The phenomenon of globalisation does not spare the car industry, and models that are so popular in Europe often end up conquering markets in China, the United States, Australia and Japan.

The Tesla Model Y, which sells very well worldwide, is one example, but for one car that wins on a global scale, there are many others that are local phenomena. We're talking about the queens of the various European markets that manage to become veritable symbols of industry and national pride.

We're talking about cars like the Fiat Panda, which has dominated sales in Italy for eleven years now, or the Volkswagen Golf, which has long been number one in Germany, or the Renault Clio, which remains one of the most popular cars in France. We asked some of our European colleagues at Motor1.com to tell us which cars are the most popular in their country and why, and here's what we found.

Why Germans love the Volkswagen Golf

The Volkswagen Golf first appeared on the market exactly 50 years ago. Since then, it has (almost) continuously been the most popular car in Germany, first in the Federal Republic and then throughout Germany. In some years, the number of new registrations has topped 400,000. Why was this?

Volkswagen Golf, the front three-quarter view

Volkswagen Golf, three-quarter front view

Because the Volkswagen brand had already acquired enormous market power in 1974, mainly thanks to the Beetle. What's more, the Golf's design was always recognisable, sometimes even timeless. This guaranteed a high resale value and everyone, from apprentices to bosses, could be seen in a Golf. The constant expansion of the model range also guaranteed this: diesel and GTI for the Golf I, estate and VR6 for the Golf III, to name but a few examples.

The Golf wasn't and still isn't cheap, but there's something for every budget, from the entry-level model with a 1.0-litre turbo petrol engine to the crazy Golf R at the other end of the scale.

Volkswagen Golf, gli interni

Volkswagen Golf, interior

Meanwhile, the Golf has come a long way from the figures of 35,000 new registrations in Germany in March 1992. Twenty-two years later, new registrations are 'only' 11,621. The main reason for this is the expansion of VW's product range. SUVs such as the T-Roc and Tiguan are giving the Golf a run for its money.

Currently, some 35 million cars have been produced under the Golf name. What happens next? The next Golf 9 will probably merge with the ID.3 to form an all-electric ID.Golf.

Why the British love the Ford Puma

In the UK, the Ford Puma has consolidated its position as the best-selling car so far in 2024, with 19,393 units sold to the end of April. This follows on from the success of 2023, when the crossover topped the sales charts with 49,591 units sold, overtaking other popular models such as the Nissan Qashqai and Kia Sportage.

Ford Puma, front three-quarter view

Ford Puma, three-quarter front view

The Puma's practicality, sporty driving, distinctive appearance and unique features, such as the 'megabox', a washable luggage compartment, have largely contributed to its popularity.

The Puma's rise to the top marks a major shift in the UK car market from small hatchbacks to larger, more practical crossovers and SUVs. In 2021, the Vauxhall Corsa dethroned the Ford Fiesta, which had been the best-selling car for 12 consecutive years until 2020. The Corsa's success is due to its affordability, efficiency and appeal to a wide range of buyers, including city dwellers and new drivers.

Ford Puma, the interior

Ford Puma, interior

In 2022, the Nissan Qashqai took first place, reflecting the growing preference for crossovers and SUVs. The Qashqai, with its spacious interior, advanced technology and hybrid powertrain options, became the first SUV to top the UK sales charts for a full calendar year. Although the Japanese model has slipped to second place in 2023, it remains a strong contender in 2024, with 17,050 units sold so far. The Kia Sportage came third in 2024 with 15,824 units sold. The other models are the Audi A3 and the Nissan Juke, with 13,503 and 13,070 units sold respectively.

Historically, Ford has dominated the UK's best-selling models over the last few decades, with a few rare exceptions. The Fiesta is the most popular car in the country, followed by the Ford Escort and the Vauxhall Astra.

Why the French love the Renault Clio

In 2023, a change is taking place at the top of new car sales in France. While the Peugeot 208 has held the top spot since 2021, the Renault Clio will take its place. The small city car with the diamond badge has overtaken its former rival, while the Dacia Sandero completes the podium.

Renault Clio, front three-quarter photo

Renault Clio, three-quarter front view

Although the Renault Clio has not reached its pre-pandemic sales levels, 1,774,772 new cars were sold in France in 2023. The Renault Clio V and Peugeot 208 alone sold 97,479 and 86,268 units respectively.

Clio sales rose by 52%, while Peugeot sales fell by 2.9%. The year 2023 was not a success for Peugeot, which saw sales of the 208 plummet, as well as those of the 2008. These poor results can be attributed to logistical problems within the Stellantis group.

Renault Clio, the interior

Renault Clio, interior

But why is the famous Renault Clio such a success? First launched in the 1990s, Renault's small city car has evolved and grown with the times. Over the generations, the Clio has evolved enormously in terms of design, safety and technology. Appreciated for its manoeuvrability and sobriety, it is available in petrol, diesel and, more recently, hybrid versions, adding many new strings to its bow.

If the previous version didn't win you over with its austere interior, the fifth generation brings a real revolution: qualitative and connected, it has a 9.3-inch touch-screen tablet, a 10-inch digital dashboard and an R-Link system. Finally, the exterior has also been given a facelift, with a more dynamic and sporty look.

