Why are Current Cars So Bloody Ugly?

Posted on August 6th, 2008 in Driving Emotion,styling by Julian Edgar

I just can’t believe how ugly cars have become.


Surely, when assessed from 50 years’ hence, the first part of the 21st century will be viewed as the all-time nadir in car styling.


There’s no point in giving examples – simply look at all the cars around you. Jarring discordance as stylists mix flat and rounded and sharp and fussy, no apparent clean-sheet designs – just variations in copying a handful of (awful) themes.


I read somewhere how someone really liked the look of a recent BMW. Surely they must be joking? These cars are fundamentally stylistically flawed; the fact that others copy them simply shows the imitating designers’ aesthetic limitations.


Sure, some current cars look fashionable – but are they well styled, good looking, or even beautiful? Only someone visually impaired could possibly think so.


Look at today’s shapes and then think of past cars.


The original Porsche Boxster? One of the best styled cars ever.


Many  – in fact a majority – of the 1950s American machines? Gloriously sweeping sculptures of chrome and metal and glass.


The 1930s Cord? Incredible.


The E-Type Jaguar? Incomparable.


But even stepping away from the exotic and looking at the humdrum: the Holden HQ Monaro? So tightly drawn, those rear bulging haunches of muscle.


Even the last Monaro – in its initial (non-nostril) form, one of the best looking cars I have ever seen.


The XD Falcon? Superbly proportioned example of the folded-edge school of design.


Even the Mini – the original; not the bloated and absurd recent pretender to the name. The Mini made industrial design fashionable: utterly different from taking fashion and applying it to industrial design.


So tell me, what are some new-shape cars being sold today that are well styled, and that will be regarded as so in many years? Not cars that are fashionable within the context of today’s horrible design cues, but are in fact timeless?


I can’t think of any.


Can you?



29 Responses to 'Why are Current Cars So Bloody Ugly?'

Subscribe to comments with RSS

  1. Rowan said,

    on August 6th, 2008 at 6:47 pm

    I may be alone here, but i still think the previous Honda Accord Euro, (not the new angular shaped one) to be one of the nicest looking sedans of the last couple of years.
    But generally i do agree that it seems to be a battle of the manufacturers to produce THE most ugly vehicles.
    Maybe ugly sells?

  2. Jay said,

    on August 6th, 2008 at 8:13 pm

    997 the best 911 and 987 Boxster are beautiful. Both Cayenne’s fugly.
    D3 A8 much better styled inside and outside than the current 7 series and any S class.
    Current Ford and Holden look OK but the copy the Germans.

    [WORDPRESS HASHCASH] The poster sent us ‘0 which is not a hashcash value.

  3. Howard said,

    on August 6th, 2008 at 11:02 pm

    Jeebus! Julian, lay off the Red! “The XD Falcon? Superbly proportioned example of the folded-edge school of design.”
    What’s next? “The Fiat 125, a brilliant display of awkwardness and ugliness all rolled into 1 to provide a beuty that rivals the Mona Lisa”???
    I however, do actually like the current Lancer’s shape. It’s front reminds me (for some reason) of an earlier model (mid/late nineties, I think) Aston Martin Vantage.
    The VE Commondore in SS guise, muscular and meaning business.
    But the BA onwards Falcon, a shape that was so applauded after the AU, actually nags at me for being a bit too pradictable/boring/inoffencive.
    Long live the distinctive Afa 75 (probably more so because I own 1 ;-))

  4. Ben G said,

    on August 6th, 2008 at 11:36 pm

    The Alfa Romeo Brera looks good to me, and also other models like the 156 sedan and 147 hatch. Ford KA – arguably the modern successor to the original mini/beetle concept. Also the Fiat Grande Punto, and Suzuki Swift.

  5. Frank Dellen said,

    on August 7th, 2008 at 4:11 am

    Today’s cars are ugly because designers have forgotten when to stop – they keep adding lines and shapes in hope to give the car a more dynamic look. Also, details like wheelarches and grilles are over-emphasized and totally out of proportion.

    I predict cars of today will be seen in the future as we (well, most of us) see the fintail boats of the 50s: loaded with ornamental overkill, bloated with ridiculuosly useless styling lametta.

