What would the UK look like in 100 cars?

As the automotive industry is consistently growing, adapting and changing how it operates, what exactly does the current state of the UK’s sector look like?

The State of the UK's Car industry

We’ve pulled together research to show what the UK looks like in 100 cars, incorporating a range of facts and figures such as the most popular 2021 new models, the male to female driver ratio, the most popular car colours and engine types, the most searched-for second-hand cars and the number of cars per city, to name but a few… 

Think grey is the most popular car colour of 2021? Or perhaps that London is the most car-dense city? Well, it’s time to think again.

The most popular car model in the UK in 2021

Most popular car models in the UK 2021

The most popular models are usually the same year on year, with big brands such as Ford and Volkswagen leading the way, and 2021 is no exception. With more than 26,000 2021 registrations, the Vauxhall Corsa ranks as the most popular new car within the UK. 

The Corsa is followed by the Ford Fiesta and Volkswagen Golf – they may be small cars but they’re clearly targeted towards a big pool of Brits. All three are commonly produced in three-door specifications, and this pattern at the top shows that the need for cost-effective, budget friendly cars is still very much present (because we can’t all afford that supercar now, can we?). 

Most searched-for second-hand cars 

Most popular second hand cars

Despite having been hit by a global pandemic, figures showed that there was a 12% increase [1] in the value of the second-hand car market within the UK. As new cars can come at a premium, buying used has become increasingly attractive to drivers. 

Using internal search data, we took a look at the most searched-for cars that have been on the radar for Brits over the past 12 months. If you own a Ford Fiesta and are looking to sell, you could be in luck. This iconic car accumulated more than 1,000,000 page views from searches, beating all its competitors in terms of demand. 

Once again, there is a recurring theme among the top second-hand cars, with models such as the Vauxhall Corsa, Volkswagen Golf and BMW 1, 3 and 5 series featuring. 

The most popular car colour in the UK 

Popular car colours

We’d say that choosing the colour of your car is a fairly important decision. But how do you stand out from the crowd? Well, avoid the colour black for a start. 

As of March 2020, we found that 20 in 100 drivers in the UK drive a black car. From the 32 million cars on the road, this equates to 6.5 million (we bet you can’t stop looking out for them now). Silver and blue make up the top three most represented colours. 

Most Popular Engine Types in the UK 

Most popular car engine type in the UK

As we’re still in the early years of electric and hybrid engine development, it won’t come as much of a surprise to see that out of every 100 UK cars, 58.9 are petrol and 37.6 are diesel

Of the remaining cars, 2.1 are powered by hybrid electric technology, with the final 1.2 using plug-in and batteries. Low numbers when looking from afar, but certainly a taste of what lies ahead in the future of the automotive industry.

Male to female driving licence holders in the UK 

Gender of UK driving license holders

Ever wondered what the gender split of drivers in the UK is? We certainly have. Looking at data from 2019, we found that 80% of UK men and 71% of UK women hold a driver’s licence. 

The most car-dense cities in the UK

The most car populated cities in the UK

An additional part of the research looked at the most car-dense cities within the UK, finding out how many registered cars there are in each city and how that compares to its population. 

In the city of Manchester, more than one in two residents own a car, with almost 1.4 million vehicles on the road in total. 

Interestingly, although Bournemouth is a much smaller and less dense city than Manchester, it ranks second in the study. With its low population of 505,687 and its relatively high number of registered vehicles, the percentage of its population with a car comes out at 39.04%.



Data collected August 2021.

We’ve looked at a range of facts and figures relating to the UK car market to showcase the most popular car models, the male to female driver ratio, the most popular car colour, the most popular engine types sold in the UK as well as the most car-dense cities.

In order to calculate the most car-dense UK cities, we looked at the number of registered cars against the city’s population to find the percentage. Population data was from 2020.

https://www.smmt.co.uk/vehicle-data/car-registrations/Most popular car brands in the UK 2021Top 10 2021-registered cars used. Total number added to then find the percentage for each car.
Number of male to female licence holders in the UK 2019Percentage of male and female drivers who are licence holders in the whole UK general population. General male population and general female population used to calculate the percentage of male and female drivers who have UK driving licences. 
Data taken from 2019 to provide the most accurate results, due to the COVID-19 pandemic disrupting the availability of driving tests in 2020. 
https://media.rac.co.uk/pressreleases/white-cars-continue-to-enjoy-surge-in-popularity-but-black-remains-most-common-3026128Most popular car colours of newly registered cars in the UK 2020
https://www.gov.uk/government/statistical-data-sets/veh02-licensed-carsMost popular engine typePercentage of results used from the document ‘VEH0203: Licensed cars by propulsion or fuel type: Great Britain and United Kingdom’
https://www.gov.uk/government/statistical-data-sets/all-vehicles-veh01Cars per cityDocument VEH0105 used to take the number of registered cars per city
https://www.statista.com/statistics/294645/population-of-selected-cities-in-united-kingdom-uk/Population of UK cities