Top selling vehicles 2021

Car, van, and motorbike sales in 2021 were impacted by changes in the market that no one could predict, but to what extent? Find out in this blog!

Top selling vehicles 2021

2021 car, van, and motorbike sales

From the semiconductor shortage to a shift in consumer buying behaviour post the COVID-19 pandemic, the automotive industry was heavily affected by the challenges 2021 brought, with new and used vehicle sales feeling the full force of how quickly things change in the market.


Since 2016, the number of new car registrations for the month of September has been steadily declining, with September 2021 being no exception; only 215,312 new cars were registered – a decrease of 112,729 when compared to September 2020.

The used car market also saw a decline in sales, with just 2,034,342 used cars being sold in the third quarter of 2021; 6.2% less than in the same quarter of 2020.

Despite these drops being concerning, it's important to remember that businesses across the UK, including new and used car dealerships, were forced to close for periods of time in 2021; preventing vehicles being sold in the usual manner (face-to-face sales) so a decrease in sales was inevitable.

However, decreases aren’t found in all sectors of the market; the demand for electric and alternatively fuelled cars* is on this rise for both new and used cars. In 2021, a staggering 687,958 new electric and alternatively fuelled cars were registered; an increase of over 281,002 on 2020, and 14,182 used battery electric vehicles were sold in the third quarter of 2021 alone – the highest number recorded in any quarter.

*including battery electric vehicles (BEV), plug-in hybrid vehicles (PHEV), hybrid electric vehicles (HEV), and mild hybrid electric vehicle (MHEV)

Top selling cars

The below figures are based on the number of used cars sold in the first three quarters of 2021 in the UK.

  1. Ford Fiesta (255,942)
  2. Vauxhall Corsa (205,097)
  3. Ford Focus (199,060)
  4. Volkswagen Golf (192,808)
  5. Vauxhall Astra (158,211)
  6. BMW 3 Series (135,709)
  7. MINI (131,488)
  8. Volkswagen Polo (113,299)
  9. Audi A3 (95,680)
  10. BMW 1 Series (60,925)

At First Response Finance, the cars that were underwritten in 2021 do not steer too far away (mind the pun) from those mentioned in the above list with the Ford Focus being the most popular vehicle on finance, followed by the Vauxhall Astra, Ford Fiesta, Nissan Qashqai, and Nissan Juke*.

*information correct as of January 2022

Light Commercial Vehicles (LCVs)

The number of new LCVs* registered within the UK during 2021 is 21.4% higher than it was in 2020, where just 292,657 new LCVs were registered in England, Wales, Scotland, and Northern Ireland. The figures for 2021 show that 355,380 pickups, 4x4s, and vans were registered between January and December – this is a promising figure as it means that sales for new LCVs are close to what they were pre-pandemic.

Although the market share for electric LCVs remain relatively small when compared to its petrol and diesel counterparts, over 12,000 battery-electric pickups, 4x4s, and vans were registered in 2021 – 142% up on 2020. The Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders put this sudden increase down to the demand for these vehicles from key sectors such as construction and home delivery. 

"After a difficult 2020, the commercial vehicle sector has bounced back, with registrations recovering to just shy of pre-Covid levels. While demand has remained robust, there is still the potential for market volatility with the Omicron variant and component shortages threatening supply chains. Manufacturers are working hard to ensure deliveries, and, with a record number of battery electric vans registered this past year, customers can be assured that more of these new technology vehicles will be available to keep society and businesses moving in an increasingly zero-emission manner."

- Mike Hawes, Chief Executive of the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders

*including pickups, 4x4s, vans =< 2.0t, vans > 2.0 – 2.5t, and vans > 2.5 – 3.5t

Top selling LCVs

The below figures show the number of LCVs >3.5 tonnes registered in 2021.

  1. Ford Transit Custom (53,394
  2. Ford Transit (34,293)
  3. Mercedes-Benz Sprinter (21,915)
  4. Volkswagen Transporter (21,190)
  5. Vauxhall Vivaro (17,957)
  6. Ford Ranger (17,830)
  7. Citroën Berlingo (12,030)
  8. Ford Transit Connect (11,498)
  9. Peugeot Partner (11,290)
  10. Vauxhall Combo (10,569)

The top five vans (and pick-ups) that were underwritten here at First Response Finance throughout 2021 include the Ford Transit, Vauxhall Vivaro, Nissan Navara, Mitsubishi L200, and Renault Trafic* – only one of which is mentioned within the top selling LCVs of 2021 list (above).

*information correct as of January 2022


Over 92,574 new motorbikes* were registered in the UK during the first three quarters of 2021 (January-September); an increase of 13.1% in sales when compared to the same period in 2020. The biggest increase, by motorbike type, was seen in the scooter section where the demand for electric scooters was up by 143% in comparison to 2020.

"In aggregate, the registration figures for the first nine months of 2021 confirm market recovery after the impact of COVID-19 in the first months of last year, which had overall put the sector under unprecedented stress. More importantly, the latest data confirms that powered two-wheeler markets in Europe have globally surpassed pre-Covid-19 figures, with significant increases for motorcycles and for mopeds.

"These interim 2021 results could have been even more positive, if it weren’t for the global semiconductor shortage affecting the automotive sector, and indirectly causing logistical delays for some motorcycle manufacturer’s production. The last quarter figures will tell us if these trends are confirmed, but altogether, the numbers confirm that powered two-wheelers remain an attractive and convenient solution for mobility and leisure activities."

- Antonio Perlot, ACEM Secretary General

*including scooters

Top selling motorbikes

The below figures reflect the highest selling motorbikes in the UK, by brand, in 2021.

  1. Honda (19,119)
  2. Yamaha (12,941)
  3. BMW (9,019)
  4. Triumph (8,642)
  5. Lexmoto (5,897)
  6. KTM (5,550)
  7. Kawasaki (5,392)
  8. Royal Enfield (4,044)
  9. Ducati (2,008)
  10. Piaggio (1,766)

Underwriting reports at First Response Finance show that the most popular motorbikes purchased via our Hire Purchase product in 2021 were manufactured by Honda, Yamaha, Suzuki, Kawasaki, and Triumph* – all of which (minus Suzuki) making the above list.

*information correct as of January 2022


Check out our 'Which vehicles were most popular in 2022, and what can we expect in 2023?' blog for the latest data. 👀


Information includes references to:

What Car? - All the best new cars coming in 2021

SMMT - Vehicle data (car registrations)Vehicle data (LCV registrations)Used car sales: Q1 2021Used car sales: Q2 2021, and Used car sales: Q3 2021 

MCIA - Press statistics - New van market grew by a fifth in 2021 amid rising EV demand

Visordown - UK motorcycle sales

ACEM - Registrations of motorcycles continue increasing in the first nine months of 2021, exceeding pre-pandemic levels

Industry news | 17.01.22

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