Average new car CO2 emissions fell 3.6% in 2013 compared with the previous year according to the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders’ (SMMT) latest report.

The average new car sold in 2013 emitted 128.3g per km CO2, almost 30% down on 2000. The average new car sold is now 42% more fuel efficient over the same period.

The latest figures mean that the UK has achieved the EU’s 130g per km target for 2015 two years early. Europe has set a new target of 95g per km for 2020.

According to SMMT figures released earlier, the total UK car fleet emits 7.3% less CO2 than it did five years ago.

Progress towards average CO2 reductions has been helped by the fact that consumers are increasingly favouring more economical cars. Registrations of cars in the mini segment almost doubled against 2012, while the supermini segment also showed solid growth. A new car is now 20% more efficient than the average car in use,

The SMMT report highlights the fact that car buyers now have increased choice when it comes to alternatively-fuelled vehicles (AFVs), with a threefold increase in the number of plug-in models on the market in the last three years alone. Registrations of AFVs grew 17.6% to 32,731 in 2013, with 7.7% accounted for by pure-electric vehicles.

Mike Hawes, SMMT chief executive, said at the launch of the report: “The UK automotive industry is the poster child of the economic recovery delivering high rates of investment and growth.”

Richard Bruce, director of the Government’s Office for Low Emission Vehicles (OLEV) congratulated the motor industry on its achievements in sustaining reductions in CO2 emissions for over a decade. He pointed to UK investments by Nissan (in electric vehicle and battery production) and Toyota (in hybrid vehicle production) as evidence that the UK’s approach to policy making in this area is working to deliver growth and jobs.