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These are the top-selling cars around the world

Denis Droppa Group motoring editor
US buyers like supersized bakkies, especially the Ford F-Series.
US buyers like supersized bakkies, especially the Ford F-Series.
Image: Supplied

SA car buyers are enamoured with bakkies, small hatchbacks and compact crossovers, but it’s interesting to look at what type of vehicles are popular in other parts of the world.

When it comes to buying wheels, local consumer tastes sometimes differ considerably from other countries.

For instance, the best-selling new car in Europe last year was the Volkswagen Golf, while in SA the midsized hatchback market segment it fits into has all but died. The Golf sold over 205,000 units in Europe last year while locally the Golf GTI — the only model offered in the new 8th-generation range — was barely a blip in the sales charts and found a mere 270 buyers.

In SA the once-popular midsize hatch/sedan category has seen the demise of cars such as the Renault Megane, VW Jetta and Ford Focus in recent years as local buyers have flocked instead to crossovers and SUVs. The rising popularity of SUVs/crossovers is a global phenomenon, but in some parts of the world, including the US and South Korea, traditional four-door sedans are still posting good sales.

SA and Europe correlate in that their top-selling car models are either hatchbacks or compact crossovers, except that in Europe they are mostly more upmarket German or French brands. In budget-conscious SA the sales are skewed towards more affordable India-built cars including the Toyota Starlet, Toyota Urban Cruiser, Suzuki Swift, Renault Triber and Suzuki S-Presso.

Local motorists love their workhorses too, and the most notable difference between SA and Europe is the local popularity of bakkies and light commercial vehicles. The Toyota Hilux has been SA’s best-selling vehicle for years while the Ford Ranger, Nissan NP200 and Isuzu D-Max also move big numbers.

Latin America follows the SA trend in that its best-selling vehicles comprise a mix of bakkies and small budget cars.

Japan’s market is dominated by locally-built hatches, MPVs and crossovers, with Toyotas accounting for eight of the top ten sellers.

South Korean buyers also favour local brands, with the Hyundai Porter (we know it as the H100 bakkie) the top seller, with sedans and SUVs dominating sales lower down the order.

In the US it’s size and utility that counts, with the market dominated by large American-built pickups. The Ford F-Series is the top seller ahead of the Ram and Chevrolet Silverado pickups, followed by a string of large SUVs and sedans.

Tesla CEO Elon Musk dances in front of an image of the Model 3, the world’s best selling EV. Picture: REUTERS
Tesla CEO Elon Musk dances in front of an image of the Model 3, the world’s best selling EV. Picture: REUTERS

The UK’s top seller is the Ford Transit Custom van, but the remainder of the top ten is mostly a mix of compact hatches and crossovers led by the Vauxhall (Opel) Corsa. The UK is one of the countries leading electric vehicle (EV) adoption and the Tesla Model 3 was that country’s third best-selling vehicle in 2021. The Model 3 was the world's most popular EV in 2021 with sales of around 501,000, and the top-selling vehicle in Norway.

China also had an EV as its top selling car in 2021, with the Wuling Hongguang mini EV shifting 426,480 units.

SA is still far behind the battery-powered car trend and sold just 218 EVs last year, although that was a more than two-fold increase over the year before.

Here is a list of best-selling vehicles in different regions around the world:

SA’S BEST SELLING VEHICLES 2021

Toyota Hilux — 36,085

VW Polo Vivo — 21,877

Ford Ranger — 19,077

VW Polo — 18,235

Isuzu D-Max — 16,426

Toyota Hi-Ace — 15,694

Toyota Starlet — 12,103

Nissan NP200 — 11,408

Toyota Fortuner — 9,236

Toyota Urban Cruiser — 8,887

Suzuki Swift — 8,332

Renault Kwid — 7,919

Toyota Corolla Quest — 7,860

VW T-Cross — 7,516

Renault Triber — 6,521

EUROPE’S BEST SELLING VEHICLES 2021

VW Golf — 205,408

Peugeot 208 — 196,869

Dacia Sandero — 196,792

Renault Clio — 196,243

Peugeot 2008 — 194,653

VW T-Roc — 186,644

Toyota Yaris — 182,590

Opel Corsa — 180,643

Fiat 500 — 174,739

Citroën C3 — 159,302

Renault Captur — 158,580

VW Polo — 152,617

Hyundai Tucson — 149,170

Toyota Corolla — 146,604

Dacia Duster — 145,753

UK’S BEST SELLING VEHICLES 2021

Ford Transit Custom — 53,394

Vauxhall Corsa — 40.914

Tesla Model 3 — 34,783

Ford Transit — 34,293

Mini — 31,792

Mercedes A-Class — 30,710

VW Polo — 30,634

VW Golf — 30,240

Nissan Qashqai — 29,922

Ford Puma — 28,697

Kia Sportage — 27,611

Toyota Yaris — 27,415

LATIN AMERICA’S BEST SELLING VEHICLES 2021

Toyota Hilux — 132,110

Chevrolet Onix  (small hatch/sedan) — 124,070

Fiat Strada (small pickup) — 115,750

Nissan Versa (Almera) — 111,250

VW Gol (small hatch) — 94,420

Fiat Argo (small hatch) — 92,680

Hyundai HB20 (small hatch) — 91,150

Jeep Renegade — 90,270

Hyundai Creta — 89,380

Renault Kwid — 79,720

JAPAN’S BEST SELLING VEHICLES 2021

Toyota Yaris — 212,927

Toyota Roomy (mini MPV) — 134,801

Toyota Corolla — 110,865

Toyota Alphard (MPV) — 95,049

Nissan Note (compact hatch) — 90,177

Toyota Raize (compact SUV) — 81,880

Toyota Harrier (midsize SUV) — 74,575

Toyota Aqua (compact hatch) — 72,495

Toyota Voxy (MPV) — 70,085

Honda Freed (mini MPV) — 69,577

US BEST SELLING VEHICLES 2021

Ford F-Series (pickup) — 726,004

Ram pickup (pickup) — 569,388

Chevrolet Silverado (pickup) — 519,744

Toyota Rav4 — 407,739

Honda CR-V — 361,271

Toyota Camry (large sedan) — 313,795

Nissan Rogue (midsize SUV) — 285,602

Jeep Grand Cherokee — 264,444

Toyota Highlander (large SUV) — 264,128

Honda Civic — 263,787

SOUTH KOREA'S BEST SELLING VEHICLES 2021

Hyundai Porter (bakkie) — 92,218

Hyundai Grandeur (large sedan) — 89,084

Kia Carnival — 72,233

Hyundai Avante (Elantra) — 71,031

Kia Sorento — 69,934

Hyundai Sonata — 63,109

Kia Bongo (K2700 pickup) — 59,729

Kia K5 (large sedan) — 59,499

Genesis G80 (large sedan) — 59,463

Hyundai Palisade — 52,388

CHINA’S BEST SELLING VEHICLES 2021

Wuling Hongguang Mini EV — 426,480

VW Lavida (compact sedan) — 391,360

Haval H6 — 370,440

Toyota Corolla — 323,240

Changan CS75 (compact crossover) — 281,860

Tesla Model 3 — 272,950

Buick Excelle GT (midsize sedan) — 263,020

Wuling Hongguang (compact MPV) — 255,180

Nissan Sylphy (midsize sedan) — 250,380

Nissan Bluebird Sylphy (midsize sedan) — 249,770


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