Old school-inspired looks, new school everything else

Retro styling done right in the automotive world can result in a car that buyers instantly feel drawn to because they remember the original from their childhood. Granted, if done wrong, it can look really hideous and out of place, but you won’t find any of those here.

When mainstream manufacturers do it, they spend a lot of time and money to get it just right, and it really shows. Many of these retro-styled cars are bought first and foremost for the way they look, but they are actually just good cars overall. I’ve assembled the ones you can buy new right now, in the list after the jump.

Alpine A110

2017 Renault Alpine A110 High Resolution Exterior AutoShow
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Renault is trying to steal sales from the Porsche 718 Cayman with its new Alpine A110, a purpose-built sports car using a heritage-laden brand name - Alpine. The last car to use the badge prior to the 2018 A110 was the A610, which rolled off the production line in early 1995. The new A110 draws its design inspiration not from the later Alpines of the ‘80s and ‘90s, but from one of the much earlier models in the marque’s history - the original A110 manufactured between 1961 and 1977.

The modern model, launched just this year, very clearly uses styling cues from the ‘60s and ‘70s classic, and it actually stays true to the original in many respects.

The engine isn’t all the way at the rear - the new A110 is mid-engined - but the emphasis on keeping weight down was still part of the brief for creating this car. As a result, it weighs just over 2,425 pounds or 1,100 kilograms.

Read our full review of the 2017 Alpine A110.

Mini Three-Door Hatch

2014 Mini Cooper High Resolution Exterior
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Modern Mini products may not be so mini anymore, but their overall design and styling owe everything to the Alec Issigonis-designed classic. Now in its third generation, it’s available as a three-door and Clubman three-door wagon (like the original), as well as a convertible and five-door hatch version. It’s arguably one of the most successful and recognizable retro-styled cars out there, and BMW has little reason to change the formula for upcoming models.

But it’s not just the look of the original that was captured and reinterpreted by the modern version; the renowned go-kart handling was also part of the package.

In fact, when you switch the pre-facelift version of the current model into Sport mode, it actually said “go-kart handling” on the infotainment screen. And there are few cars with steering as sharp, responsive, and direct as a modern Mini, regardless of how much you are willing to pay.

Read our full review of the 2014 Mini Cooper.

Volkswagen Beetle

2012 - 2013 Volkswagen Beetle High Resolution Exterior Wallpaper quality
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Now in its second generation (the first-gen, also known as the “new Beetle,” ran from 1997 all the way to 2010), the Beetle is still on sale today. Launched in its current form in 2011, this model is built exclusively in Mexico and uses Golf underpinnings wrapped in a Beetle body.

The second generation, simply known as Beetle, grew in size compared to the first, and it didn’t really manage to maintain the buzz created by the new Beetle back in 1997.

Even so, with plenty of customization options and various packages that emphasize its retro connection, it’s still fairly popular today. If you want one new, you need to hurry, as VW recently announced that it will end production in July of 2019.

Read our full review of the 2012 Volkswagen Beetle.

Mercedes G-Class

2019 Mercedes-Benz G-Class Exterior Wallpaper quality
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Originally intended only for military use, the civilian version of the Mercedes-Benz G-Class debuted in 1979, and it’s still in production today. It’s not so much retro-styled as it is an old vehicle that’s seen incremental updates with new tech.

The G-Class is one of Daimler’s longest-running models, surpassed only by the Unimog in terms of longevity.

The G-Wagen has seen several updates, including in 1997, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009 and 2012. Mercedes calls the current model the second generation, but it’s essentially the same vehicle, albeit heavily revised in all areas, featuring the brand’s latest interior design, newer engines, gadgets, and safety tech. It is also wider and longer than before, and some 370 pounds lighter, too.

Read our full review of the 2019 Mercedes-Benz G-Class.

Renault Twingo

11 New Retro-Styled Cars Available Today
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Renault decided to revive its old R5 styling for the third-gen Twingo, and just like it did with the Alpine A110, the attempt was visually very successful. The Twingo is a rear-engined city car with a surprisingly spacious interior and amazing turning circle, and it’s essentially the same car as the current Smart ForFour.

Most versions aren’t very fast or exciting, but sometime after its launch in 2014, Renault pulled the wraps off the warmed-up GT version, which packs a 110-horsepower turbocharged 0.9-liter three-cylinder, as well as various sporty touches throughout.

