What’s the “most beautiful car in the world”? It’s a question every petrolhead has enjoyed debating at some stage – and one that the International Automobile Festival seeks to answer every year. The motor show may not be the most high-profile on the circuit, but it’s based in the world’s fashion capital, Paris – where looking good is a priority – and has buy-in from the industry’s top designers. Winners are generally selected by public vote from a pre-selected shortlist, and with such an emphasis on aesthetics, the results are eagerly anticipated. Here are the models that have earned the right to be called “the most beautiful car” over the past decade…
The rationale behind DS makes sense – given the global appetite for Parisian luxury across many other types of products, why shouldn’t it apply to cars too? This means that the vehicles have to convey a certain degree of sophistication, and that has certainly been achieved with the DS 4. This year a jury of industry professionals (rather than public votes) decided that the muscular stance and well-judged proportions of the French premium hatch deserved the nod over the Peugeot 308, Citroen C5 X and BMW i4. A good choice – the DS 4 is a sharp-looking car that offers something genuinely different.
You might be forgiven for scratching your head at this one. While the GLA is undeniably a step ahead of its predecessor and a smart-enough crossover, singling it out as the most beautiful car of the year seemed to be a rather generous accolade, particularly considering it was up against the cute Honda e, which won a Red Dot design award. But the public gave their verdict and Remi Depoix, founding president of the International Automobile Festival, agreed, saying, “The vehicle is elegant. Its lines are pure and balanced.” So who are we to argue?
The German company has been getting increasingly adventurous with its design in recent years, not always to universal acclaim. Before things got out of hand, its 2 Series Gran Coupe was named as most beautiful car, and it’s certainly one of BMW’s more handsome creations of late, doing a convincing job of conveying the presence of a larger model despite its relatively compact dimensions. To these eyes, though, the shortlisted Mazda 3, another Red Dot award winner, might have been a more obvious winner.
Here’s a choice we can get totally on board with. The handsome French model with upmarket aspirations stands out well against premium rivals from BMW and Audi, and arguably looks even better in sleek estate guise. Its athletic profile and an array of neat details, including frameless doors and signature claw effect rear lights, ensured the award was well deserved, and it polled well ahead of the Mercedes A-Class, Range Rover Evoque and DS 3 Crossback. Such a shame, though, that you see so few 508s on UK roads.
Renault faced a tough task when it resurrected its famous Alpine brand in 2017. Not only did it have to deliver a car that was as magnificent to drive as its predecessors, it also had to look unmistakably like an Alpine. It succeeded on both fronts with the rear-wheel-drive A110 sports car proving to be a sensational performer on the road and serving up plenty of character via a retro-inspired, elegant design. A great example of how a modern update can remain true to a brand’s heritage.
Alfa has a long history of building stunningly designed cars, so there was little surprise in 2016 when the Giulia triumphed from a line-up of finalists that included the Citroen C3, Volvo V90 and Mercedes GLC Coupé. A distinctive face endows it with real character, setting it apart from the likes of its Audi A4 and BMW 3 Series rivals (although, as with many Alfas, it looks much better without a number plate). The bonus was the rear-wheel-drive saloon was genuinely enjoyable to drive too. But as with the 508, it remains a rare sight on British roads.
A motor you may very well have never heard of earned the honour of “most beautiful car in the world” in 2015. That’s because the Talisman, a family car that competes against the likes of the Volkswagen Passat and Ford Mondeo, has never been produced in right-hand-drive form (Renault would never sell enough to warrant the expense of engineering it in RHD). Despite UK buyers’ sniffiness at larger French models, there can be no disputing this version of the Talisman was a bit of a looker, with its bold lines and low centre of gravity making quite an impact.
There was a rare victory for the Brits in 2014 when the Ian Callum-penned XE compact executive got the nod in the public vote. Although similarities with the bigger XF were obvious, the XE had been unveiled to widespread acclaim – with its sporty, well resolved look generally preferred to the more generic style of the Audi A4 and BMW 3 Series – and eight years down the line it still cuts an attractive figure. It proved a worthy winner over the Mazda MX-5, Mercedes C-Class Estate and Fiat 500X.
Hailed by many as the “most important Alfa in a generation” on launch, the mid-engined, carbon fibre-bodied 4C wannabe supercar will ultimately be considered as a glorious disappointment due to an array of compromises and flaws that meant it wasn’t as good to drive as it should have been (or its styling promised). Taking inspiration from Alfas of the past, and adding a hint of Lotus and Porsche, it was way too sexy for fellow finalists the BMW 4 Series, Mercedes CLA and Mazda 3. The old question of where the number plate should be placed remained, though…