Smallest automatic cars in the UK

Need something easy to drive and park? These are the smallest automatic cars in the UK, which can take the stress out of driving and parking

Joe Holding
Feb 19, 2021

Automatic cars are becoming ever more popular with drivers, with fewer people choosing vehicles with manual gearboxes than they used to. In the past it was generally larger cars that were most likely to be available with automatic options. Things now, however, are different, with many small automatic models available.

There are a few reasons for the current trend towards automatics. Automatic gearboxes are not as cumbersome as they used to be, and they’re generally more responsive to changes in speed. Lots of drivers find them to be more convenient too, and with no need to change gear manually they make slow-moving traffic easier to handle.

The rise of hybrid technology is having an effect as well, as car manufacturers find it easier to pair petrol and diesel engines with electric motors when the decision-making over what gear you should be in is taken away from the driver. That means that hybrid and plug-in hybrid models are nearly always automatic.

Then there are electric vehicles. These behave like automatics and only have accelerator and brake pedals, however most don’t have a gearbox in the traditional sense as usually only one gear is needed.

Confused? You needn’t be. The best automatic cars are as simple to get to grips with as go-karts, and the smallest automatic cars are about as easy to drive too. We’ve rounded up the smallest available automatic models on BuyaCar right now that’ll make parking and life around town as hassle-free as possible.

Small automatic cars

1. Smart Fortwo

Size 2,695mm long
Used deals from £7,250
Monthly finance from £135*

If you want to go as small as possible with your car choice, the Smart Fortwo is about as diddy as it gets. Unsurprisingly for a car that’s barely more than 2.5m long, it’s only a two-seater, so if you’re after a family car, this isn’t for you.

There are hard-top and soft-top versions of the Fortwo, each available with one of two petrol engines on the used car market. Both are available with an automatic gearbox. If you have your heart set on an automatic, we'd recommend models from 2015 onwards, as this was the year Smart fitted a much-improved automatic gearbox to the car.

These four- and five-year-old models cost around £7,000 upwards on BuyaCar. Meanwhile, newer, electric ‘EQ’ versions of the Fortwo - the only model left on sale today - are priced from £13,000 and up.

SMART FORTWO BUYERS’ GUIDE

2. Toyota Aygo

Size 3,455mm long
Used deals from £6,979
Monthly finance from £131*

The Toyota Aygo line-up is blissfully simple, with just the one engine available on the current, second-generation model, on sale since 2014. The 1.0-litre petrol engine produces 72hp, but you can also choose between a manual or automatic gearbox. The manual is slightly quicker in 0-62mph acceleration terms (taking 14.2 seconds compared with the automatic’s 15.5 second time), and it’s also more economical, offering claimed fuel consumption of 68.9mpg versus 67.3mpg. In reality, you're more likely to achieve around 50mpg with both.

Given the above, you might wonder why the automatic exists at all, but for some not having to change gear is a blessing, even if it costs a bit of performance and efficiency. You can also use the paddle-shifters in the automatic to choose a gear if you really want to, so you’re not surrendering complete control to the car.

The cheapest Aygos on BuyaCar cost less than £7,000, with four-year-old cars averaging a respectable 25,000 miles or so on the clock. When new it’s sold with a five-year manufacturer warranty, so you’ll benefit from the peace of mind of a year's cover if it does go wrong.

TOYOTA AYGO BUYERS’ GUIDE

3. Peugeot 108

Size 3,475mm long
Used deals from £7,295
Monthly finance from £125*

If all you want to do is venture out to town or make a short trip to work and back, then the Peugeot 108 will serve you perfectly. Visibility out of the windows is excellent, and the car’s small proportions make it nimble on urban roads. You should be able to achieve something like 50mpg too, making it a cheap car to run.

Initially the 108 was launched with a choice of 1.0- and 1.2-litre petrol engines, but since 2018 only the 1.0-litre remains (albeit with more power than before). The 1.0-litre versions have always had the option of an automatic gearbox, and while it isn’t the most responsive of its kind, it’ll do the job.

New 108s tend to lose value pretty quickly - which is bad news for those buying new, but good news for people picking up a second-hand model - with used models representing something of a bargain after 12 months or more. Go for a 2018-on model and you should get Android Auto and Apple CarPlay smartphone connectivity on all but the most basic used models.

