Automatic Cars

Looking for the best automatic cars? Our experts have pulled together the best automatic cars covering a range of needs, so you can have a car that fits your life perfectly

If you’re looking for a choice of the best automatic cars you can buy – you’re in luck, there are literally hundreds of options, but below are the best to suit a range of needs

1
Volkswagen

The Volkswagen Polo does everything well. Its high-quality interior has space for four adults and their luggage and is available with lots of clever kit. It’s an easy car to drive and its 95hp petrol engine is frugal and available with a smooth-shifting seven-speed automatic gearbox.

2
BMW
X1

The BMW X1 is a posh family car with lots of space for four people and their luggage. It’s cheap to run but also fun to drive. The petrol 20i model is quick and it comes as standard with a seven-speed automatic gearbox that takes the stress out of city driving.

3
Mercedes

The Mercedes E-Class comes with a smooth-shifting automatic gearbox as standard that – along with its quiet interior and comfortable suspension – makes it a very relaxing car to drive. It has space for four people and their luggage and has an excellent range of engines.

4
Skoda

The Skoda Kodiaq is a spacious SUV with plenty of space for four people and a huge boot. You can even have it with seven seats. It’s an easy, comfortable car to drive and its optional seven-speed automatic gearbox shifts smoothly and is available with a choice of engines.

5
Volkswagen

The fast Volkswagen Golf R has grippy four-wheel drive and is also available with a seven-speed automatic gearbox that makes it relaxing to drive in town. On top of this, the Golf R feels nicely built and has space for four people and their luggage.

Small cars are perfect for city driving – and even better if you fit them with an automatic gearbox. Below you’ll find the best small automatic cars you can currently buy.

1
Volkswagen

The Volkswagen Polo is a small car that feels like a big car. It’s easy to drive, comfortable and its excellent range of engines including a 95hp 1.0-litre petrol that can be paired with a smooth-shifting automatic gearbox. The Polo’s interior is well-built, roomy and also comfortable.

2
Hyundai
i10

The Hyundai i10 has just enough space for four people and a small amount of luggage. Choose the 87hp 1.2-litre model and you can have an automatic that is smoother shifting than the gearboxes you’ll find in other small cars – taking the stress out of stop-start traffic.

3
Smart

The tiny Smart ForTwo two-seater can park in spaces other cars can’t and has a tight turning circle that makes it very manoeuvrable. It costs buttons to run and all models are available with an automatic gearbox that takes the monotonousness out of town driving.

4
Ford

The Ford Fiesta’s pin-sharp steering and darty nature make it fun to drive – fit it with Ford’s six-speed automatic gearbox and peppy 100hp petrol engine and it becomes something of a go-kart. The Fiesta feels modern inside and has space for four adults and a little luggage.

5

The Mini 3-door is a highly personalisable small car that’s very stylish, great to drive and available with a smooth-shifting six-speed automatic gearbox. Its interior is classy but has a tight back seat and a boot that won’t hold much more than a few bags of shopping.

Family cars are natural all-rounders, but fitting an automatic gearbox makes them even better in town and traffic. Keep reading for our list of the best automatic family cars.

1
Ford

The Ford Focus has a neat interior that’s crammed full of technology and spacious enough to handle everything that a family can throw at it. It’s available with a good choice of petrol and diesel engines, most of which can be combined with an eight-speed automatic gearbox.

2
Volkswagen

The Volkswagen Tiguan’s tall body means it has lots of space and a big boot and its interior is well built and intuitively designed. The Tiguan is comfortable to drive – even more so when fitted with its optional seven-speed automatic gearbox – and cheap to run in diesel form.

3
Volkswagen

The Volkswagen Polo is a great small family car because it has room for your family and their stuff, plus its interior has a smart design and is very well built. The Polo’s nippy 95hp petrol engine is cheap to run and available with a seven-speed automatic gearbox

4
Audi

The Audi A4 Avant is a beautifully built estate car with a posh and roomy interior. It’s a relaxing car to drive and you can choose to fit it with a seven-speed automatic that changes gears smoothly. The excellent 1.4-litre petrol engine is smooth and cheap to run.

5

The Mini 5-door is as cool as the 3-door but a good deal more practical thanks to a back seat that’ll just about fit tall adults and a boot that can swallow more than a few bags of shopping. The Mini is great to drive and its eight-speed automatic gearbox is very smooth.

Fitting an automatic gearbox used to mean having to put up with higher fuel bills. Not any more – here’s our guide to the most economical automatic cars.

1
BMW

The BMW 530e is a posh saloon that’s quick and comes with an automatic gearbox as standard. It feels like a normal car to drive but can return fuel economy of 141.2mpg. The BMW feels expensive inside, has lots of equipment and has plenty of space for a family.

2
Toyota

The Toyota Prius comes with an automatic gearbox as standard and can return excellent fuel economy of 94.2mpg. It’s a relaxing car to drive with a quiet cabin and light controls. Its space-age looks hide a spacious interior that has room for four adults and a few suitcases.

3
Nissan

The Nissan Leaf is an electric that costs buttons to run. It comes with an automatic gearbox and has Nissan’s E-Pedal, which means the car brakes itself when you stop accelerating. It feels like a normal car in every other way though and is practical enough for a family.

4
Volvo

The Volvo XC90 TwinEngine is a hybrid car that comes with an automatic gearbox as standard. It is quick, but can also get 134.5mpg fuel economy if you have somewhere to top up its batteries. The XC90’s posh interior is spacious, with room for four and a massive boot.

