Peugeot 208 overtakes Volkswagen Golf as Europe’s best-selling car

1 month, 3 weeks ago - 3 February 2023, autocar
Peugeot 208 overtakes Volkswagen Golf as Europe’s best-selling car
The venerable German hatchback had been Europe’s annual best-seller since 2007 but fell sharply last year

The Peugeot 208 topped the European new car sales charts in 2022 – overtaking the Volkswagen Golf, which had occupied the annual top spot since 2007.

The French supermini recorded 206,816 sales in 2022, a 5% improvement compared with 2021, and almost 30,000 more than the 177,203 that the Golf achieved.

In total, 11.3 million new cars were sold in EU markets plus the UK, Norway, Switzerland and Iceland last year, according to new figures released by Jato Dynamics.

That is the lowest level recorded in the market since 1985 and a 29% reduction compared with the last pre-pandemic year, 2019.

Jato attributed the dip to the shortage of new vehicles (caused in part by the semiconductor supply crisis) as well as inflation and spiking energy prices – factors intensified by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Volkswagen was among the manufacturers whose production volumes were hamstrung last year. This meant the brand’s global sales totalled 4.56 million, a 6.8% shortfall compared with the previous year. The chip shortage will hit 2023 sales too, warned Volkswagen. It currently holds a “very high” order backlog, hence the Golf’s slide from first to fifth place.

Jato also noted strong sales of SUVs across various sectors: the B-segment Volkswagen T-Roc placed third overall, with 181,153 sales (up 3% on 2021); the Hyundai Tucson was eighth, with 150,803 sales (up 1%); and the Dacia Duster rose from 15th place to ninth, shifting 149,648 units.

This reflected the “increasing appetite for SUVs”, said Jato. However, the increased profitability of SUVs relative to traditional bodystyles also meant that manufacturers prioritised the production of SUVs through 2022, with the greater supply resulting in higher sales volumes.

There remained clear demand for small, low-cost models too. Of the top 10 best-sellers last year (see below), eight were B-segment models, including six superminis.

As detailed above, the Peugeot 208 recored the most sales, followed by the Dacia Sandero with 200,500 units.

Sales of the Fiat 500 (and its Abarth hot hatch variants) grew by 3%, to almost 180,000, while the Toyota Yaris, Opel/Vauxhall Corsa, Dacia Duster and Renault Clio also sold in high volumes.

Of note was the 27% decline in Clio sales. Renault's supermini fell from fourth place in 2021 to 10th last year, likely a result of chips being diverted to highly profitable Dacia models.

Autocar Business previously reported that Dacia plays a starring role in balancing the Renault Group’s books thanks to its minimal research and development costs, enabled by the reuse of proven Renault parts. Put simply, Dacia’s margins are to the Renault Group’s what Audi’s are to the Volkswagen Group, incentivising high production of the Romanian brand’s models.

As in the UK market, Chinese brands – notably MG – made significant progress in 2022. Excluding the Geely group (Volvo, Polestar and Lynk&Co) but including MG, Chinese brands’ registrations almost tripled from 66,100 units in 2021 to 152,400 last year.

Of these, 114,00 were MGs – more units than Honda sold – as the brand’s volumes increased by 116%.

Combined, Chinese brands outsold Jaguar Land Rover, Mazda and Suzuki, said Jato.

Meanwhile, Stellantis experienced the sharpest year-on-year decline in market share of any manufacturer, down from 20.23% to 18.22%. Its Citroën, Fiat, Opel/Vauxhall and Peugeot brands all recorded double-digit percentage drops in sales volume compared with 2021. As previously reported, Stellantis not only had the supply shortage to contend with, but also a logistics crisis, blamed for a ‘disastrous’ November for sales in the UK.

The best-selling cars in Europe in 2022
1. Peugeot 208, 206,816, +5% year on year

The Peugeot 208 suffered a slump in November but rebounded to finish the year as Europe’s best-selling car. This was despite the French brand’s double-digit percentage downturn throughout 2022, afflicted by parts shortages and a logistics crisis.

2. Dacia Sandero, 200,550, +1%

The Dacia Sandero finished 2022 in second place, bolstered by its exceptional value for money, which likely resonated with buyers as the cost of living crisis hit across Europe. That it’s also a competitive supermini, with a spacious interior and decent handling, makes it an especially compelling buy.

3. Volkswagen T-Roc, 181,153, -3%

The Volkswagen T-Roc typically performs well, but its position improved significantly in 2022 and its sales even outnumbered the Volkswagen Golf's. A recent facelift boosted interior quality, addressing one of few criticisms of the well-rounded crossover.

4. Fiat/Abarth 500, 179,863, +3%

Is there a more recognisable small car than the Fiat 500? It’s been on sale since 2007 and it’s unlikely to be dropped any time soon. More recently, the model gained an electric variant with a battery size of up to 44kWh. Range is pegged at 199 miles, but mild-hybrid and petrol models remain on sale as well. An electric version of the Abarth 500 hot hatch is also on the way, with sales beginning later this year.

5. Volkswagen Golf, 177,203, -14%

Now well into its eighth generation, the Volkswagen Golf continues to be one of the top-selling cars in Europe. Although it more than doubled its year-on-year sales in November, it slipped from second place through the full year to sixth. The Golf’s latest line-up features pure-ICE, mild-hybrid and plug-in hybrid powertrains, with performance models ranging from the Golf GTE to the four-wheel-drive Golf R. 

6. Toyota Yaris, 175,713, -4%

The fuel-efficient Yaris was a mainstay in the top 10 in 2022, evidently retaining its popularity four generations into its life. It’s still Toyota’s most successful and biggest-selling model in Europe, and a sporty GR performance variant continues to hold up as one of the finest hot hatches ever built.

7. Opel/Vauxhall Corsa, 164,358, -9%

Another relatively successful year for the Vauxhall Corsa means it finishes the year as Europe’s seventh best-selling car, following its second-place finish in the UK. Its position in the sales charts was helped by competitive pricing and financing plus a strong mix of petrol, diesel and electric powertrains.

8. Hyundai Tucson, 150,803, +1%

Only the second SUV in the top 10, the Hyundai Tucson is a popular buy thanks to its refined powertrain selection, exceptional comfort and high-spec technology. A 2021 renewal breathed more life into the model, bringing a fresh front end with an eye-catching lighting set-up. 

9. Dacia Duster, 149,648, +2%

The second Dacia to feature in the top 10, the Duster is a capable, hardy and – most importantly – cheap model, capturing a significant share of the booming crossover market. It will soon be joined by the Dacia Bigster, a C-segment SUV spearheading Dacia’s push into larger, more profitable segments.

10. Renault Clio, 143,561, -27%

The Clio was Renault’s best-selling car in 2022 and ended the year propping up the top 10, despite a sharp decline year on year. The supermini has plenty to offer, including petrol, diesel and plug-in powertrains, and its tech has only become better with each passing generation.

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