Do modern cars have character?

I’m watching The Birds on TCM, which features a 1954 Aston-Martin DB2/4 Drophead Coupé Mk.I. As you all know, I’ve had a lifelong love of MGBs. Maxwell Smart drove a Tiger. Then there were the classic Jags and Alfas and Fiats and Minis and everything else. Sports cars, family cars, or basic transportation they seemed to have a certain ‘style’.

Of course modern cars are better in every way. They’re faster, safer, have better heaters and air conditioners, better rust-prevention, are more comfortable, quieter, have better brakes, and are more efficient. But it used to be that it was easy to tell at a glance a Toyota from a Datsun, a Fiat from an Alfa, and so on. Nowadays it’s a little more difficult. Some Toyotas resemble Mercedes Benz, and a Honda looks like a Hyundai.

Granted, when form follows function the more efficient shapes are going to show up more often. And a new Mustang or Daytona, or a New Beetle or MINI looks different from other cars. But for the most part cars no longer seem stylish.

Aside from exotics, do modern mass-produced cars have ‘character’?

I came in to mention our cars, which are a New Beetle (yellow!) and a Mini Cooper (with a Union Jack on the roof, no less) as cars with character, but I see you already mentioned them. :slight_smile:

I agree with you–most cars seem boring to me.

The Hummer. If I win the lottery…

The new Ford Mustang comes to mind, and the new Chevy Camaro is waiting in the wings.


I’ve been driving a new Yaris for a few months now, and I still have a lot of trouble finding it in a crowded parking lot. Many times I’ve tried to open someone else’s car door with my key, and some of these cars weren’t even Toyotas.

But what it lacks in character it makes up for in pitiful acceleration. 35 MPG, inspiration not included.

Well my top 3 cars I’d love to own have been the The Dodge Charger (yes, the new one), the Ford Mustang (I’m a sucker for that lime green color a while back too), and the Nissan 350z. All 3 of those cars always catch my eye when I see them on the road, and i consider them full of positive associations/ “Character”.

But other cars I tend to ignore for the most part… But I think it all depends on what a car does for you, or if you have a positive association with the vehicle in some way.

Yeah, it really annoys me when they have some jamming music going on while advertising how ground breaking their car is, when it looks just like every other car out there. Character is almost non-existent these days.

I just saw a mint condition 1967 Mustang. Cars will never be the same. This little coupe has all the looks and style that every other car is missing. I really want one, before I die.

Looking back at many car picture books (too many) , perhaps it’s more that each era of car design has almost a generic shape, with several somewhat different models that stand out in that era (often by breaking the mold) - if shown silhouettes or outlines of general [US] vehicles from the late '20s (2 boxes on wheels - think Model A Fodor), the mid '50s (think Belair, think anything in fact before the big-finned monsters of the late 50s), the late '60s (sculpted beltline and angluar grill - think Pontiac GTO), the early '80s (Think angular boxes with few curves…Dodge Omni or Ford Escort), the late '80s (Ford’s Jelly-Bean Taurus), and the current rounded long hood/short trunk bubble roof shape that’s been hanging around for over a decade (Honda Civic, BMW 5 series, even the US Ford Focus) - well, you find a generic design trend in each era - and against this generic pool of vehicles sharing the same design, you have some standout designs - such as the Mini & the New Beetle and the PT Cruiser for the current era.

BTW, I remember reading a few years back that ‘Edge Design’ was suppose to be the new ‘thing’, but seeing as we still have loads of rounded bubble roof designs, I guess that fell through in North America at least. Maybe the squat, cropped crossover designs (including the Yaris and the Honda Fit) will be the future…

Ordinary regular cars may not have character, but there are always the occasional diverse designs that are constantly being put out there.

A Smart car is quite distinctive, and I think it has character. I also like the design of the PT Cruiser.

I had a 2003 Mustang GT that was very tastefully modded as far as appearance goes, but the car itself had a lot of character. I had very stiff springs, sub-frame connectors, 4.30 gears, and drag radials installed on the car. If it was cold outside, it was nearly impossible to accelerate without fishtailing. If it was raining it was almost impossible to keep the car on the road at 30mph. I plan to have my 2007 GT develop similar characteristics in the next couple of months…

I wish I could remember the approximate year when I first wasn’t able to tell that a Jaguar was a Jaguar without looking at the hood ornament.


I’m not a car guy, so maybe I’m missing something, or being whooshed, but… what? Why would you want that?


This comes up in the motoring press on occasion, and the car industry honchos are quick to step up and say that every era had people saying “modern cars all look the same”.

One area where the do all seem to look the same more than before is in colour. Back in the 70s, some of the colours might have been awful, but at least they were bold. There was that 70s Kodak yellow, and purple cars that people drove with a straight face. But for this decade’s models, every single bloody car on the road seems to be some subtle variant of metallic silver or grey. I used to dislike red cars, but I currently own one, and I’m actually thankful for it. I can at least see the thing in the carpark.

Nothing could have more character than the FJ Holden I used to travel around in (it wasn’t mine). What a heap, but character!

I think it’s a sure sign of getting old, when policeman start to look young, pop music suddenly sucks, and all cars start to look the same. Ask any ten-year-old car nut, and they’ll be able to identify all current models just from a picture of the door handles. But they probably think all old cars look the same.
[ETA] That said, I have also noticed the silver thing mentioned by TheLoadedDog. It’s amazing how many cars on British roads are silver now. I think the colour became popular because it is associated with upmarket makes, particularly Mercedes.

You could also add the Honda Element or the Toyota Yaris to the list. Over in Europe, there’s also the Ford Ka and the Renault Megane

Safety features and the need to create fuel efficiency have definitely made it harder to give a car ‘character’.

Sure, some older, smaller, relatively fuel-efficient cars had character, but lacking specific bumpers, front-, rear- side-impact test ratings and a proper pillar for seatbelts, among other things, gave designers a license to do almost whatever they wanted. The list is almost endless.

Considering the features that need to be stuffed into a car now, it’s hard to pull it all off.

Despite challenges, I think character is plentiful, but it’s now watered down by exposure.

I see Porsches every day. BMW’s are like Honda Accords.

Rare cars tend to have more character. The Dodge Viper has so much character that the auto press (the SOBs that they are) CRITICIZE it for it’s character! It doesn’t ‘act like a Corvette’, or ‘lacks the refinement of a true supercar’, etc. All the Dodge Viper does is turn heads, growl like a starved monster and provide thrill after thrill wrapped around various quirks and ‘edginess’.

Cars with character? They are out there. In days of yore, they were hailed, now, because they wear an American badge, they get beat up.

If I had the money for a supercar, it’d be a Viper, because it DOES have character. They are out there, you just don’t see 'em that much.

The OP has already excluded supercars from the list.