Ever-popular Volkswagen Golf lands the top spot, with the Renault Clio close behind

The European car industry is still struggling under the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic and semiconductor shortage, but May 2021 saw an increase in electric and plug-in hybrid sales.

In May, new car registrations increased by 73% compared with the same period last year, according to the latest data from Jato Analytics.

Demand is still far from pre-pandemic levels and the 1,073,987 vehicles registered across the 26 European markets during the month is 25% less than in May 2019.

Jato said: “The data is encouraging but the market is recovering slower than many had hoped. Economic uncertainty and a lack of consumer confidence are limiting growth at a time when the industry is also shifting away from traditional powertrains and adapting to strict CO2 emissions regulations."

Electric vehicles posted a record share in May, making up 16% of the market compared to 11% in April 2021. Demand for pure-electric models increased by 261% to 83,700 vehicles, and plug-in hybrid registrations grew 299% to 87,700 vehicles. The market share for SUVs jumped from 40.2% in May 2020 to 44.6% last month, compared to May 2018, when SUVs accounted for 34% of the market.

The market has also been boosted by strong demand for individual models, such as the Renault Clio, Fiat 500 and Volkswagen Golf, which has taken over the top spot as Europe’s best-selling car. The Tesla Model 3 topped the BEV ranking, and the Ford Kuga was the most popular PHEV.  

Here are the best-selling cars in Europe in May 2021:

1 Volkswagen Golf 23,106 +75% 

The latest-generation Volkswagen Golf arrived in Europe in summer 2020. It's always been one of the region's best selling cars, so it's no surprise to see it back at the top of the list. The quintessential family hatch reclaimed the top spot from the Peugeot 2008. New variants – including the GTI Clubsport and R should help the model solidify its strong position in future months.

2 Renault Clio 19,553, +167% 

Gaining 23% more sales compared with the same period last year, the Clio is the front-runner in the competitive supermini market. Renault revitalised the supermini in mid-2020, introducing a hybrid option in a bid to broaden its appeal and boost its green credentials.

3 Fiat 500 18,342, +161%

The small and stylish Fiat 500 not only keeps its entry to the top 10 best sellers list, it climbs to third place, driven chiefly by demand for its new electric variant, the 500e. In mid-range trim, this car boasts 199 miles of range, which outperforms several of its same-sized EV rivals. Retaining the 500’s appealing retro look, the EV looks to be profiting, even 14 years later, from Fiat’s canny decision to revive its ‘people’s car’ in 2007.

4 Volkswagen T-Roc 18,160, +85%

Volkswagen’s characteristic blend of ergonomics and practicality, wrapped up in a crossover-shaped package was always going to be a hit in Europe. Demand for the T-Roc surged 85%, with its 18,160 sales making it the best-selling SUV/crossover in Europe, too.

5 Toyota Yaris 17,373, +112% 

May was a good month for the Ford Fiesta rival. A total of 17,373 examples were purchased, representing a 112% increase on last year. Expect another strong performance next month, driven by demand for the new, attractive, fourth-generation model. Recently winning the gong for the European Car of the Year 2021 won’t hurt its chances, either.

6 Peugeot 2008 16,349, +94%

The 2008 keeps up a strong showing, with registrations increasing by 94% compared to May 2020. It’s been in the top ten for a long while -  impressive in any context but is especially remarkable against the backdrop of widespread market trouble and low consumer demand due to Covid-19.

7. Peugeot 208 15,891, +45%

The 208 rejoins its larger counterpart in the top 10, with a registration increase of 45% compared to a year earlier. The French firm’s small hatchback sports a radical new design, with electric, diesel and petrol powertrains, no doubt helping it’s surge back into the top ten.

8 Opel/Vauxhall Corsa 15,715, +68% 

Bringing a radically overhauled, sharper design, the new Corsa won plaudits when it was revealed in late 2019. Autocar’s testers were also impressed with its fresh engine and platform, shared with the Peugeot 208. As with each of its predecessors, Opel has been hoping for continued strong sales, and after a difficult few months, customers have started flocking to dealerships.

9 Dacia Sandero 15,040, +41%

The affordable Sandero is Britain's cheapest car, but now sports a stylish new look and is even packed with a few features some other models would consider 'premium,' including LED headlights and touchscreen on some trims. It shares the same basic platform with the Renault Clio, and its affordability has no doubt played a huge part in positioning it in the top ten.

10 Skoda Octavia 14,767, +73%

Skoda's best-selling car has re-entered the top ten, appealing with its versatility and practicality. The fourth-generation model has sold 14,767 units in May 2021, with an impressive increase of 73% compared to this time last year. 

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