• Best year for new cars since before the recession
• Ford tops the overall list; Fiesta is best-selling car
• BMW pips Audi as biggest ‘premium’ brand

Figures released by the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) have revealed that new car registrations in the UK rose to their highest levels since 2008, with a 5.3 per cent increase over 2011, breaking the two million mark for the first time since before the recession, with 2,044,609 new cars being registered.

Unsurprisingly, the Ford Fiesta ended the year as the most-registered new car in the country, 109,265 of them finding new homes, almost 20,000 ahead of its nearest rival, the Vauxhall Corsa. Coming in third was the Focus, underlining Ford’s dominance of the British market.

Ford topped the overall sales charts, shifting 281,917 cars in total. Jaguar Land Rover also had a good year, selling 62,586 between them (although Land Rover is the dominant partner, shifting 48,626 of those) increasing by a record 19.16 per cent over 2011. Hyundai and Kia have also made impressive gains in the market, both increasing their lead over Honda.

The biggest surprise in the figures was the surge of BMW registrations in December last year, with 10,175 new cars being registered, whereas Audi only managed 4,786. Having spent much of 2012 being just behind Audi as the biggest selling ‘premium’ manufacturer, BMW ended up out-selling Audi by just 3,908 units.

Renault and Alfa Romeo have been the big losers, however, with both pulling much of their product ranges from the UK market. Alfa now sells just two models in this country, the Giulietta and the Mito, which accounts for the fact that just 7,253 found new homes last year – a decrease of over 37 per cent. Renault sold just 40,760 – down from 68,000 last year but there is cause for optimism for 2013 with the launch of the new Clio and the forthcoming Zoe electric supermini. Renault are also hoping that the launch of Dacia will give these figures a much-needed boost

By James Richardson