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Styling

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder – and we conduct a poll of our team to name the most attractive car here

How do you measure style? You can’t weigh it, feel it or time it –but you can see it. Image is equally hard to gauge, but they both have a massive impact on buying decisions.

Produce an ugly car and you’ll struggle to draw customers into the showroom. Get it right and you’ll have them queueing around the block. To decide on the best-looking car, we conducted a poll of our test team, and the latest Mazda came out the clear winner.

We like its sleek styling – the swooping headlights and distinctive grille give the 3 a unique character. It’s less attractive at the rear, but the overall shape is the most appealing to our eyes.

While the Mazda badge lacks the prestige of Volkswagen, the Japanese brand’s high standing in our Driver Power 2009 reliability and satisfaction survey – where it finished 10th overall – also gives buyers reassurance.

Second place goes to the Golf. Its upright design is obviously conservative, but it is also very distinctive, which sets the MkVI out from the family car crowd. Neat details – like the hinging tailgate badge that doubles as the boot release and headlamps which bear the VW logo – also lift it above its rivals.

Our team ranked the Astra third. As the newest car on the test, it comes as no surprise that it looks the most modern. However, a more daring approach may have seen the  Vauxhall finish even higher.

In SRi trim, its chrome-rimmed glass area gives a classy appearance in profile, while the sleek headlamps and unusual double-arrowhead tail-lamp clusters mark it out when the sun goes down. Sadly, the firm has some brand issues – it was voted third from bottom in the manufacturer ranking of our Driver Power 2009 survey.

Even so, Vauxhall beats its age-old Ford rival on looks, as time is beginning to catch up with the four-year-old Focus. The Mondeo-style front end fitted to the latest car has given it a shot in the arm, but there’s no getting away from its dated proportions.

Fifth place goes to the Skoda. While the brand’s reputation for customer service and reliability is second-to-none, the Octavia is no looker. It’s a smart choice, but slightly frumpy when compared with the likes of the Mazda and Vauxhall. Even the latest model, with its curvy headlamps, can’t beat the class leaders.

Which leaves the Honda trailing home last in the style stakes. Our former champion in this sector was cutting edge when it first appeared, but we knew it would date more quickly as a result. We’ve been proven right, and the Civic now looks as behind the times as it was ahead of them when it first appeared. A facelift late last year  brought the new grille seen here. But, if anything, we think it’s less attractive than the silver-effect original.

Details

WHY: "While the Astra’s sleek headlights look good, the overall design could be bolder"

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