The UK new car market achieved a 12-year registration high in January with 174,564 cars leaving showrooms last month.

According to Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders’ data, the figure represents a 2.9% overall rise on the same month last year, while the fleet market grew by 1.4%, to 91,181 units.

Alternatively fuelled car registrations also grew – by 19.9% – to take a 4.2% market share, the first time the segment has surpassed 4%. The previous high was 3.6%, achieved in January and November of last year.

Petrol car registrations, meanwhile, grew by 8.9% during the month, while diesel registrations fell by 4.3%. This drop in demand for diesel-powered cars could be down to a number of factors, including increasing negative publicity surrounding the use of diesels.

The best-selling car of 2016, the Ford Fiesta, once again topped the registration charts in January, with 8,495 units leaving showrooms, while the Volkswagen Golf was the second most popular car of the month, on 5,455 registrations.

“2017 got off to a good start in the new car market, buoyed by a great range of new models which are safer and cleaner than ever before. It’s encouraging to see alternatively fuelled vehicles benefiting from this positive growth, reaching a record market share,” said Mike Hawes, SMMT chief executive.

“After record growth in 2016, some cooling is anticipated over the coming months, but provided interest rates remain low and the economy stable, the market is in a good position to withstand its short-term challenges.”