    The last Ford Mondeo was a well designed car, imo. Unfortunately, people can’t see the beauty of elegant simplicity anymore and dissed the car as bland, leading to the current Mondeo with lots of bling added.

  6. Stewart said,

    on August 7th, 2008 at 7:29 am

    I kept quiet about this, but the late 80’s to 2000’s did seem a golden age for looks (as well as performance).
    especially for japanese vehicles.
    Funny Julian, i am also noticing the same with music brought out in the last 5 years!

  7. Bob said,

    on August 7th, 2008 at 11:36 am

    XD Falcon? Timeless? What the?? That surely must be one of the single most ugliest cars I can think of. Mostly however, I agree with you.

    I do however, like the styling of the modern audis – how about the R8?

    Hopefully Alfa will produce the 8C competizione. That is a real contender for a modern classic.

  8. Peter said,

    on August 7th, 2008 at 1:30 pm

    Citroen C2 and C3 – interesting to look at, well proportioned inside and out (coming from a VE commodore driver).

  9. Bob jay said,

    on August 7th, 2008 at 4:33 pm

    I AGREE TOTALLY Too many modern cars and SUVs emulate something out of Gotham City! Then again, in an aggressive environment, having some “front’ or “machismo’ may be necessary.
    I also agree that Falcon XD and Monaro (non nostril) were great. How about pre-Bangle BMW 5 series and just superceded Merc S in short wheelbase sedan with nice mags as good examples and maybe the original Mazda 6 sedan. Ditto the BA XR6 which has (had) a smooth edge to it (oops it not the current one either).
    I quess you are right…….. Bob Jay

  10. Michael said,

    on August 7th, 2008 at 4:49 pm

    have to disagree about the new bmw shapes, they look horn, one of the best looking cars on the road at this time, its the only thing that looks stylish and fresh, even makes the good looking e46 look dated, and they aren’t a terrible car by anyone imagination.

  11. Brendon said,

    on August 7th, 2008 at 8:16 pm

    I agree that not many new cars on the market look good. The new Falcons and Commodores are either boring or completely overdone depending on the model.

    I will probably get laughed at for this, but some of the best looking cars currently available are the Nissan Maxima (or Teana in Japan) and the Audi A4 sedan.

    One of the best older/classic car shapes ever is the W116 Mercedes Benz, esp in long wheelbase form (yes, I am a biased owner).

    My picks for the 90’s/00’s are the E39 BMW 5 series, Lexus IS200/300, EF/EL and BA Falcon and Chrysler 300C.

    Supercars and exotics do nothing for me.

  12. doctorpat said,

    on August 7th, 2008 at 8:36 pm

    Audi TT. Not the current one, the original. I’ve already described this as a car that will be pictured on the walls of a design studio in 2050.

    The original Jag XK8, (not the current one, that is a copy of the Tiburon)

    I agree that the Audi A6 and the Nissan Maxima are both good. In both cases I stopped and looked for a few minutes at the first one I saw. Like a peugeot 406, but not, under any circumstances, the 407, which is exactly what JE is complaining about. The Brera is great.

    But since the Monaro, the current Falcadores only look good as a ute.

    The BMW look only sort of works with the performance M3 and M5, where the harsh styling looks aggressive and macho. And the boot of the 6 and 7 series is hideous.

    And I like the current Mini. AND the 300C. So there.

  13. Mr K said,

    on August 8th, 2008 at 2:48 pm

    The same thing is happening in the motorcycle world. I don’t think anything elegant and original has been created since the Ducati 916 and MV Agusta of the 1990s.

  14. Dave R said,

    on August 8th, 2008 at 4:44 pm

    Surely any aston martin produced in the last five years is worthy….

  15. Don said,

    on August 8th, 2008 at 7:20 pm

    You guys must be smokin something! It might be my age, but all the cars you have mentioned as ‘hot’ are the ugliest cars I have ever laid eyes on, and all the cars you seem to be raggin on are way hot. I’m sorry but I believe nothing made before the 1980’s is even worth looking at. Is this an April fool’s joke at the wrong time of the year?

    P.S. Just thought I needed to stick up for all the ‘real’ hot cars.

