After the years of recession, and at a time when motoring insurance premiums are generally predicted to rise, it’s nice to have some good news – in 2014, Britain’s sales of new cars were better than they had been for 10 years.

Latest figures from the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders show that over 2,476,000 new cars drove on to our roads in 2014. Not only is this the highest figure in a decade, but it’s also the fourth best year ever, buoyed by growing economic confidence.

The rise is an increase of 9.4% on 2013, signifying a real departure from the years of downturn, as over a million more new cars are driven away from forecourts and showrooms than in the immediate aftermath of the financial crisis. In fact, car sales have grown for nearly the last three years, although sales are predicted to be rather more modest in 2015, at about 1 or 2%. Britain now has Europe’s second biggest market for new cars, with Germany having the largest.

Popular finance packages and new super fuel-efficient designs have also boosted sales, alongside rising economic confidence. Alternatively fuelled vehicles enjoyed particularly strong sales, and plug-in car registrations went up fourfold since 2013. As more models of this kind emerge on to the market this year, this sector is only likely to expand even further in 2015. Overall, UK car production (more than three quarters of which is exported) rose to around 1.5 million models, the largest rise since 1972.

Now a year of consistent, solid growth is expected in 2015 as new models lift the domestic market – among others, a new generation Vauxhall Astra is due, alongside the first full 12 months of production for the newly minted Nissan Qashqai and the new gen Mini.

Ford took the top two slots for 2014 bestsellers, with its Fiesta and Focus models, which sold 131,254 and 85,140 units respectively during the course of the year. The Corsa was in at number three, followed by the VW Golf, while another Vauxhaull, the Astra, was the fifth best seller with nearly 60,000 units sold.