Will the US favour the Peugeot 208 over the Camaro?

Could American car buyers be about to choose a small French car as their most beautiful car of 2011 – rejecting the iconic Chevrolet Camaro in the process?

It would be a big shock for a nation famed for its love of muscle cars but it could actually happen.

The first month of the year is traditionally a busy one for awards with everything from the North American Truck of the Year (the Range Rover Evoque) and the European Car of the Year nominations being announced.

The latter is one of the most prestigious awards in the world and the biggest in Europe and judges cars on a staggering range of criteria ranging from reliability to design and taking in price, practicality and driveability on the way.

The Most Beautiful Car of the Year award, which is taking place on the EuroSport website, is a little more relaxed.

It is essentially a competition, offering a car as a prize to those who vote, but the results could tell us something about one of the most surprising inclusions in the final four, the new Peugeot 208.

American is not known for its love of small cars but the Peugeot 308 will now go up against the Chevrolet Camaro, the Hyundai Veloster coupe and the premium BMW 3-Series in the competition.

One car is eliminated at a time and the 308 has already disposed of impressive cars such as the Mazda CX-5 crossover, the tiny Renault Twizy electric car and the Vauxhall Ampera hatchback.

It is a striking endorsement of the Peugeot 208, whose predecessor, the Peugeot 207, would not be classed in such impressive company in terms of looks.

A new front end to mirror that of the new Peugeot 308 including chrome-rimmed headlamps and a more stylised bonnet is complemented by sweeping lines down the flanks and distinctive rear light clusters on the new 208.

It includes a panoramic windscreen and wing mirror indicators to give the car a modern feel.

And it seems the new look is a hit across the pond with just three more cars to beat if it is to be crowned the most beautiful car of 2012.

It would be a huge boost for Peugeot, which must have been looking at Citroen’s stylish DS3 as the car to beat with the new 208.

While it may not be as premium as its fellow French rival, the Peugeot 208 can beat it in terms of running costs with several diesel and a petrol engine offering CO2 emissions as low as 99g/km and as a result comes with zero Vehicle Excise Duty in the UK.

The Peugeot 208 will go on sale in the UK in the summer – but the signs are already there indicating Peugeot is back with a genuine contender in the packed supermini market.