5
BMW
i3

The BMW i3 Range Extender uses an electric motor powered by a small petrol engine to provide spectacular fuel economy of 141mpg. Small, nippy and with an automatic fitted as standard, the i3 is brilliant for driving in town and its interior is spacious for a car of this size.

Choosing a medium-sized automatic car used to mean picking a posh brand, but not any more – here’s our guide to the best medium-sized automatic car

1
Skoda

The Skoda Superb’s a comfortable car that makes even more sense when fitted with an effort-saving automatic gearbox. The Superb’s interior is well-built and logically laid out but – above all else – it is very spacious with lots of rear legroom and a massive boot.

2
Mercedes

Car’s don’t get much more comfortable than the Mercedes E-Class, which gets an automatic gearbox as standard no matter which of its excellent engines you pick. Its posh interior has room for four people and their luggage and is available with some incredibly clever tech.

3
Volvo

The Volvo XC60 sits in the middle of Volvo’s SUV lineup. It’s luxurious inside, has space for four and a huge boot. It’s a relaxing car to drive and has an automatic gearbox as standard. It’s also available as a hybrid model that’s cheap to run if you have somewhere to charge it.

4
Volkswagen

The Volkswagen Passat doesn’t have a fancy badge, but it feels high-quality with a neatly styled and durable interior. It’s also roomy enough for four tall adults and their luggage. It is available with a seven-speed automatic gearbox that makes it easy and comfortable to drive.

5
Audi
Q5

The Audi Q5 is posh inside but not flashy. It has loads of room for people and a big boxy boot that’s perfect for swallowing bulky luggage. The Q5’s seven-speed automatic gearbox makes it easy to drive and it’s a brilliant car for covering big journeys in.

SUVs tend to be big and comfy, which makes them a perfect match for an automatic gearbox that does the gear changing for you. Keep reading for our list of the best automatic SUVs.

1
Land Rover

The Range Rover’s high driving position, soft suspension, powerful engines and smooth automatic gearbox make it an extremely comfortable car to drive. It’s very luxurious inside and has plenty of room for four people and a load of luggage.

2
Audi
Q5

The Audi Q5 is almost perfect if you’re after an automatic SUV. Its cabin feels very expensive and has space for four people and a load of luggage, too. It comes as standard with a seven-speed automatic gearbox and is an extremely comfortable car for long drives.

3
Skoda

The Skoda Karoq SUV is a great family SUV that’s available with a seven-speed automatic gearbox across the range. The Skoda’s dashboard has a neat design and the interior has space for four people and their luggage. You can even remove all the back seats for big jobs.

4
Audi
Q7

The Audi Q7 SUV is a huge seven-seater with a massive boot. It comes with a range of powerful engines, all of which are paired with a smooth-shifting eight-speed automatic gearbox. The Q7 is a quiet and comfortable cruiser that’s crammed full of clever technology.

5
BMW
X3

The BMW X3 SUV is another great family car that has an eight-speed automatic gearbox as standard. It has space for four people and a big boot and while it’s not interesting to look at, the interior feels very well built. The X3’s USP is that it’s surprisingly good to drive for a big car.

FAQs

An automatic car is a car that has an automatic gearbox that changes gears by itself, rather than a manual gearbox that’ll need you to operate the gear lever and clutch pedal. Automatic cars make lots of sense in town where moving the gearstick and pumping the clutch pedal can become a monotonous task if you’re stuck in heavy traffic. They also have benefits on the motorway because they tend to have more gears including a tall cruising gear that can help lower fuel consumption. The main disadvantage of automatic gearboxes is that they cost more than a manual so you’ll have to budget to spend a little more if you’re buying an automatic car.
To start an automatic car you usually have to leave the gear selector in park and keep your foot on the brake. Once the engine is running you can move the gear selector to the ‘D’ (Drive) position and you’re ready to go. How exactly the car behaves depend on the type of automatic gearbox you go for. Conventional automatics – the type fitted to a Mercedes C-Class for example – will ‘crawl’ along the road without you having to press the accelerator. This makes them easier to manoeuvre – getting into or out of a parking space, say. Cars like a VW Golf, though, get a double-clutch gearbox which requires you to press the accelerator before the car moves off – this can make it a little jerky to operate at lower speeds. Most automatic cars come with an ‘S’ mode, which stands for ‘Sport’. Select Sport with the gear selector and the gearbox will hold onto gears for longer than usual – making the car feel quicker because it doesn’t need to change down a gear when you accelerate. The downside of using Sport mode is that you’ll burn more fuel.
The DSG or Direct-Shift Gearbox was developed by Volkswagen to give you the best bits of a manual and an automatic gearbox – other manufacturers have since launched their own versions, though. DSG gearboxes have two clutches – so they can preselect the next gear (if you were in second it would preselect third) – which cuts shift times, making the car accelerate faster than one with a conventional manual or automatic gearbox. For example, a Volkswagen Golf R with a DSG gearbox accelerates from 0-62mph in 4.6 seconds – two-tenths of a second quicker than a Golf R with a manual gearbox. Enthusiasts tend to prefer DSG gearboxes (over conventional autos) because their quick changes make them feel more responsive and rewarding to drive and because gears can usually be manually selected using Formula 1 style paddles behind the steering wheel. DSG gearbox do have some disadvantages, though. The biggest is that they cost more than a manual gearbox, but they also tend to be more complex and heavier. DSG gearboxes can also be a little jerky at low speeds – making parking tricky – and they don’t usually have the ‘crawl’ function you’ll get with a conventional automatic.