  16. sean sverige said,

    on August 8th, 2008 at 8:05 pm

    This turned up in a search engine result, and whilst I agree with a some the points you make (but disagree with the central argument) this half arsed, half baked mess you’ve concocted irritated me so much I couldn’t let it go unchallenged: this drivel looks like it took 30 sec to research and not much more to write.

    We are not in fact living through a nadir in car design – there is a lot of good stuff out there, there’s some OK stuff and some bad stuff: pretty much the same as it ever was. The thing about historical perspective is that the very best and the very worst are most commonly remembered, but the rank and file forgotten: the 57 Bel Air and the Edsel are remembered, but a lot of contemporary stuff forgotten. I bet you also used to peddle the ‘all cars looks alike ‘cos they’re designed on computers’ nonsense when in fact it can easily be demonstrated there has been plagiarism & herd like mentality throughout the history of the car.

    “I read somewhere how someone really liked the look of a recent BMW. Surely they must be joking? These cars are fundamentally stylistically flawed” please, be more vague – which BMW (and precisely who is copying them at a macro level)? Flawed, how? No, don’t bother expanding or justifying this argument with ANY insight, facts or analysis: really, I insist. And mentioning BMW right after complaining of no clean sheet designs would seem to undermine your own point.

    If history IS so littered with classic design, how come you’re only able to come up with a such pathetically small list – my god, you are by definition aware of the internet: how hard could it have been to google all the other most beautiful car lists out there? I could pick a single decade and come up with a longer list (BTW saying many of the US 50’s stuff doesn’t cut it – the Edsel wasn’t the only ugly one). Short as it is, your list is seriously flawed. The XD falcon…. really? Whilst I admit it has a certain period charm, you list this (alongside an E-Type, LOL!) but omit the following: Ferrari 250 GTO, P3 Lamborghini Muira and – if you to talk about folded-edge – the original Countach (before they festooned it with crap), or the Lotus Esprit; Bugatti type 35, Citroen DS, C-Type, Ford GT40.
    I do have a soft spot for the HQ Monaro – but can it be honestly be placed above the ’64-’67, ’70 Mustangs, ’68 Charger, ’70 ‘Cuda? I could go on – and I’m limiting myself to roadgoing cars. Let me guess, you have either owned or coveted the HQ & XD (also you dis fashionable design that dates, and then namecheck folded edge design, er….. OK). Yes, the current Monaro is a great car, but no more than an above average piece of styling.

    By the ‘original’ Boxster please god tell you mean the Detroit concept not the production reality: which is nice (in a bland sort of way) – but a classic??? So for the record, here are cars currently on sale most likely be looked on as classics:

    Alfa 8C: and the rest of the range is hardly ugly

    Aston Martin DB9: many people would also suggest the Vantage, and they may be right but it doesn’t quite do it for me, but the DB9’s near flawless – for any age

    Audi TT: personally I prefer the original, but for those who can’t stomach espresso – here’s a latte

    BMW 5: for the record I am in no way a Bangle fan (rather the opposite) but when history gets written up, not only will this be held as the best of that era, by then most people will have actually learnt to look at the well proportioned, modern and well resolved design beneath the controversy. I guarantee you it’s replacement will not be as good looking, either when new or as old as the current design is now.

    Golf V GTi: in white, on the factory option 18″ Monza’s

    RR Phantom: Massive presence, wonderfully detailed; and you only have to look at the Maybach to see how bad it could have been….

    Lamborghini Gallardo: the Murcielago looked fantastic until this, came along – now looks bloated in comparison

    Range Rover: Bending the rules here, because the 2003 original is the classic – it’s just got fussier since. However, still a poised design that belies it’s bulk: truly a velvet glove over an iron (aluminium? 😉 fist

    Merc CLS: ignore if you will the ‘4 door coupe’ guff and you’ll see it’s a great piece of theatre. Couldn’t drive one myself, but always cheers me: it’s a wonderful pantomime baddie – the nearest modern equivalent to a true muscle car.

    Fiat Grande Punto Abarth: Like the GTi – a warmed over version of a mainstream staple. However if the basic model weren’t fundamentally right, it would take more than a some big wheels and a bodykit to make it scrub up so well.

    Honourable mentions:
    Fiat 500: I really don’t like retro (I detest the new Beetle and mini), but a good job stylistically, and has stayed truer to it’s original ethos – cheap, cheerful and compact. Have you seen pictures of the new Ford Ka (it’s sister)? Which would you choose?

