U ok, hun? Why do cars today look so angry?

aggressive car styling

If car design reflects society’s mood, we’re an extremely bad-tempered bunch.

The fashion for aggressive-looking styling is entrenched across every segment of the car and van market, and yet serves no rational purpose. If anything, it exacerbates hostility on our roads.

While it might be true that sports cars have always been styled to suggest a sense of purpose, even when at a standstill, designs of yesteryear managed to look sleek without the scowling headlights. Think Jaguar E-type.

Consider how the appearance and character of cars has changed over the decades. Compare the wide-eyed Frogeye Sprite with its modern day counterpart; the decidedly demonic looking expression of today’s Mazda MX-5.

Angry car design – what changed?

It wasn’t always this way. Track the evolution of car design over the decades and you’ll find numerous examples of how the same model of car has grown grumpier looking over time.

For example, when the Mini and Fiat 500 were relaunched, the rebooted designs drew heavily from the original late-1950s styling. If cars have expressions, both cars looked happy enough.

However, look at this year’s models and you’ll notice the headlights now feature the slanted, cross-looking headlight design that’s become ubiquitous. Benign-looking cars, it seems, do not survive today’s appetite for an intimidating image.

Mini car

Even the Mini now looks cross about something

Design can be influenced by many factors. And not all of them obvious. Hemline index is a theory that suggests skirt lengths get shorter in good economic times (1920s, 1960s), and longer during economic downturns such as after the 1929 Wall Street Crash.

Who knows what caused our cars to become so angry looking, but the trend is anything but helpful. On congested roads that are perilous for those outside metal boxes, what’s the point of a car that looks like it’s scowling when you’re doing the weekly shop?

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  1. Piers Lesser


    You are quite right. I was disappointed to see a review on “Fully Charged” youtube channel, extolling the virtues of a cheap (ish) electric car as having an aggressive front end. Why would anyone want a car to look aggressive or to drive one aggressively? Is this the same kind of behaviour that makes people want to have dogs bred for aggression?
    Our society should be more mature and discourage selfish anti-social behaviour.

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