Revealed: New Zealand’s 10 most popular cars of 2020

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Words: Matthew Hansen
19 Jan 2021

As reported earlier this morning, the Motor Industry Association has reported New Zealand’s new-car data for 2020, showing a predictable decline in sales — although not as bad as had been forecast at the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic.

As per usual, the firm’s data also shows the top 10 most popular vehicles in each segment. Here, we detail the top 10 overall — ranging from the requisite utes, to a few ‘intruder’ hatchbacks, to a model you can no longer buy today.

10. Holden Colorado — 2487 registrations


Managing to limp into the top 10, despite obviously dwindling stock levels towards the end of the year, is the last Holden we’ll ever see on a Kiwi new-car sales chart. The Holden Colorado was always a strong seller for the brand, but it wasn’t until its last update that it started to become a properly competitive offering in the ute class. Run-out deals throughout the year to get the last of them out the door are a large part of why it’s here, but it’s worth remembering that it’s also a great machine on merit. See you, Holden.

9. Suzuki Swift — 2562 registrations


The first of just two cars on this list, the Suzuki Swift has long been a popular choice in New Zealand due to its fabulous pricing, solid equipment list, and brilliant handling chops. The all-new Toyota Yaris might have its measure across a range of criteria (it won our recent hybrid comparison with the Swift), but it’ll be a long time before it’ll topple Suzuki’s most popular car.

7= Toyota Corolla — 2567 registrations


Yep, the Toyota Corolla is only down in eighth. The cynics will see this placement as proof that the Corolla is only a sales marvel here because of its popularity with fleets (particularly rental companies). But, according to Toyota themselves earlier in the year, the Corolla is actually up this year when it comes to private sales. Almost all of the number above, in fact, is private buyers since the Corolla didn’t make the top 15 best-selling rental cars for 2020. Love it or hate it, this is still the most popular ‘car’ in New Zealand. Traditionalists should pay it its dues.

7= Mazda CX-5 — 2567 registrations


Mazda’s most popular car made it to seventh-equal on the list. Not a bad effort at all for a brand that doesn’t necessarily pour in the marketing money (or lay down the enormous discounts) of some of its peers. The CX-5 still looks bang up to date despite its age, and can still claim to be one of the best driving and best built mid-size SUVs on the market. That turbocharged 2.5-litre Takami variant is still one of the most surprisingly fun things I’ve driven in recent times.

6. Kia Seltos — 2611 registrations


It was a big year for Kia; two of its cars making it into the national top 10. The first of these is the compact Seltos; an all-new name to the market in late 2019 that entered with a cracking introductory price before showing its staying power throughout 2020. We loved it, ranking it highly in our comparison against the stylish Mazda CX-30. It remains one of the best value SUVs on the market, period.

5. Kia Sportage — 2907 registrations


If a car flew under the radar this year, it was the Kia Sportage. The Seltos’ big brother ended up as the second-best selling SUV on the market; no mean feat for a car that hasn’t been updated for a few years. It’s the nameplate that helped Kia become established in New Zealand, for many it’s the nameplate that signified the brand’s vast, rapid improvement in quality, and now it’s the nameplate that leads the marque.

4. Mitsubishi Triton — 3687 registrations

Another one for the ‘under the radar’ stakes was Mitsubishi; showing that Kiwis love getting a lot of car for not much money by ending up second only to Toyota in overall market share. The firm’s biggest seller was the Triton ute; a cut-price pick-up that can rival anything else in class for comfort and reliability (for a lot less price).

3. Toyota RAV4 — 5341 registrations

The Toyota RAV4 is the most popular SUV in the country for good reason. Its starting price is one of the cheapest in class, its all-new bones, underpinnings, cabin, and body are a vast improvement on the model that came before it, and the availability of a hybrid variant is a death punch that the competition simply can’t match. 

2. Toyota Hilux — 5796 registrations


It was a hectic year for the Toyota Hilux, particularly with the launch of a significant refresh mid-year with more power, equipment, and much better levels of refinement. We expect to see a full year of exposure of the new and improved model reap improved sales in 2021, and subsequently a smaller gap between it and the car that’s been beating it on the charts over the last few years.

1. Ford Ranger — 7975 registrations


Yep, no surprises here. Despite losing out on a month or two to the Hilux, the Ford Ranger ended up cruising to the top spot for 2020. Among its wins over the course of the year was the re-introduction of the popular FX-4 variant, and ongoing proliferation of both models utilising the 2.0-litre bi-turbo engine and models angled towards off-road adventuring. We look forward to seeing how its battle with the Hilux (and everyone else, for that matter) unfolds in 2021, and we look forward to seeing a next-gen Ranger sometime soon, too …

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