    Honda civic (euro): this is the mass appeal volume model! OK, it’s doesn’t fly – but this does look like it belongs in the 21st century.

    Jag XK/R: The fact is that modern legislation, manufacturing costs & aerodynamic understanding make it highly unlikely we will see anything as good looking again as the E-Type in absolute terms. Even in that context, this is still a damn good looking car.

    Nissan GT-R: Not pretty, but not truly ugly: has that brutal sense of purpose more commonly found in heavy machinery and military equipment. Fails to make the top table because of a few details – literally. The door handles, the front render outlets and other bits are simply over designed – time they should have spent on the interior, which is a mess.

    And that’s just my personal list – I think others would and could make cases for the Alfa Brera, Maserati Gran Turismo, Murcielago, Chrysler 300C, C6 (corvette and Citroen), Bentley GT & 350Z.

    In the sin bin:
    Audi R8, Jaguar XF, Mondeo, any Ferrari, Ssangyong or Jeep.

    The sad thing is I actually agree with you in certain respects – but let’s all thank god that however bad anyone thinks current car design is, they put a little more effort in to it than you do your writing. Maybe you had a deadline, maybe a quota, maybe I give a shit: the next time you want to score some easy points at least take the time an effort to make the original post an informed, entertaining read. What’s next weeks topic: that noise that the youth of today call music?

  17. Mike said,

    on August 9th, 2008 at 7:21 pm

    Hi all. I’d like to say in terms of the more modern cars, for me, the late 1980s and 1990s brought some beautiful designs.

    Two great examples are the Nissan Silvia / 200SX S14 and S15 models – still so nice to look at.

    Another one that springs to mind is the FD Mazda RX-7 – still has that sleek and stylish look.

    I don’t really like some of the newer designs – the early late 1980s and 1990s brought most of my (modern) favourites.

  18. Mike said,

    on August 9th, 2008 at 7:32 pm

    Sorry, the last bit should read “the late 1980s and 1990s”

  19. Mike said,

    on August 9th, 2008 at 7:42 pm

    In terms of cars still available for sale, the Z33 350Z and the new GT-R look awesome, and the current model 2-door BMW coupe is a beauty (e.g. 335i, M3). I also like the styling of the Evo X, although the Evo VI TME still looks the best to me.

    I still think there’s some nice designs coming out, but not as many as there used to be.

  20. Tom said,

    on August 9th, 2008 at 11:36 pm

    I tend to agree with Sean Sverige. I think there are plenty of really nice designs today. The Alfa 8C is a beautiful car. But of course you could argue it is “copied” from other cars, much the same as there are only 100 jokes, everything else is a re-hash or modification.

    As for some of the old-time classics, everyone seems to mention things like the E-Type. I personally don’t like it all and can’t understand why it is regarded as a classic design. It is ugly to me.

    Designs might be regarded as classics by “designers” in much the same way as some snooty wine connoiseur prefers some subtle flavour over another that a common person simply cannot distinguish.

    But at the end of the day it is market appeal to motoring enthusiasts that matters. A car needs to be easy on the eye to the common man, not a design student that has been taught some other man’s idea of what good design is.

    I think design, and beauty, is in the eye of the beholder. Truly a timeless proverb.

  21. Shane Quinn said,

    on August 10th, 2008 at 12:32 pm

    An objective comment on design looks may be best made by someone who has not driven that car. They are unaffected by feel, build quality, NVH, or the almost repugnant new-car-smell of some Korean cars. I have never driven, nor been passenger in, my choice but have carefully considered every panel & light shape & functionality of design. Therefore in 2008 Kia Rio does it for me as Pug 307 did it before.

  22. Michael said,

    on August 11th, 2008 at 4:32 am

    What bothers is the similarity of designs as opposed to the diversity and character of past cars.
    A reason for this could be the number of regulations that has risen and which designers have to conform to.
    Another one could be the prevalence of aerodynamic-economy computerized design tools based on mathematical approaches rather than, simply, aesthetic criteria.

