The explosives-laden car was detonated just outside the embassy building in Tripoli's upscale al-Andalus neighbourhood, the officials said.
The blast wounded two French guards and set off a fire at the embassy entrance that engulfed some of the offices inside, the officials said. Two cars parked outside also caught fire and two other nearby buildings were also damaged, said the officials, speaking on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to talk to the media. Firefighters rushed to the scene of the attack.
The officials said the motives for the attack — the first such assault on an embassy in the Libyan capital — were not immediately clear.
In Paris, the French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius condemned the bombing, calling it an "abhorrent act."
In a statement, Fabius said that the foreign ministry was "in liaison with the Libyan authorities" and that France will "do everything it can to shed light on the circumstances of this abhorrent act and to quickly identify the perpetrators."
Fabius also sent a message solidarity and sympathy to the two wounded French citizens, with a wish that that they recover soon.
The Libyan officials said that one of the wounded guards sustained severe injuries while the other was lightly hurt, adding that an investigation was underway.
Two years after the country's civil war, Libya is struggling to maintain security, build a unified army and reign in militias, which include rebels who fought to oust the country's longtime dictator Moammar Gadhafi in 2011.
Last September, militants attacked the U.S. diplomatic mission on the eastern Libyan city of Benghazi, U.S. ambassador, Chris Stevens, and three other Americans.
Associated Press writers Maamoun Youssef in Cairo and Thomas Adamson in Paris contributed to this report.