Aesthetically Pleasing Regular Cars
The majority of casual car lovers, hardcore enthusiasts, and automotive journalists love to rant and rave about supercars and sports cars with timeless beauty or glamour. Despite the justifiable fanfare, I believe not enough credit goes to regular cars with style. You see, with a regular car, the design has to be practical, it has to fit a budget, and it has to appeal to a wider demographic. Additionally, most of us will only ever own a ‘regular car’ even if we modify it into something unique. To be specific about the parameters, here a regular car can be anything from a very basic econobox to a mid-level luxury saloon car. These are all cars you didn’t have to be any more than upper middle class to be able to purchase new.
So some of you are already screaming,”But Andrew, that’s not a regular car, the Skyline was a fast and expensive car for its time”. Well, you would be right to say so about the GTR, but the regular Skyline was a rather pedestrian car in Japan. Sure, if you had one you were doing well, but the regular Skylines were modest sporty coupés and saloons. My infatuation with the aesthetics of the R32 Skyline starts with its conservative shape that’s similar to an everyday sedan or coupé with just enough elements of stylistic extravagance to be tasteful. The R32 Skyline is the automotive equivalent of a pair of classic Adidas Sambas. Sporty Skylines like the GT-S strike a perfect balance between the look of a boy racer and a civilized suburban transport. The Skyline came from perhaps the pinnacle era in car design, where market research, wind tunnels, and pedestrian safety hadn’t yet put restrictions on the styling potential of high volume automobiles. This explains why most of the cars on this list were produced in the 80s and 90s if not earlier.
I’ve only ever heard good things about the Peugeot 205 GTI, and from its appearance, I want to believe all the fairy tales surrounding this working-class hero. The 205 GTI front facia actually has a similar style to the R32 Skyline, with a slight tilt forward, a thin grille, and nice white headlights flanked by pizza slice indicators on each side. Also, for a subcompact, it manages to have a deceptively long hood, which helps the car’s looks immensely. The Peugeot 205 GTI is like a short pretty girl that’s not the traditional tall blonde Hollywood type, but just a glance at her makes you feel all giddy inside. And hey, with that short wheelbase it’s nothing but a fun ride anyway. One thing is for sure, and it’s that the Peugeot was probably the best car in your league if you were young (in the right country) when it was new. You Europeans may take the classic Peugeot 205 GTI for granted, but in America, it will be increasingly stealing eyeballs and breaking knecks at car shows as more people import this fun little hot hatch.
Everybody always likes to focus on the E30 as a driving experience, but I also happen to like its boxy exterior as well. The BMW E30 was a premium family car to an affordable luxury car which helped establish the 3 series and BMW as an automotive powerhouse. It also bolstered the reputation of the now prolific M brand with the E30 M3. If you asked any kid to draw a regular sedan or coupé, the outline would look something like that of the E30. The E30 isn’t trying to pretend it’s something it’s not. A BMW E30 is fully aware that it is an average car and nothing more yet still strives for straight As within its place in the hierarchy of automobiles. The front grille is perfectly symmetrical with two round lights to the side and the iconic ‘kidney’ grill in the middle. You could have your E30 as a coupé, convertible, or sedan, but in my opinion, the wagon looks the best and is the most practical. Nowadays no car outside of the Dodge Challenger has the nice flat grille of the E30 and for good reason. Even if cars can’t look like the E30 anymore due to wind tunnels and pedestrian safety, I hope enthusiasts keep E30s on the road for decades to come. The E30’s design is a testament to hard work, and common sense, even in creating cars the average diligent worker can afford.
Generally, Subarus are known for their robust quality, all wheel drive, rumbling boxer sound, and rally heritage, but not their aesthetic beauty. The worst design Subaru has ever made, the bulbous and mangled faced Tribeca provides some validity to the idea that Subarus are not attractive cars. However, I believe that Subaru has made some decent looking cars and that chief of those is the gen 2 Subaru Legacy sold from 1993 to 1999. The gen 1 was a decent start in Subaru’s quest to move into the premium market with handsome cars, but the release of the gen 2 Subaru Legacy provided them with a well-earned mainstream sales success. Like the other cars on this list, the gen 2 Subaru Legacy has the basic outline of your average everyday car, as a sedan, wagon, or a slightly lifted plastic armor clad version of either of those two called the Outback.
