We are fast approaching the mid-point of 2019 and the tough and uncertain times that auto manufacturers are facing has borne itself out in the sales statistics. The first four months of 2019 show a drop of 2.7 percent in overall sales figures compares to last year, not a huge dip but noteworthy, nonetheless.
Delving deeper into the details reveals big shifts in buying behaviour, thanks to changes in regulations and Brexit uncertainty, consumers are looking at options that afford them at least some semblance of futureproofing.
The big push to an all-electric future is not upon us just yet but it has already made a difference in what consumers are buying and once the EV offerings are expanded the sales charts are in for a big upheaval. While the usual suspects still dominate the sales charts, it is important to know which engine and trim options are the ones to pick.
With that in mind, we take a look at the most pertinent factors affecting consumer choices are and how that will influence the next new car you will buy.
The stringent emissions regulations regarding nitrogen oxide and particulates, particularly those produced by diesel cars has seen demand for them drop drastically. Some manufacturers like Porsche and Toyota have announced their intention to stop offering diesel-powered vehicles altogether.
Diesel sales are currently down 18.4 percent overall compared to 2018 so bear this in mind when shopping for that new car as resale values and stricter future regulations may see you out of pocket.
Market share is down from 3.2 percent in 2018 to 27.7 percent this year.
Petrol powered cars have seen a sales resurgence and the year-to-date figures are 4.2 percent up on 2018.
Changes in last year’s benefits in kind (BIK) tax are part of the reason and petrol cars currently make up approximately two-thirds of all new vehicle sales with a market share of 66.4 percent.
Alternatively Fuelled Vehicles (AFV)
This term covers fully electric, hybrid and hydrogen fuel cell vehicles and it has seen massive growth this year of 14.3 percent. Don’t let that number deceive you though, in real terms AFV’s only have five percent of the overall market, although that may change very quickly in the coming months and years.
Private Fleet and Business
While Private and Fleet sales are marginally down at 2.5 and 0.2 percent respectively compared to the first four months of 2018, Business sales have seen a massive drop of 40.2 percent.
Once again though, Business sales account for only 2.3 percent of the total vehicles sold and this figure may improve as more vehicles are registered for business use in the coming months.
Finally, the new WLTP tests which offer a more accurate ‘real-world’ consumption figure compared to the laboratory-based NEDC tests has not only caused delays in vehicle delivery but has also made it tricky to directly compare vehicle efficiencies.
The Fiesta has been a top seller since its debut over forty years ago, now in its eight-generation it is as polished and accomplished as ever.
From the bare-bones entry-level model right up to the fancy Vignale trim, there is bound to be a Fiesta to suit your needs. A mid-range Titanium trim with the impressive 1.0-litre turbocharged petrol engine is the way to go here.
The VW Golf is a perennial favourite among UK car buyers and for good reason too, it is good to drive, well-built and comes with plenty of options.
The e-Golf is a competent electric vehicle but with prices starting at £33,840 you are better off going for a petrol-powered GT trim which is far more palatable at £24,830. Stick to the 1.5-litre turbocharged petrol engines here.
The Golf-sized Ford competitor has just been redesigned and continues to offer one of the sportiest drives in its segment.
The interior is far more upmarket too, an area where the previous Focus did not excel in. An ST-Line model adds some sporting touches to the base car and the 125bhp turbocharged motor is both frugal and punchy.
The Corsa has posted impressive sales figures over the past few months considering that it is due for replacement later this year.
The sheer number of trim options on offer can make picking the right one a bit daunting. Go for the five-door for its added practicality and avoid the base engines as they are a bit gutless at motorway speeds and look for dealer discounts as they try to shift their remaining stock just before the new model is launched.
The new A-Class is the first Mercedes-Benz product to feature the advanced new MBUX twin 12-inch dashboard screen system and underneath all the new tech is a car that improves upon its predecessor too.
Avoid the sports suspension and stick to the standard wheels for the most forgiving ride.
There are some good lease deals out there but do your numbers before you visit the dealer because you may be ‘convinced’ to take a deal that may not always work in your favour.
The Qashqai has been the top-selling SUV in the UK for some time but its dominance is under threat from a very strong field of compact SUVs like the Ford Kuga and VW Tiguan which are not far behind in sales figures.
The Qashqai remains a popular choice thanks to a range of efficient engines and a simple yet practical interior. The diesels are pretty frugal but we suggest you stick to one of the petrol models anyway as they are smoother and still fuel efficient.
Avoid the 4WD drivetrain unless you are actually going off-road and the manual or DCT transmissions are the ones to go for.
While the Golf just manages to outsell the similarly sized Focus, the Polo trails the best-selling Fiesta by a much larger margin.
There is no real reason for this other than consumer preference and the Polo actually has a more upmarket feel to it, especially on the inside.
The 200bhp GTI is good fun to drive and at £21,660 is decent value too, if speed is not a priority then the £18,700 SEL trim offers plenty of spec and its 115bhp is plenty for city streets and is far more fuel-efficient too.
The second-best-selling SUV in the UK is also the eight-best-selling vehicle too, it may trail the Qashqai in overall sales but don’t forget that this model is just about to be replaced so its results are rather impressive.
Look out for discounts at dealerships and stick to the lower trim levels in general as prices ramp up quickly the higher you go.
The base Zetec starts at £23,375 while the top-line Vignale is £33,690 so unless there is a deal on, go for a mid-ranger for the best value.
The Sportage is a solid mid-size SUV and is right behind the Kuga on the sales charts, it offers a strong seven-year/100,000-mile warranty and you get a broad range of engine and trim levels to pick from.
Avoid the all-wheel-drive options as they are less efficient and the top-spec models, at over £32,000, will depreciate the most. Best to stick to the 1.6-litre turbocharged petrol variants which are frugal and in GT-Line trim look pretty sporty too.
The MINI just makes it into tenth spot for overall sales results so far in 2019, another impressive result and indicative of the fact that customers are willing to pay a bit extra for a stylish vehicle.
It may be small and impractical for larger families, but the vast range of customizations and the three distinct engine options cover a lot of bases. Go for the base Cooper for city driving and the Cooper S if longer trips are planned. The speedy JCW is a bit too focused for most.