Sales figures from the first three months of the year give an interesting insight into what cars are catching the eye of UK buyers.
The latest figures from the Society of Motoring Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) show buyers are increasingly turning to more frugal, low-CO2 models in the wake of spiralling petrol costs.
However, luxury saloons, executive cars and MPVs all saw increases in demand in March, possibly helped along by a rise in demand in the fleet and business sector.
With this in mind, we’ve sifted through the figures to find five of the biggest winners so far in 2011, and why they have sold so well.
1) Peugeot 207
The Peugeot 207 may not be an obvious choice for most buyers, and it was comfortably outsold by runaway market leaders such as the Vauxhall Corsa and Vauxhall Astra.
However, with 10,000 sold so far, the Peugeot 207 is the eight best-selling car in the UK this year, and the only model from France to make the list.
This means it has outsold the Renault Clio and Citroen C3 in 2011 and can class itself as the third most popular supermini in the UK.
Average CO2 emissions in new car registrations have dropped to just 140g/km and it is here where the Peugeot 207’s strongest features lay.
The Economique range features a 90bhp diesel engine returning 99g/km, which is enough to qualify the car for zero VED and exemption from the London Congestion Charge – all for a price of £13,000.
This is likely to be the major draw for small car buyers hoping to reduce the cost of motoring as much as possible.
2) Jaguar XJ
The Jaguar XJ was always expected to be popular in the UK. Built in Jaguar’s Midland factory, the car is one of the main reasons owners Tata Motors has decided to keep both Midlands facilities open based on strong sales.
The saloon is the height of British luxury and has now hit a record 32 per cent share of its market – well ahead, says Jaguar, of its nearest competitor.
Featuring a new stunning design, a huge amounts of gadgets and classic Jaguar road presence, the XJ is a massive improvement over the previous generation and a superb alternative to its German competitors.
Despite the downsizing trend, the Jaguar has remained a popular choice for buyers looking for a more premium model.
An entry price of £55,500 comes lavishly equipped, but a range topping Supersport performance model can set you back as much as £91,000.
3) Seat Alhambra
A large, seven-seat MPV may not be everybody’s cup of tea, but the all-new Seat Alhambra surprised most people when it arrived last year by offering a refined ride and driving dynamics rarely found in the large people carrier sector.
That is offered Seat’s typically sporty styling and Volkswagen’s reliable and frugal engines was an extra bonus to an excellent all-round package.
The quality of the Alhambra can be seen in Seat’s sales records from 2011. The brand has hit a record market share of nearly two per cent and retail sales are up by nearly 50 per cent compared to last year, bucking the downward industry trend.
Seat puts the success down to ‘fresh, exciting’ cars and the Alhambra certainly fits that description. From £22,825, the Seat Alhambra is available to buy now from Seat dealerships.
4) Peugeot iOnCitroen C-Zero
"Despite a dip versus 2010, the market remains on course to meet SMMT’s forecast for the year with motorists buying increasingly fuel-efficient and low emitting vehicles across every segment."
These are the words of SMMT Chief Executive Paul Everitt, who was talking about the dip in average CO2 figures from new car registrations of 3.4 per cent in the first three months of 2011.
There was also an increase in the share of the market taken up by alternatively fuelled vehicles as sales increased by more than a quarter.
This is mainly down to the influx of electric cars into the market this year, including the Peugeot iOn and Citroen C-Zero.
Both are based on the same car and offer four-door, four-seat practicality with a fully electric drivetrain.
A range of 93 miles is enough for most city drivers and the lease-only cars have been a huge hit with cost-cutting businesses.
If you want to find out more about the Peugeot iOn or Citroen C-Zero, Perrys in Milton Keynes has a number of specialists and test vehicles for Perrys customers.
5) Alfa Romeo Giulietta
Last year, the scrappage scheme boosted sales for many manufacturers, which makes it even more of a surprise to see Italian manufacturer Alfa Romeo record a massive 60 per cent increase in sales compared to the first three months of 2010.
The success is down to two new models; the MiTo, released early last year, and the new Alfa Romeo Giulietta hatchback.
The stylish, charismatic hatchback is built with typical Alfa Romeo panache, but with none of the reliability foibles plaguing the manufacturer in the past.
The Giulietta is the latest in a line of impressive cars from Alfa, and it stands out from the usual choices such as the Ford Focus.
Starting from under £19,000 and featuring Uma Thurman in its advertising campaign, it’s easy to see why this is the car behind Alfa’s sales success.
You can book a test drive of any of the above cars or alternatively, take a look at our extensive review section to find out more.