9 Awesome Retro Style Cars In 2022

Car Culture / 8 Comments

The future won't go well if you don't also look back.

Nostalgia is big business as Gen X moves into the empty nest cycle. You only have to look at the Redwood movement to see how it's affecting car culture and, by extension, the industry. That's not to say nostalgia and retro-styled cars are new, though. The last big wave was at the turn of the century, which brought us absolute garbage like the Ford Thunderbird and Chrysler PT Cruiser, but ultimately set the groundwork for the retro-infused Mustang and the Dodge Challenger. Here in 2022, the retro styling kick is still going strong, but designers have worked out how to infuse a design with retro styling rather than going over the top and putting out something with just a novelty shelf life.

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Nissan Z

The new generation of Nissan Z is an excellent example of heritage-inspired design in the 21st century. Its proportions are pure sports car with its long hood and short rear deck, while the flow of its lines is clearly from the 240Z. The half-circle LED headlights hark back to the Japan market-only 240ZG, while the Z32-generation 300ZX inspires the LED taillights. The oblong grille is more than a nod to the 350Z and the original 240Z, as is the raised hood bulge with sharp creases. There are lots of small details as well, including the triangular quarter glass and the C-pillar Z logo. To understand the level of detail in the new Z car, just check out the elongated oval shapes in the grille that pay homage to the Z32's taillamps.

Nissan
Nissan
Nissan
Nissan

Ford Bronco

When Ford brought back the nameplate of its legendary SUV, the styling had to be right. Thankfully, the designers nailed it, and you can see the love and respect for the original channeled into the current Bronco. Its flat face, high stance, boxed corners, oblong grille with round headlights, and flat hood are pure throwback but without being kitsch. Ford obviously took lessons from the disaster that was the Thunderbird and the evolving triumph that is the Mustang and gave it its all. If you want to go kitsch, though, Ford recently unveiled its Heritage models with 1966-inspired retro styling.

2021-2022 Ford Bronco Front Angle View CarBuzz
2021-2022 Ford Bronco Side View CarBuzz
2021-2022 Ford Bronco Front View CarBuzz
2021-2022 Ford Bronco Rear Angle View CarBuzz

Hyundai Ioniq 5

While the trap for automakers designing all-electric vehicles has been going futuristic, which is almost always a mistake, Hyundai went the other way with the Ioniq 5. While it's a cutting-edge modern crossover, the design calls to mind its first success here in the US, the Hyundai Pony. However, all we see is Lancia Delta to the point that if you smoothed out the parametric designs on the side and put Lancia badges on the Ioniq 5, we would believe it hailed from Italy. There is a link, though. The original Hyundai Pony was designed by Giorgetto Giugiaro, who also designed the Lancia Delta.

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2022-2023 Hyundai Ioniq 5 Front-End View CarBuzz
2022-2023 Hyundai Ioniq 5 Side View CarBuzz
2022-2023 Hyundai Ioniq 5 Rear View CarBuzz

Dodge Challenger

The biggest testament to just how well Dodge nailed the design of the modern Challenger is that it first appeared in 2008 and has only had mild refreshes since and a widebody style added. It's the same generation being sold 14 years later, and there has been no better modern manifestation of the 1970s era of the muscle car. It's crazy how close to the original Challenger's silhouette and detail the contemporary version comes, all the way down to the hipline, the grille, and the lights. Sadly, it will leave us soon in its internal combustion configurations, but it looks like Dodge won't compromise on the body design.

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MINI Hardtop

When BMW brought back the Mini name as a brand, it riled many people who had grown up with the original Mini. It's a British icon and something BMW has leaned into in developing the new model. When it arrived, it looked like a logical enlargement of the original tiny car. However, unlike Dodge with the Challenger, MINI has evolved the design. It's not a simple design anymore, and there's an argument to be had about how messy its exterior aesthetics have become. Still, it retains the silhouette, rounded headlights, and squatted stance of the original Mini. It also deserves some praise for existing long after the new millennium's retro design bubble burst. Not even the iconic Volkswagen Beetle has managed to stay relevant for so long, and only the Fiat 500 has remained so cherished.

2022-2023 Mini Cooper Hardtop Electric Side Perspective Driving Mini
2022-2023 Mini Cooper Hardtop Electric Driving Front Angle Mini
Mini
Mini

Alpine A110

The Alpine A110 is a European car we desperately wish would come to the US. Alpine was a sports and race car manufacturer that started in the 1950s and hit its peak in the 1970s. Its biggest legacy was the A110, a stylish and nimble little sports car and an internationally successful rally car. It was built using many parts from Renault cars, and Renault bought the brand in 1971, but Renault Alpine faded away in the 1980s. Renault revived the brand after a lot of financial wrangling with other companies and dropped the continuation of the A110 in 2017. It's remarkably faithful to the original in styling and essence to the 1970s model, from its curvy lines to every possible ounce of weight being evaluated and eliminated where possible.

Alpine
Alpine
Alpine
Alpine

Honda E

The Honda E is another piece of unobtanium for the US market, mainly as it wouldn't sell well enough here for Honda due to its tiny size. The electric city car is a super cute homage to the small Civic hatchbacks of the 1970s. However, if you look closely, you can see all kinds of 1970s, 1980s, and even 1990s cues - most obviously, the Volkswagen Golf - particularly in the original concept car. The Honda E launched in 2020 as a five-door hatchback, but unlike the cars it's based on, and surprisingly for Honda, it's rear-wheel drive. It will also charge a Tesla.

Honda
Honda
Honda
Honda

Jeep Wrangler

Jeep's Wrangler is the most throwback SUV you can buy right now. It could have evolved its styling, but Jeep is so steeped in tradition that a U-turn would have just annoyed its disciples, who are legion. If you park a modern Wrangler next to a World War II-era Willy's Jeep, the brand's reverence becomes obvious. Remove the doors from the two-door model and fold the windscreen down; then, you could paint it olive drab and pretend you're a GI. From the grille to the angular fenders to the windscreen angle, then all the way to the back for its box shape, this is unadulterated old-school design with only modern lighting technology standing out as new.

2018-2022 Jeep Wrangler Front View Driving Jeep
2018-2022 Jeep Wrangler Top View Jeep
2018-2022 Jeep Wrangler Front Angle View Jeep
2018-2022 Jeep Wrangler Rear Angle View Jeep

Chevrolet Camaro

The reason the Ford Mustang hasn't made this list is that the current and outgoing generation has moved away from its retro looks. The Camaro, however, has retained them, albeit by default, as the current generation arrived in 2016. The gentle point on the front facia and the strong haunch line and bulge on the rear fender hark directly back to the early days of the pony car. Our biggest disappointment is that Chevy lost the round headlights for this generation, but the brand's failure to evolve may be part of the reason that this car is not as well-received by buyers as its Ford and Dodge rivals. Hopefully, rumors of the retro coupe morphing into an electrified sedan are false.

2020-2023 Chevrolet Camaro Convertible Front Angle View CarBuzz
2020-2023 Chevrolet Camaro Convertible Rear Angle View CarBuzz
2019-2023 Chevrolet Camaro Coupe Side Perspective Driving Chevrolet
2019-2023 Chevrolet Camaro Coupe Top View Chevrolet

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