SUVs are Singapore’s favourite type of car now

Derryn Wong

Singapore’s new car sales figures for 2021 show SUVs clearly ahead of sedans for the first full year, but which once popular style has fallen dramatically

SINGAPORE – Sport utility vehicles (SUVs) are now the most popular car body style in Singapore.

While that might not come as a particular surprise to CarBuyer’s readers who digested our 2021 half-year analysis of the car trade here, 2021 marks the first full-year of passenger car registrations where we saw SUVs take the lead, comprising the largest proportion of new car sales by body type last year – 36.8 percent.

Singapore New Passenger Car Registrations by Body Style/Type 

Total registrations723444446545442

Looking at the raw numbers is difficult because of the last column – total registrations, although between 2020 and 2021 there wasn’t much fluctuation compared to 2019. Why the huge dip in car registrations? Because of the tightening of the COE quota, and a zero growth policy for passenger cars here.

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But looking at percentages across the three years shows a clear trend: SUVs have gone from 15.9 percent of the market to almost 40 percent (36.8 percent, to be precise). 

Before the rise of the SUV, sedans were the default car body style since forever – ask a kid to draw a car, and they’ll come up with the classic three-box shape

In 2020, SUVs got really, really close taking 33.5 percent of the pie, compared to 34 percent by sedans. That all changed in 2021, with SUVs pulling clearly ahead to 36.8 percent against 33 percent for sedans. 

This, or a sedan one size down for S$6k less?

Part of this is also down to the demise of the compact car class – both compact sedans (like the Toyota Vios and Honda City) and compact hatches (example: Toyota Yaris, Honda Jazz) have become less popular now, whereas they once dominated the sales charts. 

The rising overall costs of cars seem to benefit small cars (a size up from compacts) since they don’t cost a whole lot more, but provide a meaningful increase in size/space/practicality. Just compare a Honda City at S$118k with COE, to a Honda HR-V at S$124k with COE – it’s only a S$6k difference, but a clear step up from a compact segment car, to a small segment car. 

However as we pointed out in 2020, sedans might not be on top, but we’re not at the last chance saloon just yet, as sedans aren’t lagging horrendously in the race, compared to other car types. 

A tiny car no longer means a tiny pricetag – as the Suzuki Ignis shows

At the same time, SUVs have gained so much just as hatchback and MPV styles have declined. In the case of people-movers, 2019 saw a dramatic step down and almost an inversion of the SUV trend with MPVs going from almost a third of the market, to just 14 percent now.

Hatchbacks, in the meantime, have never been super popular here aside from affordable compacts – the Suzuki Swift comes to mind – but as mentioned, the price-to-value ratio of SUVs has them on the back foot. 

There are lots of new cars coming to Singapore in 2022 and yes, lots of them are SUVs even this million-dollar Maybach

Another reason for the dominance of the SUV is that the style can now be found in every size and price bracket,from the tiny Suzuki Ignis to the massive (and massively expensive) Rolls-Royce Culinan

SUVs also got an electric boost – they’re the body style most suited to electrification, and the first wave of full EVs are chock full of SUVs (or the other way around). Singapore’s first EV showcase, EV Weekend, had 10 EVs on display with eight of them being SUVs – one being BMW’s new iX flagship.

And lastly, how about some clue that 2021 was a ‘YOLO’ year? Despite the overall market remaining flat (no major increase nor decrease in registrations) coupes, typically the least popular body style in practicality-driven Singapore, saw a notable increase from 3.06 percent to 3.44 percent. 


2021 Analysis body type sales segment Singapore SUV

About the Author

Derryn Wong

CarBuyer's former chief editor was previously the editor for Top Gear Singapore and a presenter for CNA's Cruise Control motoring segment.

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