Why Italians love the Fiat Panda

The Fiat Panda is a veritable myth in Italy, the city car par excellence dominating the sales charts since 2012, when the historic queen of the market, the Fiat Punto, relinquished its throne.

In 2023, Italians registered 102,584 Fiat Panda cars, a figure which, out of an annual total of 1,566,448 cars, represents a market share of 6.5%. To understand the proportions of this enduring success, we need only look at the second-placed car, the Dacia Sandero, which registered 48,398 registrations.

Fiat Panda, front three-quarter view

Fiat Panda, three-quarter front view

This historic trend is confirmed by sales figures for the first four months of 2024, which put the Fiat Panda in the lead with 44,637 units, ahead of the Dacia Sandero (23,065) and the Citroën C3 (17,462).

There are a number of reasons for the Fiat Panda's good fortune, starting with its compact dimensions, small engines and competitive prices (base price currently €15,500), which enable the small Italian car to remain the most popular in its country.

Nor should we overlook the issue of low running costs and service, with a dense network of Fiat service centres throughout Italy.

Today, the Fiat Panda and the Pandina special series are only available in a 70 PS petrol mild hybrid version, but in recent years they have also and above all been appreciated for their alternative engines such as LPG, CNG, petrol and diesel, which have disappeared as demand has dwindled.

Fiat Panda, the interior

Fiat Panda, interior

The Panda 4x4 has also helped to make it almost ubiquitous on Italian roads, especially those in the mountains and hills, where a compact car with four-wheel drive and a simple petrol engine proves to be the solution in all weather conditions.

The Panda is part of the long tradition of the Fiat brand, which dominated car sales in post-war Italy, first with the Fiat 500 'Topolino', then with the Fiat 600 and the New 500. Over the years, this was followed by the Fiat 128, the Fiat 127, the Fiat Uno, the Fiat Punto and finally the Fiat Panda.

Why Spaniards love the Seat Leon

The truth is that it's difficult to talk about Spain's favourite car. At least over the last five years, with four different market leaders: Seat Leon (2019 and 2020), Seat Arona (2021), Hyundai Tucson (2022) and Dacia Sandero (2023).

Seat Leon, the front three-quarter view

Seat Leon, three-quarter front view

However, if we broaden the view to include data from the last decade, we will see that the Seat Leon has been the most popular car among Spaniards, leading in 2018 and 2017 and remaining on the podium in previous years. In fact, only the semi-conductor crisis has deprived it of better results in recent years.

But why is the Leon selling so well? Essentially because it's a car 'made in Spain' (it's produced in Barcelona) and because it has the same platform, engines and equipment as the Volkswagen Golf or Audi A3, but with a more passionate design and a more powerful engine.

What's more, for all you sporty fans out there, the thrust of the new Cupra brand, born in 2018, has given the Leon a much more desirable image.

Seat Leon, the interior

Seat Leon, interior

Having made it clear which car was Spain's favourite over the last decade, it's worth noting that the best-selling car in Spain over the past year has been the Dacia Sandero. And there are many reasons for this, starting with the fact that it is considered a smart buy. A model with an affordable starting price, increasingly high-performance equipment, plenty of Groupe Renault technology and a crossover version called Stepway, which has been a great success in a market dominated by SUVs.

Another of its advantages has been to offer a version equipped with liquefied petroleum gas (LPG), which gives it access to the ECO environmental badge awarded by Traffic, with numerous advantages in terms of mobility in major cities. What's more, the low price of LPG makes it very economical to use.

Why Turks love Fiat Egea

Turkey's star car is the Fiat Egea from 2019. The model, which is sold under the name Fiat Tipo in several regions, takes first place in the first quarter of 2024. There are several reasons for this, but the main reason is the price/performance ratio.

Fiat Egea Sedan, three-quarter front view

Fiat sells the Egea in Turkey in four different body styles: Egea Saloon, Egea Cross, Egea Cross Estate and Egea Hatchback. We can see that the Egea Saloon has been leading sales since 2019. One of the main reasons for this is the price/performance ratio. The serious economic crisis in Turkey has caused a sharp increase in car prices with the effect of the exchange rate. Despite this, the Fiat Egea remains one of the most affordable cars sold in Turkey.

In fact, it is one of the few models whose price does not exceed one million Turkish lira, or €28,600 at the current exchange rate.

To explain the impact of this price, we need to talk about the economy. According to official figures, one in two people in Turkey earns a minimum wage. Currently, the minimum wage is 17,002 Turkish lira, which means that a worker has to work for 58 months to be able to buy a car worth 1,000,000 lira.

Fiat Egea/Tipo, the interior

Fiat Egea/Tipo, interior

Let's take the official figures to illustrate Egea's dominance. In 2023, the Egea family sold a total of 124,142 units. In 2023, which managed to break the previous decade's record for total car sales, 967,341 cars were sold. In other words, the Egea family alone accounts for 12% of the total car market.

The situation will not be much different in 2024. In the current period, according to official data, the Egea family leads total sales. In the first quarter of the year, it managed to sell a total of 29,736 units. The Egea saloon sold 19,568 units and the Egea Cross 9,755.

In short, it looks as though the Egea will continue to be the leader in Turkey for some time to come, thanks to its price and performance.