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
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 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. 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 the gear changing for you. Keep reading for our 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
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.

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. And, if you need more persuasion, it won our Value Award at the 2018 carwow Car of the Year Awards is a measure of how much we rate the Skoda.

4
Volkswagen

The Volkswagen Tiguan is spacious, comfortable and good to drive, while its raised driving position gives you a great view out. The automatic DSG gearbox changes gear very smoothly and really helps give your left leg a rest on long journeys.

5
BMW
X1

The BMW X1 is a high quality small SUV that’s spacious, comfortable and packed with technology. It's great to drive too.

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

If you’re looking for an economical automatic car that you can enjoy owning – the BMW 3 Series saloon is the one to beat. The BMW 320d four-cylinder 2.0-litre diesel engine has plenty of shove and will be very cheap to run.

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. And it will cost peanuts to run.

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.

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.

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
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 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.

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
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
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.

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.