Automatic cars

Automatic cars can take the stress out of driving. The main benefit, of course, is that you don't have to keep pressing your left foot on the clutch pedal to change gear - the automatic transmission does the hard work for you. And so an automatic car is perfect if you regularly drive in stop-start traffic.

It used to be the case that an automatic car wasn't as fuel efficient as a manual one, but that's not true with the best modern automatic cars. These days an automatic car can be as efficient as an equivalent with a traditional manual gearbox - if not more so.

So if you're looking for the best automatic cars for sale our experts have pulled together the best covering a range of needs, so you can have a car that fits your life perfectly.

It used to be the case that an automatic car wasn't as fuel efficient as a manual one, but that's not true with the best modern automatic cars. These days an automatic car can be as efficient if not more so than an equivalent with a traditional manual gearbox.

So if you're looking for the best automatic cars for sale our experts have pulled together the best covering a range of needs, so you can have a car that fits your life perfectly.

If you’re looking for a list of the best automatic cars you can buy you’re spoiled for choice, as there are literally hundreds of options. Below are a selection of some of the very best, from family hatchbacks and city cars to big SUVs and premium saloons.

1
BMW

The new BMW 3 Series is a practical, well-built family car that’s great to drive and it’s fair to say that it is better in every way than the car it replaces.

2
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.

3
Mercedes

The Mercedes A-Class is one of the most upmarket, high-tech small cars on sale and all its engines are available with a seven-speed automatic gearbox.

4
Ford

The Ford Focus is superb to drive, is now filled with an impressive level of tech and safety kit and offers good space for families. You can spec an eight-speed automatic gearbox with a range of engines.

5
Hyundai
i10

The Hyundai i10 has just space for four people and a small amount of luggage. Choose the 1.2-litre engine and you can have an automatic gearbox that is smoother shifting than the gearboxes you’ll find in other small cars.

Small cars are perfect for the busy streets, narrow gaps and tight parking spaces of city driving. And they’re even better if you specify them with an automatic gearbox, as you’ll save yourself the constant hassle of changing gear when you hit that inevitable stop-start traffic jam. Below you’ll find a shortlist of 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. For all these reasons the Polo was named Little Legend at carwow’s 2018 Car of the Year Awards.

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
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.

4
SEAT

The SEAT Ibiza is a comfortable small car with a spacious cabin and a big boot and can come with a slick DSG automatic gearbox as an option.

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.

SUVs tend to be big and comfy, which makes them a perfect match for an automatic gearbox that does all the hard work of changing gear for you. So whether you’re negotiating a supermarket car park, a motorway traffic jam or a rutted farm track, there will be an automatic SUV to suit. Read on for a list of the best automatic SUVs.

1
BMW
X5

The BMW X5 manages to do a rare thing for a large SUV: be both comfortable and fun to drive. It's lovely inside, it has one of the best infotainment systems in any car and the automatic gearbox is very good too.

2
Skoda

As a large, practical SUV, the Skoda Kodiaq impresses. It offers plenty of space inside - even for five adults and their luggage - and the option of seven seats, albeit with the third row only good for children. It also looks and feels well put together inside. Combine those qualities with a smooth and responsive seven-speed auto and the Kodiaq is a tempting proposition.

3
BMW
X1

The BMW X1 is a small SUV that offers an impressive amount of space - especially in the boot - a high-quality feel to the interior and plenty of high-tech equipment. It's great to drive, too, especially when fitted with the smooth and responsive eight-speed automatic gearbox.

4
Volkswagen

Space-efficient. That’s perhaps the best way to describe the VW T-Cross. It’s a small SUV on the outside, but it’s so well packaged that it doesn’t compromise on interior space. In automatic form, with its seven-speed DSG gearbox, it’s really easy and pleasant to drive, too. If its styling stood out from the crowd a bit more, it would be close to perfect.

5
Volvo

Comfortable, spacious and funky-looking, the Volvo XC40 offers a cool and interesting alternative to other premium small SUVs. The relaxed and responsive automatic gearbox suits the XC40’s chilled-out nature, too, especially if you go for one of the more powerful diesel options.

The most economical automatics are likely to be electric vehicles these days - especially when a full charge costs buttons compared with the cost of a tank of petrol or diesel. Here are some of the best.

1
Kia

The all-electric Kia e-Niro offers an impressive 282 miles of battery-powered range on a single charge, combined with stylish SUV looks and a big boot. Kia’s impressive seven-year/100,000-mile range brings you mechanical peace of mind, too.

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. That scooped it our Innovation Award at the carwow Car of the Year Awards. It feels like a normal car in every other way though and is practical enough for a family.

4
Hyundai

The Hyundai Kona Electric has no gearbox, you just press the accelerator and off you go to enjoy the impressive performance and a range of up to 280 miles. And it will cost peanuts to run.

5
Hyundai

Adding a bigger battery pack and the option to charge the car from the mains gives the Ioniq Plug-in the opportunity to travel up to 30 miles on battery power alone, making this compact family car impressively cheap to run. Particularly if you do a lot of city driving.

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 – no surprises then that it won the Family Award at the 2018 carwow Car of the Year Awards. The Focus available with a good choice of petrol and diesel engines, most of which can be combined with an eight-speed automatic gearbox.

2
Skoda

The Skoda Kodiaq is a big, very practical family SUV but despite its size, it isn't a difficult car to drive, thanks to the light steering, high-seating position and its DSG automatic gearbox.

3
Mercedes

The Mercedes A-Class is one of the most upmarket, high-tech small cars on sale. There’s nothing tricky about driving it and all its engines are available with a seven-speed automatic gearbox.

4
Skoda

The Skoda Octavia is a roomy, well-built family car that packs plenty of equipment at an affordable price. Its light controls make it easy to drive, and can come with the DSG automatic gearbox.

5
Volkswagen

The Volkswagen Golf offers a solid interior, great space and an comfortable yet engaging drive. The automatic gearbox is one of the best in the business and barely affects fuel economy or emissions.

There’s plenty of choice out there if you want a medium-sized automatic car. From spacious hatchbacks to chunky SUVs and stylish sporty saloons, there’s sure to be something to suit you, whatever your budget and taste – here’s a guide to the best.

1
BMW

If you’re looking for a medium sized automatic car that you can enjoy owning – the BMW 3 Series saloon is the one to beat.

2
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 is neatly designed and there’s plenty of space for four people and their luggage. It’s not the flashiest of cars, but if you’re after a no-frills family SUV with a very practical cabin and a range of sensible, economical engines there’s little out there that’s better.

3
Audi

The Audi Q3 is an upmarket compact SUV with plenty of space in its roomy cabin and lots of high-tech features. You can opt for a seven-speed automatic gearbox across the Q3 range.

4
Ford

There are few family hatchbacks that are as entertaining to drive as the Ford Focus. In fact, it’s even more fun than many supposedly more sporty cars. And for those looking for an automatic gearbox option, the eight-speed version in the focus is impressive. And the rotary selector you control it with is a novel touch.

5
Mercedes

The Mercedes A-Class is an upmarket small hatchback that’s brimming with innovative technology. And while some alternatives are better to drive, this is a slick and spacious car that suits its optional seven-speed DCT automatic gearbox to a tee.

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.