The Subaru Legacy gen 2 has objectively one of the best grill and front fascia designs of any Subaru ever produced. The front fascia is sleek and well proportioned, and the expression of the car is just aggressive enough to say,”hey buddy, we’ve got AWD and nothing’s going to stop us”. Front fascia varies depending on model and there is no consensus on with one looks best, but I prefer the Legacy GTB Limited, as I believe it’s the classiest. Extending beyond the face of the car, Subaru gave this Legacy a well-molded body, with clean crisp lines on the sides and on the hood. A nice taillight assembly adorns the rear of the car which borrows styling cues from the ultra futuristic SVX. On the rear, you also get a nice hatch on the wagon models and a plastic covered tail-gate thingy on the rear bumper which is great for accessing the roof or sitting on to relax. The Subaru Legacy gen 2 was an absolutely brilliant car and its sleek looks helped to save Subaru, especially in the American market where it sold quite well (especially the new Outback). The gen 2 Subaru Legacy was the realization of the futuristic design aspirations of the late 80s and early 90s, that wished for ‘family cars’ to be aerodynamic, practical, and stylish all at once. The person who designed the gen 2 Legacy was a man named Olivier Boulay, who was also responsible for the design of the Mercedes W140 S-Class. He has also lead design studios at Mercedes-Benz, Mitsubishi, and Maybach. It’s fair to say Olivier Boulay positively influenced Subaru’s automotive design department in his short time with the company, and helped Subaru in beginning to make more modern looking automobiles which have helped in the brand’s move towards the premium market.
There are two types of people in this world: those who think boxy is beautiful and snobs who are lying to themselves. I’m in the camp that there’s nothing wrong with a nice butch and boxy Volvo. If everybody in the world was only allowed to drive one type of car, a nice boxy Volvo seems like a good choice. Even if you don’t like boxy cars, you have to admit that Volvo does boxy cars best and that the 740 is not a bad looking car. Most people prefer the 240, and that’s an honorable mention, but the 740 takes the cake for me. Some of the best features include the sloped hood, thin body-colored pillars, and square headlights and tail lights which fit the design theme of the car. This Volvo owns it’s boxy nature and doesn’t shy away from that identity. The Volvo 740 is like a piece of geometric modern art that belongs in a museum. If I can’t say the Volvo 740 looks like a work of art then nobody can say cubist or geometric abstract art has artistic merit. Jans Wilsgard, the man responsible for this work of everyday automotive art and head Volvo’s design department from 1950 to 1990 designed by the maxim “simple is beautiful”. Mock that statement all you want as boorish, but I don’t find Volvos to be boring. The boxy Volvos were at the very least inoffensive when it came to aesthetics.
One of Datsun’s early attempt to learn from western automotive design during the 60s, just like many Japanese cars at the time, the Datsun 510 turned out to be a head-turner as well as a driver’s car you could drive every day. Perhaps the greatest thing about the 510 styling wise is how it manages to steal design cues of more expensive cars and formulate it into something beautiful for the masses. The saying,”good artists borrow, great artists steal” stands true in the automotive design world. Like the Volvo, the 510s were boxy, but to a lesser degree, and they had nice chrome common on cars during the period which you couldn’t get away with nowadays. Even so, the 510 looks remarkably advanced despite taking obvious inspiration from other western automobiles as it was sold from 1967 to 1973. Nissan came out with their IDx concept a few years ago that took inspiration from the 510 and this gives us hope we might see a modern equivalent to this charming automobile in the future.
So that’s all for this blog, list, whatever you want to call it. By no means would I claim this list to be conclusive, but I believe these picks are a start to what I would consider stylish regular cars. I also realize many of these cars are from the 80s and 90s. You should understand and keep in mind that this is my personal favorite automotive era, but also that it happened to be a very good time period for high volume production car design due to various factors. I’m considering making a sequel to this post in the future and I’d really like to hear what you guys think about the picks and what you feel are some stunning regular cars that didn’t make this list. My final message is that all of you should take joy in the sight of aesthetically pleasing regular cars as you go through your day and to let that put a smile on your face. #blogpost #regularcars #aesthetic