An oft-quoted phrase from people who really don’t know any better is that modern cars aren’t as stylish as their counterparts of yesteryear.
We love our classics here at carwow but this is plainly codswallop – it doesn’t take much digging through our car chooser to find dozens of cars whose style rises above the common herds.
Better still, these cars can be on your driveway for surprisingly modest amounts. So given a budget of £20,000 – less, in the case of several vehicles here, what’s your idea of style? Scroll down for our list, ranked in ascending order of price.
1. Volkswagen Up (from £8,265)
The Volkswagen Up is about as close as you’ll get to an iPod on wheels at the moment – that’s certainly the look you get when viewing the car’s glass rear tailgate. Clean lines and a minimalist look are the order of the day here, and it’s likely to age very well indeed. Great car, too!
2. Fiat 500 (from £10,160)
Where VW goes modern, Fiat is looking to the past with its 500. It’s been on sale a good few years now, but Fiat hasn’t messed with the styling – it’s still achingly chic. Familiarity may have bred contempt for some, but retro sells right now and the 500 nails that look.
3. Citroen DS3 (from £12,495)
If retro isn’t your thing, maybe Citroen’s ‘anti-retro’ DS3 will appeal. You get endless personalisation options but a thoroughly modern take on a stylish city car. The DS3 looks right wherever you put it, from popular night spots to posh hotels. For extra style points, there’s also a convertible version.
4. Renault Zoe (from £13,443)
Renault has launched two superminis in the last few years, the new Clio and its Zoe electric car. We reckon the Zoe is the looker of the duo – pick a light, metallic shade like Calico Grey, Arctic White or Energy Blue, and the Zoe stands out as the modern, organic shape it is. Renault’s blue detailing hints at the electric powertrain within. The price shown includes the government’s £5,000 grant for electric vehicles.
5. Volkswagen Beetle (from £15,715)
Back to retro now. When VW launched the New Beetle in 1998 we weren’t so keen on the overly blobby looks, but the latest Beetle is much more swish. At a glance it has that true classic Beetle shape, but up-close it’s as solid as any other modern VW and really turns heads. There are neat touches inside too, such as a drop-down glovebox.
6. SEAT Leon SC (from £15,550)
SEAT has had some hits and misses in the past, but the latest three-door Leon SC looks great. New Audi TT aside, it’s easily the most stylish of the VW Group’s MQB platform cars – the Golf, Octavia, A3 and others – with sharp creases in the sides and neat proportions. It’s sporty, but doesn’t shout about it.
7. Alfa Romeo Giulietta (from £18,235)
Alfa Romeo has made some truly beautiful cars in the past, and while the Giulietta struggles to match some of those, it’s still one of the most distinctive cars in its class. You get sweeping lines, a classic grille and a classy range of alloy wheels – and the review ratings aren’t bad either.
8. Volvo V40 (from £18,995)
From Italian grace to Swedish style – the V40 looks fab. It’s best from the rear, where the glass tailgate has hints of Volvo’s classic P1800 ES shooting brake – but elsewhere it’s chunky and sleek in equal measure. The interior is excellent too: not just comfortable, but modern and well-built.
9. Mazda 6 (from £19,595)
The word “Kodo” probably doesn’t mean a lot to you, but to Mazda it means “the soul of motion”. Pretentious? Possibly, but if it means Mazda builds cars like the 6 then we don’t mind. We’d argue it’s a better-looking saloon than anything the German brands are churning out at the moment, almost Italian in its curves. Even better, it drives as well as it looks.
10. Kia Optima (from £19,795)
You won’t often find a Kia sitting atop other vehicles in terms of price, but you get a lot of car for just shy of twenty grand. Competing with the Mazda 6, the Optima‘s look is a lot more graphical. When we tested one in late 2012, we saw hints of Saab, Lexus and Jaguar – all badges with much greater social standing than Kia, all the more impressive on a car in this price range. Get one with the razor-like 18-inch wheels for the full effect.
Any stylish cars we’ve missed out? Let us know in the comments section below!