Interest in small cars grows as fuel prices rise

In 2010, car sales across Europe dropped by nearly five per cent, but small superminis and city cars dominated the sales charts.

The Vauxhall Corsa, Renault Clio, Peugeot 207, Volkswagen Polo and Ford Fiesta all appeared in the top ten best-selling cars in 2010 across Europe.

Other small cars, such as the Citroen C3 and Fiat Punto also figured, while hatchbacks such as the Vauxhall Astra, Volkswagen Golf and Renault Megane completed the line up.

The trend towards buying smaller cars comes as scrappage schemes across Europe ended and high fuel prices saw a shift towards ‘downsizing’ to save on driving costs.

Many of the cars in the top ten best-sellers include models designed to deliver higher fuel economy and CO2 emissions below 100g/km – qualifying the car for the zero band for VED in the UK.

The figures support earlier data from the Society of Motoring Manufacturers and Traders which showed diesel cars are increasingly popular in the UK, making up nearly half of all cars produced in 2010.

This is because diesel cars often boast lower CO2 emissions and higher fuel economy than their petrol counterparts despite a higher initial price.

Models such as Citroen’s C3 Airdream+ and the Vauxhall Corsa ecoFLEX use diesel engines to bring CO2 emissions below 100g/km.

The dip in new car registrations across Europe could lead to manufacturers offering discounts on some of the more efficient models in order to boost recovery.

Manufacturers such as Renault have already reduced prices of certain models, including certain versions of the Clio supermini and Megane hatchback.

Gareth Hession, Vice-President Research at JATO, said: "We expect manufacturers to be very active throughout the year, deploying a range of strategies to support their sales performance."

"It will be very interesting to see how these strategies develop and what impact they have", he added.