Read our full review of the 2017 Renault Twingo.

Suzuki Jimny

2019 Suzuki Jimny Exterior
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Suzuki didn’t try to reinvent the Jimny for its latest generation. In fact, it’s clearly retro-styled more so than its predecessor (which also had a whiff of retro about it). The new one goes way beyond the old model in terms of old-school style, and if you squint, it really does look like something from the ’70s.

Apparently, it has cues from each preceding generation, all bundled into one modern reinterpretation. The old model was also a bit behind the pack in terms of safety and technology, but this new one definitely addresses these concerns.

Read our full review of the 2019 Suzuki Jimny.

Jeep Wrangler

2018 Jeep Wrangler
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Jeep Wrangler is the quintessential off-roader. Its shape is probably the first thing to come to mind when people think of such a vehicle. It’s so iconic, the word Jeep has become a general designation for any vehicle with off-roading credentials.

That’s why FCA didn’t want to stray too far from the original formula with the latest fourth-gen model, unveiled in late 2017.

In fact, if you’re not in the know, it’s actually hard to tell it apart from the third-gen model. The most notable giveaway is the more steeply raked windscreen, as well as the plastic taillight housings, which house blind spot monitoring sensors.

Read our full review of the 2018 Jeep Wrangler.

Fiat 500

2016 Fiat 500 High Resolution Exterior Wallpaper quality
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The current Fiat 500 is probably the best example of a contemporary retro-styled success story. Launched over 10 years ago, Fiat has only given it one facelift since it went on sale, making minimal changes to the engine range and underpinning platform.

In 2013, Fiat announced it had sold its 1-millionth new 500, and by that time, the model had also gone on sale in North America (where it didn’t sell as well as planned). By 2015, Fiat passed the 1.5-million sales mark. Keep in mind, though, Fiat also sells the 500L and 500X, which are totally different cars, with the latter sharing its underpinnings with the chunky Jeep Renegade.

Read our full review of the 2016 Fiat 500.

Ford Mustang

2018 Ford Mustang High Resolution Exterior Wallpaper quality
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Ford Mustang GT - $35,095

While it may not strike you as such at first, the current Ford Mustang is oh-so-retro. You may not have noticed it because it’s just so well done - its predecessor was retro-styled too, and quite successful, but this latest one is just so much nicer to look at (and to drive, and to be inside of).

Its shape owes everything to the mid-’60s original, and even the interior (which looks thoroughly modern and has all the amenities) offers more than a passing resemblance to the old one. Ford also decided to take the Mustang global with this generation, and thanks to the addition of a peppy 2.3-liter EcoBoost engine, it’s proving extremely popular, even in the UK.

Read our full review of the 2018 Ford Mustang.

Porsche 911

2018 Porsche 911 GT3 High Resolution Exterior
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There are few cars still on sale that appear to have changed so little over the model generations. The latest Porsche 911 (991 series, launched in 2012) leaves no doubt as to what it is. Sure, its wheelbase and track are considerably increased over the ’60s classic, but you wouldn’t mistake it for anything else. In fact, it isn’t so much retro-styled as it is the result of evolving the same basic body shape over several decades.

It should come as no surprise that the next generation (992 series) looks a lot like the current one, albeit nipped and tucked here and there.

It also comes with more powerful engines and more tech. It’s amusing how Porsche was ready to give up on the 911 series when it launched the 928 in the ’70s, but when that didn’t catch on, it kept building its rear-engined model, eventually creating a global icon.

Read our full review of the 2018 Porsche 911 GT3.

Fiat 124 Spider

2017 Fiat 124 Spider High Resolution Exterior
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It may be a Mazda MX-5 Miata underneath, but the current Fiat 124 Spider’s styling owes everything to the original (and rather pretty) 124 of the ’60s. In person, it looks very different from the Mazda, and has a different, more relaxed vibe about it - it’s when you see the interior that the Miata connection becomes obvious.

Fiat has tried very hard to differentiate the 124 from the Mazda in terms of exterior styling, and it’s succeeded.

The 124 even looks like a bigger car due to its larger front and rear overhangs, even if its wheelbase is exactly the same. The turbocharged 1.4-liter engine delivers plenty of torque lower down and doesn’t require you to keep chasing the redline like in the MX-5.

Read our full review of the 2017 Fiat 124 Spider.

Andrei Nedelea
Andrei Nedelea
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