The motoring class of 2013: how are they doing so far?
Six months into the 131 registrations, the VW Golf remains, predictably, on top, but what has the car industry in store for us for 132?
Twenty thirteen – the first year of the new registration system – will doubtless be remembered chiefly for being a round of Golf. Volkswagen’s genre-defining hatchback hit the market in all-new Mk VII form this year (actually, early examples were available from late 2012), and has been an instant and somewhat unsurprising hit. Subtle styling, a truly beautiful cabin and frugal petrol and diesel engines have helped push the Golf to the top of the sales charts so far this year.
Mind you, while the Golf was an expected hit, VW does seem to be trying to incite as much internecine warfare between its in-house hatchback brands as possible. The new Audi A3 Sportback, Seat Leon and Skoda Octavia also all launched in the first half of the year, and all are essentially mechanically identical to the Golf. Of the four, the Skoda is the most practical, the Audi the most stylish, the Seat the sharpest to drive and the Golf still, probably, the best all-rounder.
Certainly the Golf has well and truly trounced the other big new launches of 2013 so far. It’s outselling both the new Ford Fiesta and Toyota Auris, quite an achievement when you consider that the new Fiesta is dramatically impressive (especially the hardcore sporting 190bhp ST version), and in fact calls into question the wisdom of spending more on a larger hatchback – such as a Golf. The new Auris has its impressive moments, too – although it hides them behind staid styling and so-so dynamics – but its reputation for reliability and ease of ownership will have given even the mighty Golf a few sleepless nights.
Doing rather well, and without quite so much in the way of the eye-catching discounts we saw in the 2010 scrappage scheme, is the new Renault Clio. Vastly more stylish and classy than its predecessor, the Clio’s only major flaw (its too-cheap-feeling cabin) is outweighed by its comfort and the remarkable fuel economy of the 1.5-litre diesel version. It’s currently outselling the Volkswagen Polo and deserves to – although both are outsold by the rather unlovely Nissan Micra.
While the Clio’s style is doubtlessly winning it much favour, its distant cousin, the Dacia Sandero, is playing rather a different card. Deliberately rather dull-looking, the Sandero is selling on price, pure and simple; a hatchback by Lidl. Considering that it can be bought for the arrestingly low price of €9,990, it’s performing rather less well in the sales charts than we expected. In fact, it’s being outsold at a rate of more than 2:1 by its larger, more expensive stablemate, the Duster SUV. Perhaps buyers at the Sandero’s price level are looking more at the second-hand market?
Having started from a low price base, just as Dacia is currently doing, Kia’s prices have moved markedly upwards recently, but the quality of the Korean cars has pretty well justified their extra cost. A glut of new Kias came our way in the first half of the year: the new seven-seat Carens, the slinky three-door Pro-Cee’d hatch and an updated Sorento SUV. While the Sorento seems to have missed out on the application of gloss that’s so apparent on the other two, there’s no doubt that Kia’s star is continuing to rise.