The automatic gearbox has come a long way since the simple three-speed units that were on sale as recently as the 1990s.
Previously, choosing an automatic meant that you were sacrificing economy, performance and sometimes refinement, and paid more for the privilege. Today’s automatics might still be more expensive than their manual counterparts to buy, but huge strides have been made in terms of smoothness, fuel efficiency and speed of shifts.
We’ve rounded up our 10 favourite automatic cars for you to check out. Remember to use our new car deals page to help save money on your next car.
1. Mercedes E-Class
The new Mercedes E-Class is a classy and comfortable executive car that’s arguably the best in its class, and as standard it comes with a nine-speed automatic gearbox, a first among its peers. In fact, it’s one of only a few cars with a nine-speed gearbox, and Mercedes has ensured that it offers smooth shifts that are so seamless you sometimes don’t even realise they’ve happened.
It’s a gearbox that always seems to be in just the right gear, and it works very well with the diesel engines that Mercedes currently offers in the E-Class, providing impressive fuel economy of over 72mpg in certain models. Executive cars are all about offering a hassle-free and refined drive, and the E-Class’ fantastic gearbox is a major part of its appeal – we’re glad that it’s filtering down to other Mercedes models, too.
Check out our Mercedes E-Class deals page to find out how much carwow could help you save.
2. Hyundai i10
The Hyundai i10 is basically your only choice if you want a city car with a traditional automatic – rivals have CVT or semi-automatic gearboxes that don’t quite offer the same smoothness. The i10’s gearbox is a simple five-speed unit, but it’s still nice and slick for driving in town and can still hold its own on the motorway. However, fuel economy does suffer – you lose a good 10-15mpg compared to manual versions, and it’s a little slower, too.
Thankfully the Hyundai has lots more going for it than a grown-up automatic version, as for a city car there’s a surprising amount of space for both passengers and luggage, and equipment levels in top trim versions would put cars several times its price to shame. If you want a city car but need an automatic gearbox, the i10 is a car you have to take a serious look at.
Our Hyundai i10 deals page can help you grab the latest offers on your new car.
3. Skoda Fabia
The Skoda Fabia is a supermini that offers some serious big-car features in a top-value package – there’s a high quality cabin, space for five and an estate version if you need to take luggage for all of them. Arguably the nicest option, though, is the DSG automatic gearbox with seven speeds — with two clutches, the shifts are lightning quick and very smooth. It’s the same unit you’ll find in many Audis and Volkswagens, so you’ll be in fine company.
You can only get the DSG gearbox on the most powerful petrol and diesel versions, but even these aren’t as expensive as many rivals. The automatic petrol cars are actually slightly more economical than the manual versions, but diesel automatics miss out on a couple of mpg. In manual form, the Skoda is a great value and practical supermini, but with the DSG gearbox, it turns into a sophisticated small car that can hold its own on the open road.
Head over to our Skoda Fabia deals page to find out the latest offers.
4. Porsche Panamera
Porsche has officially released details about the second generation Panamera, with one of the key new features being a brand new eight-speed PDK gearbox. The outgoing car has a PDK gearbox with one fewer cog, and the new version promises to offer even better performance and fuel economy – the first six gears have a sports ratio, and the top two have a longer ratio for high speed cruising.
Inside the Panamera you’ll find a typically high quality cabin, but with far fewer buttons than other modern Porsches, and a brand new infotainment system with a widescreen display. Buyers can expect a comprehensive range of high performance engines, including a diesel, and eventually a plug-in hybrid version, too.
5. BMW 2 Series Gran Tourer
The BMW 2 Series Gran Tourer is the manufacturer’s most practical model, and many buyers will choose the excellent ZF eight-speed gearbox that’s found in virtually all BMW models. It’s one that’s hard to fault – you’ll find that it’s always in the right gear, isn’t afraid to downshift quickly when you step on the throttle, yet offers refined cruising abilities and minimal penalties in terms of fuel economy.
You’ll find plenty to like with the rest of the 2 Series Gran Tourer as well, with a spacious and high quality cabin that’s actually pretty compact on the outside. It’s also more entertaining than other MPVs, but it’s not quite as fun as other BMWs. It can also get pretty pricey if you’re set on one of the more powerful versions, but stick to cheaper models and you’ll have a premium MPV with a great gearbox.
