New car sales accelerated ahead last month, according to figures from the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT).
The lure of the new 62 number plates meant there were 359,612 new registrations in September - a 8.2% rise on the September 2011 total.
Sales for the year so far have reached more than 1.62 million - a 4.3% increase on the January-September total last year.
SMMT chief executive Paul Everitt said: "The important September plate change market outperformed expectations.
"Although the economic outlook remains challenging, we are starting to see a tentative return of consumer confidence as motorists explore new products and the latest fuel-efficient technologies."
New car registrations have grown every month bar one this year, and September volumes were 26,112 units, or 7.8%, above the SMMT's forecast for the month.
However the market remains well below pre-recession levels, indicated by the fact that in 2007, 1.94 million cars were registered in the first nine months of the year.
Registrations of small and dual purpose cars had the biggest rises last month, but almost all segments saw growth.
The five best-selling models in September were the Ford Fiesta, Vauxhall Corsa, Ford Focus, Vauxhall Astra and Volkswagen Golf.