New car registrations out-performed expectations in March, according to a motoring group.
The Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) said there were 394,806 new registrations last month, an increase of 5.9% on the March 2012 total.
Many motorists have been tempted to buy a new car by the release of the new "13" number plates, and the March figures took the number of sales for the first three months of 2013 to 605,198 - a rise of 7.4% on the same period in 2012.
SMMT interim chief executive Mike Baunton said: "Despite ongoing economic concerns, consistent monthly growth in the market is an encouraging sign of returning consumer confidence as motorists are attracted to forecourts by new models and the latest technologies."
Despite the fact that last month was the 13th consecutive month of increased sales, the January to March total is still 12% down on the figure for the first three months of 2007.
Petrol-fuelled cars were more popular than diesels in the first three months of this year, with experts crediting the growth in the small car and private sector markets.
The best selling models in March were (in order of popularity): Ford Fiesta, Vauxhall Corsa, Ford Focus, Volkswagen Golf, Vauxhall Astra, Nissan Qashqai, Volkswagen Polo, BMW 1 Series, Peugeot 208 and Mercedes-Benz C-Class.
Meanwhile, BMW has unveiled a X4 Sports Activity Coupe concept, which it says is almost production ready.
Built as a little brother to the successful X6 model, the German car giant's latest addition is scheduled for launch sometime in 2014.
Sharing a similar look to the X6, the X4 boasts huge 21-inch wheels and is about 4.65 metres long and 1.9 metres wide, making it a sizeable vehicle.
Some are predicting that the new X4 could be powered by a 200-hp, 2.0-litre twin-scroll turbo engine or a 300-hp, 3.0-litre twin-scroll turbo I-6 engine.
BMW said that as one in four cars it sells worldwide is an X model, it makes business sense to expand the range.
BMW said the X4 will be built in the same US plant where the X3, X5 and X6 are produced.
An exact European release date has yet to be disclosed by the car manufacturer, but while it is likely to be available for purchase in the USA and China first, UK buyers should be able to get their hands on one by the end of next year.
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