We all know that a car’s styling is crucial to its appeal. Image sells, and how a car looks - and by extension, how it makes you feel when you’re in it - is integral to why most people pick the cars they do. And I include the more everyday, mundane cars in that.
I was thinking about this recently as I stood admiring the Volvo V90 R-Design. I am oddly besotted with this car, entirely because of the way it looks. Even in a less style-oriented trim than R-Design, the V90 is striking and brazenly different from its rivals. Okay, so maybe the rear lights are a tiny bit awkward. But ultimately, I’d buy one over the alternatives, despite knowing full well that the Volvo doesn’t handle as well and isn’t even the best estate for sheer size and practicality. Provided it’s on air or non R-Design suspension, the V90 drives with satisfying fluidity, and the load space is more than big enough to cope with my oversized dog and buggy combo. I’m happy to accept objective shortfalls beyond that, because I just love the way it looks – inside and out.
But there is a line where looks alone aren’t enough. This, for me, was most starkly drawn by the Alfa Romeo 4C. Here is another car that I was hopelessly in lust with from the moment I saw it. To be honest, I have always failed to suppress stalkerish behaviour towards the Alfa 8C, too – even now - so the 4C obsession was quite predictable.
Then I drove it. Maybe I had a bad drive. I know that my colleagues rated it very highly and they spent much more time in it. But when I drove the 4C, it was raining and dark, and I hated it. I thought the power delivery was dreadful, the handling basically frightening, the ride uncomfortable, the interior cheap-feeling. My husband, who also adored the looks of the 4C, spent 30 seconds in the passenger seat before declaring that he wouldn’t buy it just because the passenger seat back was fixed at a cripplingly uncomfortable angle. So there you go. I rarely disagree with our road test verdicts, but on this one I did.