Europe is the world’s third largest car market behind China and the US, and a massive 15.6 million vehicles were registered throughout the EU28 in 2018 – the best result since 2007.
However, just like food, car-buying tastes differ throughout Europe, so we thought it’d be interesting to look at which models are the biggest-selling cars in 10 European nations – and why.
For the record, the UK's best-selling car in 2018 was once again the Ford Fiesta with 95,892 registrations, comfortably ahead of the Volkswagen Golf in second place (64,829) and Vauxhall Corsa (52,915).
Hungary - Suzuki Vitara
Surprisingly, the market leader in Hungary is Suzuki, followed by Ford, Skoda and Opel. Well, maybe that’s not such a surprise because European versions of the Vitara, Swift and SX4 S-Cross are all produced in Hungary.
The most popular model in 2018 was the Suzuki Vitara, followed by the Suzuki Swift, Skoda Octavia, Suzuki SX4 S-Cross and Ford Focus. With overall registrations of 136,702, the Hungarian new car market was up a healthy 17.5% on 2017.
Norway - Nissan LEAF
Almost a third of new cars sold in Norway in 2018 were pure electric, a new world record as the country strives to end sales of petrol and diesel vehicles by 2025 (the UK target is 2040).
Thanks to a string of incentives, EVs make complete sense in Norway where the upgraded Nissan Leaf was the top-selling car in Norway in 2018. It was followed by the Volkswagen Golf, BMW i3, Tesla Model X and Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV.
Norway is the world's biggest per-capita market for electric vehicles.
Germany - Volkswagen Golf
Germany is Europe’s number one in terms of car production and registrations. However, sales fell 0.2% to 3.44 million in 2018, with Volkswagen retaining its crown.
Demand for hybrid cars rose by 53.8% and sales of electric cars was up 43.9%. The best-selling model in Germany was once again the Volkswagen Golf, followed by the Tiguan, Polo and Passat.
France - Renault Clio
The French are exceptionally patriotic when it comes to cars. The best-selling new car in 2018 was the Renault Clio for the eight successive year, followed by the Peugeot 208, Peugeot 3008 and Citroen C3. The Volkswagen Golf was the most popular foreign car.
Overall, French manufacturers account for 57.4% of the market with Renault heading off a resurgent Peugeot and Citroen.
Czech Republic - Skoda Octavia
As you’d expect, Skoda dominates the Czech market and the Octavia was the biggest-selling model for the 10th consecutive year, followed by the Fabia. The highest placed foreign car was the Hyundai i30.
Overall, Skoda had a 32.2% share of new car registrations in 2018 – that’s almost one in three cars sold. Volkswagen and Hyundai take up the remaining two steps on the podium.
Italy - Fiat Panda
For the seventh consecutive year, the evergreen Fiat Panda was Italy's most popular car in 2018, selling more than double the number of its nearest rival, the Renault Clio.
However, putting the Panda to one side, Italians are also increasingly tempted by other brands with Volkswagen, Ford, Renault and Peugeot eating into Fiat's home market share. With overall registrations of 1,911,662, the Italian new car market was down 2.9% on 2017.
Sweden - Volvo V90/S90
In 2016 Sweden’s best-selling car wasn’t a Volvo – and that’s the first year that happened in more than half a century. Instead, the Volkswagen Golf topped the charts. However, the Chinese-owned car maker recovered in 2017 when the Volvo XC60 SUV regained the top spot.
In 2018 the new Volvo S90/V90 (saloon/estate) was Sweden's biggest-seller and in 2019 we suspect the acclaimed new XC40 SUV will top the Swedish charts. Interestingly, sales of electric and plug-in hybrids in Sweden continued to accelerate in 2018 with the third largest share of new EVs and PHEVs in Europe – just behind Iceland and first-placed Norway.
Romania - Dacia Logan
As you’d expect in the home of Dacia, the now Renault-owned budget brand’s cars are big sellers in Romania. The Dacia Logan (available as a saloon, estate, hatchback or pick-up) is the most popular followed by the Duster and Sandero.
The Skoda Octavia is the most popular foreign car in Romania, followed by the Renault Clio, Renault Megane and Ford Focus. With overall registrations of 158,268, the Romanian new car market was up a healthy 21.4% on 2017.
Spain - SEAT Leon
Homegrown SEAT cars rule the roost in Spain with the Leon and Ibiza leading the way, followed by the Nissan Qashqai and Dacia Sandero.
Overall, SEAT overtook Volkswagen to regain its top spot as number one car brand in Spain – the first time since 2011. With overall registrations of 1,336,431 the Spanish new car market was down 6.9% on 2017.
Netherlands - Volkswagen Polo
December 2018 was a great month for the 100% electric Jaguar I-Pace as buyers scrambled to get ahead of a tax change for premium EVs. It was that month's biggest-selling car overall, easily outselling the Tesla Model S.
However, the new Volkswagen Polo toppled the Renault Clio from the number one spot as the year's most popular car, followed by the Kia Picanto and Ford Fiesta. Overall, Volkswagen was the most popular car brand, followed by Renault, Opel and Peugeot.