International Day of Happiness: Cars that make us smile

Date Posted 18th March 2022
Read Time 8 min read

March 20th is the UN International Day of Happiness. With our world facing consistent uncertainty and unprecedented challenges, wellbeing matters now more than ever. One of the key ways to celebrate is to make the time to do something for your own happiness, so with that in mind the content team at Hippo Leasing have picked out cars that make us smile – whether that’s being behind the wheel, seeing them on a race track, watching them on the big screen, or even driving them in a video game.

Neil’s three picks for cars that make us smile…

Ford Fiesta ST

Humble and unassuming, but at the same time powerful and capable, there’s an argument to be made that the Ford Fiesta ST is the perfect all-rounder.

Few cars new and used are as entertaining to drive as this humble hot hatch, with revs rising and throttle inputs reacting instantaneously. Even better, artificial engine sounds are pumped into the cabin to provide the type of soundtrack that will keep you engaged at all times.

While World Rally Car might not be as popular as it once was, and the Ford MS RT team have recently switched to a Ford Puma hybrid, it was in a Fiesta ST that the team last won the constructor and driver championship in 2017 and 2018 respectively. That might tell you enough about how good the car is, but the fact it can make you feel like a rally driver while behind the wheel is guaranteed to put a smile on your face.

Fancy checking it out for yourself? Find our latest deals on the Ford Fiesta ST here.

Shelby Cobra 427

The year is 1998, and I am playing on my first ever PC. It has a 2GB hard drive and something daft like 128Mb of RAM. I understand I’m dating myself terribly here, but the point is that on this state of the art machine I played my first proper racing game, Test Drive 5, and my go-to car was a ludicrously powerful muscle car with a racing stripe down the centre.

In real life, the Shelby Cobra 427 is a car that was in production between 1965-76. It featured Ford’s 7.0-litre FE engine equipped with a single 4-barrel 780 CFM Holley carburettor rated at 425 hp with 651 Nm of torque. This meant the muscle car could offer a top speed of 164 mph.

24 years later and the Shelby Cobra 427 remains a car that will put a smile on my face, though I’ve yet to drive one in real life.

Tesla Model S

Experiencing something so different to the norm is bound to leave an indelible mark on you, so I suppose it’s no surprise that my third choice for cars that make us smile was also my first time test driving an electric car.

I’d been invited to a press day to coincide with the opening of Tesla’s new store in Knutsford in 2015. This allowed us a bit of an insight into a manufacturer that was still a bit of a mystery back then, with the talk encompassing the background of Tesla as well as the unique design process behind the Model S which was, at the time, their first bespoke model and new to the UK.

Stepping behind the wheel was a true eye opener at the potential which electric vehicles held. The performance was uncompromising, with 0-62 achieved in a mere 3.2 seconds as the crazy speed built silently, challenging my conceptions of how a car performs.

In fact, experiencing such a big saloon surge forward so effortlessly and quietly was alarming as its immediate torque gave way to absurd momentum, with the only indication you were going as fast as your were being the scenery flashing by.

Since then, Tesla has only grown and grown. Their most recent release, the Model 3, has truly captured the public’s imagination resulting in it being one of the UK’s best selling cars last year. But for me, it all started here.

Shabana’s three picks for cars that make us smile…

Nissan Patrol V6

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it forever to anyone who asks, “what was your favourite car to test drive?” – without a doubt it’s the Nissan Patrol V6. It’s a beast. During my time living in the Middle East, you couldn’t drive 10ft without seeing a Nissan Patrol – and as far as SUVs go, it really does have it all.

The giant four-wheel drive is perfect for the driving requirements in Arabia. You want to manoeuvre the meandering mountain roads for a hike, the Patrol has got your back in rock mode. You want to venture off the beaten track and into the desert for a weekend of camping, the Patrol will carry you comfortably in sand mode over the rolling dunes. It’s exceptional on all terrains.

The cabin goes on for days. You can pack a Patrol with the whole family, all your luggage, and any gear for activities. And you’ll still likely have room left. Nissan received a ton of scepticism from Patrol fans who had become well-acquainted with its monstrous V8 engine, but with fuel-efficiency on everyone’s mind, the twin-turbo V6 engine that has driven the Patrol since 2018 is just as powerful under the bonnet.

Ok, admittedly, the Patrol isn’t the most efficient car for small town and city roads – as of 2019 there were only 2,376 registered in the UK. But if you find yourself at the helm of a Nissan Patrol in the right climate, with the road conditions where this car can thrive, I have no qualms that this is a car that will make you beam from ear to ear.

MINI Cooper S

It goes without saying that the Mini Cooper S is one of the most fun cars to drive. And this one is made for UK roads. My first foray with MINI’s entire range was on the track of Yas Marina Circuit in Abu Dhabi – I’ve since had the pleasure of whizzing around small country roads in this nifty motor. And every time is a joy.

There is no other way to drive the MINI Cooper S than at a brisk pace. Though it’s small and economical, it picks up speed and surges ahead. The responsiveness of the MINI Cooper S is better than some of the sportier cars I’ve driven *coughs Jaguar F-type coughs * and it looks funkier too.

On B-roads, the MINI Cooper S takes turns in its stride and offers good visibility. Whilst its spacious four-seater cabin actually has good headroom which is another box ticked for me at 5’8. I’ve always loved the idea of personalisation and the MINI is one of few small cars that lets you customise with colour and features to really make it your own.

If you need any more convincing, just give The Italian Job a watch to see how the OG MINI glides perfectly as the characters’ choice of getaway car.

Three new special editions were recently added to the MINI range. More reasons to smile!

Dean Winchester’s 1967 Chevrolet Impala

Take me back to the summer of 2008 when I discovered Supernatural and fell in love with Dean Winchester. But also, his 1967 Chevrolet Impala. The show’s dashing protagonist only had one real competitor in my eyes – the show’s automotive star. Fans have dubbed the Impala “Metallicar” whilst Dean affectionately called it his “baby”.  

In season 11, the fourth episode was titled “Baby” and the entire story was told from the perspective of the Impala. It was named one of the best episodes on the show’s 15-year-run, receiving universal acclaim from fans and further establishing the importance of the Impala being a true character on its own.

Now, with respect to famous Hollywood heavyweights – the Batmobile, Fast and Furious’ 1970 Dodge Charger, and dare I say it, the beloved Ecto 1 – Supernatural’s Impala has been the subject of just about every kind of crash you can imagine over 15 seasons, and 318 episodes. There have been nine Impalas used and they’ve all had their fair share of beatings. One was smashed with a crowbar, and another was runover by a semi-truck. The Impala is a true survivor.

To simply put, when the Impala is referenced and gets screen time, it makes for great TV – and it makes millions of us Supernatural supporters smile. In fact, the show is credited with the renewed popularity of the 1967 Chevrolet Impala. When it premiered in 2005, the average price of an Impala was around $500. It’s now worth anywhere from $20,000 to $50,000 and ClassicCars.com has noted that every time a new season of Supernatural premiered, the Impala became the most searched vehicle on the website.