SUV sales surging in South Africa while hatchbacks wane, 2021 figures show

2021 Toyota Urban Cruiser

The Toyota Urban Cruiser was South Africa’s most popular SUV last year, after it narrowly beat its larger Fortuner sibling.

Published Jan 31, 2022


Johannesburg - To the casual automotive observer who hasn’t been living beneath a rock for the last decade, it would be pretty evident that SUVs and crossovers are gaining in popularity, while traditional car types like hatchbacks and sedans are getting a smaller slice of the pie.

But exactly how quickly are SUVs gaining ground? A graphic, shown to us during one of Hyundai’s famously informative business sessions recently, spelled out exactly how the different vehicle segments evolved between 2020 and 2021.

Although almost all automotive segments grew during 2021, mostly due to the fact that 2020 was such an abysmal year, only two body types actually gained market share. SUVs and crossovers grew their share of the pie by 2.8 percent, while MPVs gained 0.8%.

By contrast, sedans lost 1.4% of their market share, while 5-door hatchbacks gave away 1.3%. Light commercial vehicles (which include bakkies) were down by 0.7%, while coupes lost 0.2%.

Graphic courtesy of Hyundai South Africa

2021 was also the first year ever that SUVs and crossovers overtook five-door hatchbacks in terms of outright volume, with 128 507 sales versus 127 233. LCVs were third with 108 716 sales. This represents a significant jump from 2020, when hatchbacks led with 107 903, versus 95 005 SUVs/crossovers and 91 075 LCVs.

Incidentally, the best-selling crossovers in 2021 were the Toyota Urban Cruiser (8588), Toyota Fortuner (8545), Volkswagen T-Cross (7301) and Hyundai Venue (6217).

The most popular hatchback last year was the Volkswagen Polo Vivo, with 21 342 sales. It was followed by the Volkswagen Polo (17 922) and Toyota Starlet (11 769).

A total of 464 122 new vehicles were sold in South Africa in 2021 (including trucks, which are not shown in the graphic above), which was a 22.1% increase over 2020. Naamsa says it expects the new vehicle market to continue its recovery this year, albeit at a more moderate rate. The industry association has predicted an overall market growth of around 8%, which would theoretically bring local vehicle sales past the 500 000 mark once again.

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