Best self-parking cars

Look, no hands: the best cars with self-parking systems

Jun 29, 2018

Just thinking about parking is enough to bring some drivers out in a cold sweat. Getting the right angle; judging turning points; keeping immaculate new alloy wheels away from unforgiving kerbs; accidentally nudging another car and forking out for another driver’s new headlight. There’s plenty of potential for things to go wrong.

Many find it so daunting they’ll drive elsewhere rather than tackle a tight parking spot. However, it doesn’t have to be that way. Many modern cars can park themselves.

Yes, you read that right. No more trying to guess whether your car can squeeze into a space the size of a postage stamp. And an end to wheel-twirling and correcting a car’s angle during parallel parking.

Self-parking systems are increasingly common, available with everything from small cars to limousines. With a touch of a button, they’ll find a suitable spot and gently guide themselves in, while you control the accelerator and brake.

They are getting better too, with the latest systems taking full control while you hold down a button, or even control the manoeuvre from outside with a smartphone or key fob.

Reassuringly, if you’re a parking whiz, you can probably do it faster yourself, but for everyone else, here are some of the best self-parking cars available today.

Ford Fiesta

The best self-parking car for getting in AND out of spaces

Cost of self-parking system: from £200

The latest Ford Fiesta, which went on sale last year, is one of the best small cars on the road. It’s great to drive and now more spacious and safer than ever. It’s also had a major technology upgrade.

The car’s active parking system, available on the posh Titanium and Vignale trim levels doesn’t just get you into a space, it will steer you out as well, which is handy when you come back to your car to find that a van that’s 2in away from your front bumper.

The Fiesta’s system works in bay or parallel parking spaces and controls the steering. You operate the clutch, throttle and brake, following audible warnings and instructions on the information screen on when to reverse, stop or shuffle forward.

Called the Advanced Auto Park Assistance Pack, it costs £200. Drivers who want to add a rear-view camera to that will pay a total of £400.

Volkswagen Golf

The best self-parking car for smooth manoeuvring

Cost of self-parking system: £600

Jeremy Clarkson says the Volkswagen Golf is a byword for everything you need from a car. So if you want a sensible, well-priced family hatchback that can park itself, you can confidently order a Golf, without too much research.

With the exception of the entry-level S trim level, any Golf can be ordered with the optional Park Assist system. Like others here, it can detect a parking space and take over the steering to guide the driver smoothly into parallel, perpendicular or even diagonal bays. The accelerator, clutch and brake are managed by you.

However, Volkswagen is charging rather a lot - £600 – for something that offers no more functionality than the £200 set-up available with the Ford Fiesta. And it’s included as standard on certain versions of the Nissan Qashqai.

Nissan Leaf

The best self-parking car for hand- and foot-free operation

Cost of self-parking system £1,090

If you’re one of the many drivers who are nervous at the thought of a car steering itself to park, then look away now.

Nissan’s Propilot Park technology takes over the entire operation, seizing control of the accelerator and brake for completely autonomous parking in both bay and parallel spaces.

It could mean an end to all parking scrapes - if you trust Nissan’s technology. If not, then you’ll be reassured to know that the car won’t move unless a button by the gearlever is being held down. Take your finger away mid-maneouvre and the car will immediately slam on the brakes.

At the moment, Propilot Park is available on the Nissan Leaf and is expected to become available on other automatic Nissan models soon. Given the £1,090 price of this option, it’s likely that only those who detest parking will think it worthwhile.

Mercedes C-Class

The best self-parking car for no added costs

Cost of self-parking system: standard on every model

Why does the C-Class outsell the Audi A4 and BMW 3 Series in the UK? Could it be because the latest updated model comes as standard with an active parking system?

After all, what driver wants to be handed the keys to their brand new Mercedes-Benz only to get a few miles down the road and kerb one of its smart alloy wheels or scrape paint off the corner of a bumper?

Activated at a touch of a button on the dashboard, the system can determine when a space is large enough for the C-Class to fit. It then takes care of parallel and perpendicular manoeuvres, controlling the steering while leaving the acceleration and braking to the driver.

Volvo XC60

The best self-parking car for tight parallel parking

Cost of self-parking system: from £1800

As stylish as the Volvo XC60 might be, the luxurious family SUV feels big on the road and even bigger when the time comes to find a parking space at the side of the road or in a busy supermarket car park.

Don’t stress about it, says Volvo. The XC60 can be fitted with Park Assist Pilot, the self-parking system that can guide you into a bay that’s only 20% larger than the car. Like most systems, it measures the size of the space using ultrasonic sensors, and the driver then reverses into the chosen parking space, controlling the accelerator and brake as the XC60’s steering wheel spins precisely to park the car safely.

However, it’s disappointing that it can only be fitted as part of a pack that includes an opening panoramic sunroof and parking cameras with 360 degree views, taking the price to a hefty £1800, yet it’s standard on a similarly priced car like the Mercedes C-Class.

BMW 5 Series

The best self-parking car for multi-storey car parks

Cost of self-parking system £2,420

The vision sounds improbably futuristic: you arrive to your destination, hop out of your car, press a button on your smartphone-like key fob, and your BMW 5 Series will trundle off to a free parking space and reverse itself in.

The reality is a little bit more down to earth, but still impressive. BMW’s Remote Control Parking allows everyone to get out of the car, before it drives itself into a bay or garage, making it particularly useful for when space is tight.

You have to position the car (it will only drive forwards or backwards), and the system will only work if it has ten metres or less to drive. The car also moves very slowly and, while doing do, someone must be holding down a button on the key fob, or it will stop instantly.

The system will also drive the car out of the space, but offers no solution as to what other drivers should do if they find your BMW just millimetres from their door. Mercedes has begun offering this system on its rival E-Class, but both are expensive. The optional equipment required for remote parking adds almost £2,500 to the cost of the 5 Series when new.

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