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Top Gear mag's greatest cars - style

Style over substance - the objects of our desire...

  1. For Top Gear magazine’s 300th issue, we celebrated the best 50 cars over 299 issues: here’s our pick of the best stylish cars

    We spend a lot of time bleating on about how well a car drives, how fast or how comfortable it is. You and I care about those things, but a lot of people couldn’t give a damn – so long as it looks the part. Good design is worth celebrating – and we reckon these two cars, which aren’t entirely without merit, best embody the whole style over substance thing.

     

    First, the Audi TT. Early safety concerns did little to quell the general public’s enthusiasm. A series of high-speed accidents prompted a recall that gave revised ESP and retuned suspension, plus a little ducktail spoiler for better stability. That spoiler was one of a few changes Audi was forced to make to the concept that previewed its Golf-based coupe before putting it into production three years after its debut at the Frankfurt motor show in 1995.

  2. You need only look at what Mercedes and BMW, let alone Ford, Vauxhall, the French and Japanese were doing in the mid-Nineties to see the magnitude of what Audi achieved with the TT. It looks as cutting-edge today as it did then, and has aged far better than the TT that replaced it. We’re not sure how or why – but we struggled to think of a design from the last 24 years that’s endured quite as well as this little Audi.

    The Fiat 500 is worth celebrating for altogether different reasons. Almost as many have tried as have failed to effectively modernise a decades-old design. With the 500, Fiat nailed it. There’s no mainstream institutional memory of the old 500 in Britain, unlike the Mini (and the new one has always had its detractors), yet the Noughties 500 is a car that’s found favour with young and old alike. It’s retro, yes, but also a modern and considered design that doesn’t need the old car to justify its existence.

    These are fundamentally good cars, but that’s not the reason either of them succeeded. Style over substance, see.

  3. Fiat 500

    WHAT WE SAID THEN
    Almost nothing that’s visible is filched from the Fiat parts bin. Even the hazard button is a little ruby, a red symbol embedded in a clear resin lozenge 

    WHAT WE SAY NOW
    As much a staple of the urban landscape as pigeons, 500s are everywhere. Unhinged Biposto version has helped score it some macho points

  4. Audi TT Mk1

    WHAT WE SAID THEN
    The TT looks just as outrageous on the road now as it did on the stand at the Frankfurt motor show 

    WHAT WE SAY NOW
    Much the same really. Deathy handling traits aside, it’s aged beautifully, especially the interior. Affordable, too. Buy one and hang it on your wall

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