New car tax rules encouraged people to buy early.

A new record was set for monthly car registrations in the UK during March 2017, as buyers rushed to beat the introduction of new VED car tax legislation in April (which imposes a flat £140 fee on all new cars except zero-emissions ones). The market grew by 8.4% to reach an all-time high, with total registrations of 562,337 cars. This also helped the new car market post a quarterly record rise of 6.2%, too.

Great new car deals if you're buying in April:

The total registrations in March 2017 beat the previous two months of the year – combined. There was no apparent anti-diesel mood, either: sales of diesels also reached a record high (and the SMMT points out all new diesels must meet ultra-clean Euro 6 emissions standards).

That perhaps doesn't fully reflect real demand, though: diesel sales were up just 1.6% in March, compared to growth in petrol sales of 13.2% and a boom in alternative-fuel sales of 31%...

"These record figures are undoubtedly boosted by consumers reacting to new VED changes, pulling forward purchases into March, especially those ultra-low emission vehicles that will no longer benefit from a zero-rate fee," said SMMT chief executive Mike Hawes. 

The Ford Fiesta remained Britain's best-selling new car, by a clear margin – despite its replacement looming. There really does seem to be no stopping the popularity of Ford's perennially popular supermini. In second place was the Ford Focus, followed by the Vauxhall Corsa. Two British-built cars were in fourth and fifth, the Nissan Qashqai and Vauxhall Astra.

Fiesta sales lead the way year-to-date, by a staggering margin: 38,205 registrations, against the next-best Focus' 23,886 units. Its arch-rival, the Vauxhall Corsa, is way back in third place on 21,305 registrations year-to-date. Overall, 820,016 new cars have been registered in Britain so far in 2017.

However, Hawes warned the boom may not continue. We'll probably "see a slowdown in April, exacerbated by the fact there are fewer selling days this year given Easter timing." But it's still going to be a decent year: "We still expect the market to cool only slightly given broader political uncertainties as the are still attractive deals on offer."

March 2017 UK best sellers

  1. Ford Fiesta: 25,428
  2. Ford Focus: 17,119
  3. Vauxhall Corsa: 16,045
  4. Nissan Qashqai: 13,742
  5. Vauxhall Astra: 11,680
  6. Volkswagen Golf: 10,819
  7. Volkswagen Polo: 10,711
  8. Mini: 10,003
  9. Ford Kuga: 9,561
  10. Mercedes-Benz C-Class: 9,471

Source: SMMT