  23. Paris said,

    on August 11th, 2008 at 8:15 am

    Sean matey I think you fail to understand the fundamental idea of the ‘Blog’. Its a chance for Julian to talk about his own thoughts and ideas in a less formal medium, allowing him to be as subjective or objective as he feels like being at any given time. Based on your comments, you also fail to understand the meaning of ‘subjective’ and ‘objective’ with regards to your own opinions.
    For what its worth, I didnt agree with you immediately Julian, but I reckon you’re pretty much spot on now. My only exception would be the current Subaru Liberty range- it has some very clean lines and a nice design (I find the idea of a 190kw 3L n/a touring sedan sexy too).

  24. sean sverige said,

    on August 12th, 2008 at 12:18 am


    This is precisely the reason why I don’t normally allow myself get sucked into such nonsense, if there was a way I could I have directed my comments solely at Julian, I would have done so. And he doesn’t have anything to worry about ‘cos based on this I won’t be bothering to read any of the other posts. Unless ‘blog’ or ‘less formal’ have become synonyms for sloppy, unresearched, populist crap since last I checked then, no, I don’t ‘get’ blogs; and being subjective (as most columns are in ‘new’ media or old) does not preclude well expressed, articulate writing.

    However I think it is you who are the one missing the point. I ASSUME this blog’s meant to be an opinionated, witty, entertaining piece that stimulates debate – the problem is that it is only the first of those. If he’s going to expound such opinions (even if only as Devil’s Advocate), the least he can do is support them with something more than vague generalisms, and come up with something wittier than calling anyone who disagrees visually impaired. If he had made an interesting case and entertaining read my attitude would have been utterly different, whether I agreed with him or not – the fact that it’s so slipshod is my main beef and if it wasn’t already apparent, the reason bothered commenting at all.

    I am fully aware of the distinction between objective and subjective but given that tenor of the original post I thought I’d respond in kind – hell, I don’t even accuse him of being ‘visually impaired’. I thought most of my choices were self evident and I’m pretty sure if were to put it to a popular vote my case would be proven. However I am fully capable of providing a detailed case for each of my choices (which can be supported objective elements such as proportion, surfacing and stance), but if he couldn’t be arsed putting together a coherent argument why should I contribute to my RSI any more than necessary? Having made some suggestions, if you really are going to try to argue that cars such as the 8C, Gallardo & DB9 are ugly the burden of proof is on you, not the defence.

    May I remind the witness the topic at hand is styling – 3l Boxer engines are not admissable as evidence (no matter how cool they are.) If you genuinely think that the current Legacy (as it is here) is a better looking car than all of the above then I see little point in further discussion. It is certainly a well resolved design – the best of the current Subaru range (which isn’t saying much) – but a classic? ‘Nice’ doesn’t make the cut – it’s a talented midfielder at best.

  25. doctorpat said,

    on August 12th, 2008 at 1:34 pm

    Well the Subaru Liberty is clearly better looking than the E-type, which looks like someone overinflated it until it was about to fall over.

    Of course if you want a truly beautiful car, see http://www.brooklands.com/extra_photos.php?vehicle_id=160

    It’s Aussie too.

  26. ivan said,

    on August 13th, 2008 at 5:25 pm

    You guys are just old! Every decade has had its great design of cars. I’m looking forward to all cars after 2010. the 60’s – 70’s and 00’s in my opinion are the winners.

  27. Darren Roles said,

    on August 15th, 2008 at 1:13 pm

    My car looks good…beauty is in the eye of the beholder?

    Although the AU, Ford Taurus, TL Magna…they look ridiculous, all mainly because of stupid headlights.

  28. Mark said,

    on September 3rd, 2008 at 4:43 pm

    I’m late but how about this for folded edge design in 1970: http://www.tobiasullrich.de/monteverdi/cars/hs3754/index.html

    As for classics, the Ferrari P4, Ferrari 246 Dino, Ford GT40 (original), Renault Alpine A310 and Lamborghini Muira do it for me.

  29. jettrink said,

    on April 7th, 2009 at 1:34 am

    I drive a 1977 silver oldsmobile 2 door cutlass “s” on weekends its awesome.Modern cars simply cannot not stand up to vehicle’s such as this in looks,and design
    Most modern cars look like a bar of Lux Soap,they all copy each other,their all built to very strict vehicle safety design and thats why they all the same.