The cars most worthy of wall art and computer screensavers are also the most expensive and unattainable to the average driver, such as Ferraris, Aston Martins and the like. And for the hundreds of thousands, or even millions, required to buy them, you’d expect them to look the part.
But what of everyday motors? Can the cars used by commuters and weekly shoppers be deemed beautiful, or is that a privilege reserved for only the most prestige of badges? To answer that, Vanarama applied science, mathematics and the golden ratio to the most common UK cars and ranks the results.
The Audi A3 is the most beautiful everyday car (83 points out of 100)
It’s followed by the VW Golf and Vauxhall Mokka (tied on 80 out of 100)
German brands account for eight of the 10 most beautiful cars
The Kia Picanto is the least beautiful car (seven points out of 100)
The Citroen C1 and Kia Sportage are the second- and third-most ugly cars (12 and 15 out of 100 respectively)
On average, Audi makes the best-looking cars (77 points out of 100)
While Kia makes the worst-looking cars (19 out of 100)
Saloons are the most beautiful (66 points out of 100)
City cars are the least beautiful (26 points out of 100)
Calculating The Best-Looking Cars Of The Common Driver
To ensure the likes of Lamborghini and Lotus (exclusive carmakers with an expected level of beauty) don’t sway the results, we looked at the 50 most licensed models in the UK today.
While this list includes typically high-end manufacturers such as Land Rover and BMW, the specific models covered are among those most driven in the UK, so we can be sure our data covers the cars that are most relevant to motorists. In all, the final data covers 19 million (18,633,674) individual registered vehicles.
We analysed several proportions for each of the 50 most licensed models, looking at specific dimensions like length and wheelbase, as well as key design features, such as the placement of badges and lights. According to the golden ratio’s principles, this is how the human eye perceives the beauty of objects.
The Audi A3 Is The Most Beautiful Car
Scoring 83 out of a possible 100, with up to 50 points on visual appearance and up to 50 points on vehicle dimensions, the Audi A3 is the most beautiful car for the average driver according to maths.
That’s largely down to its visual performance (47 points out of 50), with only three cars in our study (Nissan Qashqai, Toyota Yaris and Honda CR-V) scoring higher on this factor. This score is calculated by analysing proportions as the human eye does – such as the placement of the badge and lights in relation to each car’s overall height and width. Our analysis picked out some key trends in car design:
Cars with wider lights that reached closer to the centre of the car are the best looking, while narrow lights resulted in lower scores – explaining the low scores of the MINI 3-door Hatch and Fiat 500
The placement of lights also had the largest impact on total scores, with many models scoring well elsewhere but being let down on this factor
Low badge placement, in relation to a model’s overall height, on the front of the cars translated into a strong visual score
At the rear, a higher badge equalled a stronger score
British Brand Vauxhall Makes One Of The Most Beautiful Cars
Despite the ever-popular Qashqai SUV having the best possible visual score (50 out of 50), it managed only 19 points on its actual dimensions, which are well wide of the golden ratio. In fact, the only SUV to appear in the top 10 is the third-placed Vauxhall Mokka. The Volkswagen Golf, which first arrived in the 1970s, sits in second with an overall score of 80.
German brands Audi, BMW, Mercedes-Benz and VW account for eight of the 10 best-looking cars in our study, joined only by the Ford Focus (USA) and Mokka (UK).
The Kia Picanto Is The Ugliest Car According to Maths
Kia’s Picanto supermini sits on a score of just seven out of 100, making it the car that’s furthest from the golden ratio and thus the least easy on the eye. According to the 196,970 Picantos on the road, however, drivers are making up their own minds.
The Citroen C1 is just behind on a score of 12 and then, surprisingly, the Kia Sportage on 15. The Sportage is among the UK’s most popular cars in 2023, with a raft of awards and 3,671 new registrations already as of February 2023. Part of the draw is in its bold design, perhaps further evidence of Kia deliberately applying and benefiting from its own design philosophy.
Audi Takes The Title Of Most Beautiful Car Manufacturer
The German names dominate on a make level in this study, but it’s Audi getting gold overall as the manufacturer with the highest average score. The Ingolstadt manufacturer has an average score of 77, while BMW (second) and Mercedes (third) are on 70 and 67 respectively.
Just outside the top three is Skoda. Despite its reputation as VW Group’s budget-oriented brand, it comfortably beats more premium rivals like Range Rover and MINI, scoring 62 out of 100. It seems the latest Skodas pair the solid build quality that they’ve always been known for with striking designs that acknowledge the golden ratio’s principles
Kia Makes The Ugliest Cars, Followed By Land Rover
Grouping the results by manufacturer places Kia firmly at the foot of the table as the maker of the least beautiful cars, with an average score of just 11 out of 100. But with several award wins and no slow in sales, it’s unlikely the South Korean carmaker’s top brass are concerned.
Second-bottom is Land Rover (18 out of 100) and then Fiat (22 out of 100), thanks to the low-scoring Fiat 500. According to the latest licensing statistics, however, there are 390,921 of them on our roads – making the Fiat 500 the fourteenth-most popular car in the UK.
The number one most popular car in the UK is the Ford Fiesta, with 1,462,761 (1.5 million) examples on UK roads. Despite just missing out on the top 10 most beautiful cars, the Fiesta scored strongly on its length and wheelbase in comparison to the golden ratio.
Saloons Are The Most Beautiful Cars
We also grouped the results by car type to see which of them most accurately followed the golden ratio’s teachings – and whether current consumer trends were in tow. In short, they aren’t.
The science signals saloons, such as the BMW 3 Series and Audi A4, as the most beautiful car type (66 points out of a possible 100). But the latest registrations data from the SMMT shows UK motorists aren’t of the same thinking; not a single saloon appears in the most registered cars for 2023 so far.
That data swings heavily in favour of SUVs. Of the ten most popular cars, eight are SUVs – a car type that our study reveals as only the fourth-best-looking body shape (46 points out of 100). Hatchbacks and superminis complete the top three (61 and 48 points respectively).
City Cars Are The Least Aesthetically Pleasing
Despite being a popular choice, among new drivers especially, city cars like the Citroen C1 are the ugliest according to our research (26 points out of 100 on average).
Second-lowest is the estate on 33 points. However, these models prioritise practicality over perfect proportions; the Volkswagen Passat Estate has 650 litres of boot space as standard or 1,780 litres with the rear seats down. Others may offer more of a balance, though, such as the BMW 3 Series Touring and Audi A4 Avant – both the estate versions of models that scored so highly in our study.
MPVs, short for multi-purpose vehicles, are marginally better off on an average score of 39 out of 100, although SUVs and crossovers have taken much of their demand in recent years.
To determine the most and least beautiful everyday drivers’ cars, we compared the proportions of the UK’s 50 most licensed models (from Department for Transport and Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency data) to the golden ratio (1.618).
Each car was scored on two key design factors: overall vehicle dimensions and visual proportions, in terms of how the naked eye perceives shapes. The maximum score for each factor was 50, with the highest scores going to the designs that were closest to the golden ratio on percentage.
These two scores were then combined for each car to give an overall score out of 100, with the highest scores indicating the most beautiful cars according to the golden ratio. Results were also grouped to find the most and least beautiful car manufacturers and car body types.