727 sales - an increase of 76.3 per cent year on year.
All in all, some 27.5 per cent of the total market was made up of electrified vehicles with 114,554 plug-in hybrids and 147,246 hybrids sold.
Some 18.5 per cent of the new car market can now be plugged in.
Total new car sales In 2021 were 1,647,181 which is slightly up on the 1,631,064 achieved in 2020 but well away from the 2.5 million-plus figure hit in the peak year of 2016.
The UK finished 2021 as the third largest European market for new car registrations but the second largest by volume for plug-in vehicles and the second largest for BEVs.
It is only in ninth position overall, however, in Europe for BEVs by market share.
The SMMT said this underlines the progress still to be made with the end of sale of new petrol and diesel cars scheduled for 2030.
Recent announcements, including cuts to both purchase incentives and grants for home chargers, have put the achievement of industry's and government's net zero ambitions at risk, it added.
Furthermore, the slow pace of growth in on-street public charging - where, on average, 16 cars potentially share one standard on-street charger - threatened to put the brake on EV demand and undermine the UK's attractiveness as a place to sell electric cars.
"Despite the challenges, the undeniable bright spot is the growth in electric car uptake," added Mr Hawes. "A record-breaking year for the cleanest, greenest vehicles is testament to the investment made by the industry over the past decade and the inherent attractiveness of the technology. The models are there, with two of every five new car models now able to be plugged in, drivers have the widest choice ever and industry is working hard to overcome Covid-related supply constraints.
"The biggest obstacle to our shared net zero ambitions is not product availability, however, but cost and charging infrastructure.
"Recent cuts to incentives and home charging grants should be reversed and we need to boost the roll out of public on-street charging with mandated targets, providing every driver, wherever they live, with the assurance they can charge where they want and when they want."
Registrations by private buyers increased by a moderate 7.4 per cent, while those by businesses and large fleets fell by 4.4 per centand 4.7 per cent respectively, in part due to supply shortages.
Superminis remained Britain's most popular cars, with 514,024 registrations, followed by the lower medium (449,631) and dual purpose (443,632) segments.
Looking ahead, the latest forecast for 2022 - published in October before the rise of the Omicron variant - is for 1.96 million new car registrations.
The Top Ten best-selling new cars in 2021 were:
1. Vauxhall Corsa 40,914 2. Tesla Model 3 34,7833. MINI 31,7924. Mercedes A-Class 30,7105. Volkswagen Polo 30,6346. Volkswagen Golf 30,2407. Nissan Qashqai 29,9228. Ford Puma 28,6979. Kia Sportage 27,61110. Toyota Yaris 27,415