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Are these the coolest French cars of all time?

Are these the coolest French cars of all time?


The French have been famous for building innovative cars with beautiful styling and legacies that last a lifetime. Motoring journalist, Tom Wiltshire, highlights some of the coolest cars to come from France.

The coolest french cars of all time:

  • Citroën 2 CV
  • Bugatti Type 35
  • Citroën DS
  • Peuget 205 GTi
  • Citroën Traction Avant
  • Renault 5 Turbo
  • Renault Espace

Our friends across the Channel have given plenty to the UK. Beautiful words such as rendezvous and critique, stunning baked goods and patisserie products – not to mention fashion, actors, cheese, wine… especially the wine.

But, France has also produced its fair share of fantastic cars. Germany may be the home of Teutonic efficiency and subtle style, and Japan the reliability kings – but French cars major on beautiful styling, incredible innovation and legacies that last a brand’s lifetime.

Though French cars as a whole went through a rocky period in the late 90s and early 00s, they’re back on track today. We’ve rounded up some of our favourites, modern and old.

Citroën Traction Avant

The Traction Avant is credited as the car that popularised front-wheel drive, setting the template for the majority of mainstream cars for decades. The name ‘Traction Avant’ even literally means ‘front-wheel drive.’

The car also pioneered fully independent suspension and a monocoque body construction, making it a truly space-age design for the mid-1930s.

Citroen Traction Avant car

Renault Espace

For at least two decades, the MPV reigned glorious in the family car segment – and the people-carrier to crown all people-carriers was the Espace. It took the minivan format that worked so well in America and made it Euro-friendly, with efficient engines, seven seats, and a car-like driving experience.

It was a great success. Although the first month on sale wasn’t the strongest when Renault sold, um, nine, it soon became a hit once customers recognised the versatile value of the boxy MPV bodyshell. Sadly, Renault won’t sell the latest model in the UK.

Row of Renault Espace lined up

Citroën DS

The DS occupies a place in the annals of history as one of the most beautiful cars ever. It’s also one of the most innovative, one of the most comfortable – and one of the most coveted.

Sophisticated hydropneumatic suspension gives the DS a true ‘magic-carpet’ ride, and the sleek and aerodynamic bodywork concealed a car that topped its class for handling and braking. It was so clever, Citroën was terrified to replace it, and the DS blessed us with twenty years of production.

White Citroen DS side on with garden behind it

Bugatti Type 35

Though it’s now owned by the mighty German VW Group, Bugatti was a French brand – and its Type 35 remains one of the most recognisable racers ever made, thanks to its incredible alloy wheels with inboard brakes.

It’s also one of the most successful, estimated to have racked up over 1,000 race wins – at its height, it was winning 14 races every week.

Pale blue Bugatti Type 35

Citroën 2CV

Affectionately known as the Tin Snail, the 2CV was Citroën’s answer to the VW Beetle – cheap, simple transport for the masses. One of its design requirements was famously the ability to carry a basket of eggs over a ploughed field without a single one breaking. Make no mistake – the suspension on this thing was truly marshmallowy.

2CVs remain immensely popular among enthusiasts, who appreciate their style, simplicity and longevity.

Pale yellow Citroen 2CV

Renault 5 Turbo

The Renault 5 Turbo kicked off a hot hatchback revolution that would see France produce some of the best pocket rockets of all time. A rally car homologated for the road, the R5 Turbo’s steroidal styling and incredible mid-mounted 158bhp engine meant it didn’t just stand out from the crowd – it eclipsed it.

The R5 Turbo even inspired a spiritual successor years later, in the form of the bonkers Clio V6.

Red Reault 5 turbo seen from above

Peugeot 205 GTI

From the most outrageous hot hatchback to the best. The Peugeot 205 GTI is credited with teaching a generation of hatchback enthusiasts how to drive quickly and, even 24 years after its introduction, remains just about the most fun you can have on four wheels.

Equipped with a perky 1.9-litre engine (later a 1.6), performance was ample. However, it’s the 205’s handling that really amazes. Completely adjustable on the throttle, brilliant fun even at low speeds and yet still safe enough for younger drivers to have some fun. It’s an icon.

Red Peugeto 205 GTi