By Daniel Hunter

The Society of Motor Manufacturer and Traders (SMMT) has confirmed that new car registrations in the UK rose 5.3% in 2012 to 2.04 million - the highest level since 2008.

“More than two million new cars were registered in the UK during 2012, up 5.3% on the previous 12 months and the best result since recession struck in 2008,” said Paul Everitt, SMMT Chief Executive.

Ford's Fiesta and Focus, and Vauxhall's Corsa and Astra were the four best-selling models. The Volkswagen Golf came fifth, with the Nissan Qashqai in sixth place.

“Boosted by strong consumer demand, the market grew at its fastest rate for 11 years with innovative, fuel-efficient cars keeping buyers in showrooms," Everitt added.

"Looking ahead to 2013, we anticipate the market will hold firm, with manufacturers and dealers working hard to deliver quality and value to motorists.”

Last year's growth rate was the fastest in 11 years, bolstered by a 12.9% rise in demand from private individuals, who bought 106,346 of the 2,044,609 units sold.

The overall rise in sales was the second annual increase since the start of the downturn in 2008, though the market remained 14.9% below its pre-recession peak in 2007, when 2.4 million cars were sold.

In December, 123,557 cars were registered, 3.7% more than in December 2011.

"Offers and incentives and some buyers shifting from buying used to new cars could have contributed to the upturn," the SMMT said in a statement.

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