Average carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions from new cars fell 3.5 per cent last year compared with 2009, figures show.
The fall in 2010 means that new car CO2 emissions have declined by more than 20 per cent since 2000, figures from the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) showed.
In 2000, average new car CO2 emissions were 181.0 grammes per 1 kilometre (18l.0g/km). By 2009 this figure had fallen to 149.5g/km, and it went down to 144.2g/km in 2010.
Last year, 56.5 per cent of new cars had a CO2 emission level of 140g/km or less, with 38.2 per cent being under 130g/km and 1.8 per cent being under 100g/km.
In contrast, in 2000 no new cars were under 100g/km, while only 0.9 per cent were under 130g/km and only 8.2 per cent were under 140g/km.
In 2009 (the last year for which data is available) C02 emissions from all cars in use in the UK fell by 2.7 per cent compared with 2008. This 2009 figure was 7.8 per cent below the 2000 level.
According to European Commission (EC) figures, among 15 main EU countries, the UK - at 149.7g/km - had the ninth lowest average new car CO2 emission levels in 2009.
The average for these 15 countries in 2009 was 145.7g/km, with France having the lowest levels (133.5g/km) and Sweden the highest (164.5g/km).
EC regulations in place for 2012 set a target of 130g/km for new cars by 2015. The overall plan is for this target to come down further to 95g/km by 2020.
SMMT chief executive Paul Everitt said the “new products now coming to market demonstrate the potential for the sustained improvement of conventional powertrains, as well as the contribution hybrid, electric and hydrogen-powered vehicles can make”.
“The investment and commitment being shown by industry should reassure Government and society more broadly that the objective of low-carbon mobility is a shared ambition.”