6. Skoda Superb
Automatics traditionally used to feature mostly in large, comfortable, executive cars, and the Skoda Superb is the modern embodiment of such vehicles. Thankfully Skoda has seen fit to offer the Superb with the excellent DSG automatic that’s found in many Volkswagen Group vehicles. It’s tuned for economy, but the shifts are quick and smooth, giving a reasonable level of performance despite small capacity engines and a lot of car to move.
There’s lots to like about the rest of the Superb as well – it’s basically a car that is strong in nearly all areas, and if you can get past the non-premium badge then you’ll be driving away in an executive car that’s tens of thousands of pounds cheaper than posher rivals. If fuel bills aren’t a concern, then do yourself a favour and check out the rapid 280 version – it’s the perfect way to travel quickly while staying under the radar.
Check out our Skoda Superb deals page to find out how much carwow could help you save.
7. Kia Sportage
The latest Kia Sportage is a competitor in one of the fiercest sectors of the market, and as well as having a bold new look to grab your attention, it also has a seven-speed dual clutch automatic gearbox to add some extra appeal. This transmission is lightning quick and gives some genuine sporting credentials to this family crossover – it’s at least as good as Volkswagen’s DSG, if not better.
However, you can currently only get this transmission with the brand new turbocharged 1.6-litre petrol engine – with all-wheel drive and 174hp it’s quite powerful for the class, but unfortunately returns reasonably poor fuel economy. The more popular diesel engines are available with a more conventional six-speed automatic, but this is pretty average. Our Kia Sportage deals page can help you grab the latest offers on your new car.
8. Mazda CX-5
The Mazda CX-5 has a six-speed automatic gearbox, but it’s a sweet shifting transmission that’s easy to use and adds to the surprising sense of fun you get from this sharp-looking crossover. It’s only available with the diesel engines, but you’ll still be able to return more than 53mpg in mixed driving in the two-wheel-drive model – that’s around 13% less than the manual, but still on par with most rivals.
You won’t only enjoy the CX-5’s gearbox either – the whole car is massively underrated and offers a comprehensive package at a very reasonable price. Interior space and quality is up there with the class best, but the Mazda’s real trump card is the way it drives. If you want a crossover that’ll put a smile on your face then this is it, regardless of which gearbox option you choose.
Head over to our Mazda CX-5 deals page to find the latest offers.
9. Mercedes C-Class
Mercedes offers its C-Class models with a seven-speed automatic gearbox, which isn’t as modern as the one offered in the E-Class, but remains an appealing choice and one that suits the C-Class’ relaxed character. As with most other Mercedes models, the gear selector is located on the side of the steering wheel where you’d expect to find the wiper controls. It takes a little getting used to, but soon becomes second nature and gives more room for cubby holes on the centre console.
The gearbox’s shifts are a little more noticeable than in the eight-speed units found in certain rivals, but if you want to maximise the C-Class’ fuel economy and refinement then you can’t afford to look elsewhere. In addition, the stylish cabin and electronic aids help to make the Mercedes feel that little bit more special than main competitors, making it a real contender against the likes of the Audi A4.
Check out our Mercedes C-Class deals page to find out how much carwow could help you save.
10. BMW i3
Hybrids like the BMW i3 tend to almost exclusively be available with only an automatic gearbox, usually a CVT. The i3 remains automatic-only, but its gearbox is a single-speed unit that means power is instantly available. This means that acceleration, especially at low speed, is entertainingly instantaneous and also completely silent – it feels more Tesla Model S than Nissan Leaf.
BMW gave the i3 a surprisingly unconventional appearance, and while it may not be to everyone’s taste, it’s certainly distinctive and futuristic. You get an electric range of between 80 and 195 miles, depending on which version of the car you have, and although it’s a little pricey in the first place you’ll celebrate the total lack of fuel costs in the longer term
Use carwow to buy your new automatic car and and save money
If you’re interested in any of our suggestions, the carwow car deals page will find you the best discounts at dealers across the UK. Alternatively, if you’re still struggling to decide what your next car will be, our car chooser is here to help narrow your search.