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Opinion: want peak car happiness? You need a boring grey Ford MPV

At least according to TGTV's Sam Philip, who reckons he's found maximum driving satisfaction

Published: 10 Jun 2024

In many years of pretending ‘motoring journalist’ is an actual real grown-up job, I’ve driven a whole bunch of other people’s very nice cars, in some very nice parts of the world, sometimes even without pranging them.

But I’m not sure I’ve ever been happier behind a wheel than right now. It’s 9pm on a Friday night, and I am piloting a grey, knackered Ford MPV – 1.0-litre engine, 90,000 miles on the clock, exotic array of dents to the bodywork – down a nondescript stretch of dual carriageway somewhere in mid-Devon. No epic vistas, on account of it being dark and also being mid-Devon. Not troubling the speed limit. No banging tunes on the stereo. Right now, I am utterly, wholly content.

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(Quick note to any traffic officers: when I say “right now”, I must make clear I’m not writing this while driving on a stretch of Devon dual carriageway. I am writing this two days later, but employing the present tense for dramatic effect.)

My two children are asleep in the back. My wife’s asleep in the passenger seat. We’re heading back to my folks’ place. When we arrive, we’ll carry the kids up to bed, then have a drink, and my dad will ask if I remembered to watch out for that new speed camera just after the pub, and I’ll say yes I did because that new speed camera’s been there for 15 years, and all will be well.

This dented grey box contains everything that’s most precious to me in the world, apart from that pen belonging to Walter Röhrl I nicked from a Porsche thing a few years back. But there’s more to this contentment than that alone. Maybe it’s... lack of choice? Like many of us, I suspect, I spend life in a near-constant worry that, whatever I’m doing, I should be doing something else more useful. Tyranny of choice, innit.

But right now, no choice. Nothing else to be done but bring this dented grey box home, smoothly and safely. There are many ways to achieve happiness in a car, at least half of which are actually legal so long as you’re wearing a seatbelt. But offer me any supercar, on any racetrack on the planet, with any number of the Swedish women’s beach volleyball team as travelling companions... right now, I’ll pass. I’m keeping this car, this trip, these passengers.

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This is my last of these columns, so forgive me for departing on a soppy, indulgent note. Yes, we care about cars for their speed, their excitement, their grunty growly noises and their ability to do big skids. But maybe, most of all, we care about cars because they connect us. Deliver us to the places, the people, we love.

And whatever the future holds for cars – however they’re powered, whatever they’re made of – we’ll continue to love them, because they’ll still be there, doing that. Freeing us, joining us, bringing us safely home.

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