A national index of car thefts has revealed that the car most likely to be stolen in Britain is a 1986 Vauxhall Belmont [the saloon version of a model sold in other markets as the Opel Kadett], the Daily Telegraph reported.

Two other Vauxhall vehicles - the 1984 Astra Mk2 [Opel Kadett hatchback] and 1983 Nova [Opel Corsa] - are the second and third most vulnerable to theft, the report added.

The paper said the annual Car Theft Index places four Vauxhalls, three Fords and three Austin/Morris cars, all made between 1981 and 1989, in the top 10 most stolen and confirms a well-established trend in the UK car industry - older cars are much more likely to be stolen than newer ones, with those made between 11 and 15 years ago accounting for 41% of all thefts.

Only 3% of cars made last year were stolen, compared with 30% of those built in 1989, the Daily Telegraph said, adding that, overall, 314,749 cars were stolen in 2002, a decrease of 7.9% on the year before.

The paper noted that small saloons were most at risk, with 13 out of every 1,000 being stolen, while people carriers [minivans] were the least targeted by thieves, with only six thefts per 1,000 vehicles.

Christopher Macgowan, chief executive of The Society of Motor Manufacturers, told the Daily Telegraph that the report backed up research showing it was virtually impossible to steal a new car without access to the correct keys.