PEUGEOT 108 BUYERS’ GUIDE

4. Smart Forfour

Size 3,495mm long
Used deals from £7,700
Monthly finance from £134*

The Smart Forfour is targeted at city folk, with funky looks doing their utmost to attract drivers who want something quirkier than the norm. Whether that’s to your taste is another matter, but as a small automatic the Forfour is a decent shout.

Like the Fortwo above, the Forfour was previously offered with a 1.0-litre petrol engine producing 70hp, or with a 0.9-litre, turbocharged engine lifting that figure to 89hp. Naturally the latter is the quicker of the two, hitting 0-62mph in 11.2 seconds. While that’s not blisteringly quick, the steering is satisfyingly direct and the suspension does a good job of ironing out potholes.

An electric version of the Forfour - identified with ‘EQ’ branding - was launched in 2016, and today this is the only version still on sale. The latest model should travel around 80 miles on a single charge of the battery, which should cost around £3.33 on an average tariff. If the range is enough to get you about on short journeys, the ultra-low running costs will help absorb the typically high purchase prices associated with electric cars.

SMART FORFOUR BUYERS’ GUIDE

5. Volkswagen Up

Size 3,540mm long
Used deals from £5,995
Monthly finance from £124*

The Volkswagen Up is one of a trio of city cars built on the same platform, with the other two being the Skoda Citigo and the Seat Mii. The Up does well in a number of key areas, with a surprising amount of space inside for passengers and a 251-litre boot that surpasses what most of its similarly sized rivals can offer.

Once you’ve factored in the excellent reliability reported by drivers of the Up, you’re left with a very appealing package. The Move Up trim (which has since made way for a fresh line-up of trim levels) comes with air-conditioning and a split-folding rear seat, but the better-equipped High Up is slightly better value with extra features like heated door mirrors and a holster for your smartphone.

There aren’t many automatic Up models on the used market owing to the popularity of the manual gearbox, but there should be a number of options available from around £8,000 upwards depending on the usual factors like age and mileage.

VOLKSWAGEN UP BUYERS’ GUIDE

6. Fiat 500

Size 3,571mm long
Used deals from £6,790
Monthly finance from £146*

The Fiat 500 is one of the most famous cars there has ever been, selling millions from the 1950s to the 1970s and proving popular once again when it was brought back in 2007. The modern version is chunkier than its ancestors, but it’s still one of the smallest cars you can get your hands on now.

The automatic versions aren’t quite as charming as the manuals, but they’ll get you around town just fine. And you’ll turn heads in the process too, as the 500 is one of the funkiest-looking cars in the business. The interior is quite basic and the materials used look rather cheap, but Fiat’s use of bright colours inside makes the car feel suitably special.

You can find six-year-old automatic 500s on BuyaCar for less than £7,000, and while the cars themselves are fairly affordable you’ll have to put up with equipment levels that have really moved on since then. Meanwhile, 2020 cars with the latest kit are starting to appear for £13,000 and less.

FIAT 500 BUYERS’ GUIDE

7. Kia Picanto

Size 3,595mm long
Used deals from £8,288
Monthly finance from £148*

If having the latest gadgets and creature comforts matters to you in a small automatic car, then the Kia Picanto is a really strong contender. The latest model has been on sale since 2017, and like the version that came before it, it’s really well kitted out for the money.

The most basic trim is the ‘2’ level, which gets Bluetooth and air-conditioning, while ‘3’ models feature more sophisticated smartphone connectivity in the shape of Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, plus a better touchscreen media system to operate them with. The Picanto doesn’t force you to sacrifice practicality either, with a 255-litre boot and enough legroom for adults in the rear.

Engine choices include a 1.0-litre petrol that takes almost 14 seconds to accelerate from 0-62mph and a 1.2-litre that’s marginally quicker. You won’t be breaking any speed records whichever you choose, although the promise of 60mpg or so should make amends for the tame performance, as fuel costs should prove low.

Current-generation Picantos from 2017 are beginning to dip under the £8,000 mark on BuyaCar, while newer examples with fewer miles on the clock are available nearer £11,000. Kia has a seven-year warranty on all its cars, which should make you comfortable if you opt for an older model, as even with the oldest version of the current model, you'll still get years' worth of manufacturer warranty cover.

KIA PICANTO BUYERS’ GUIDE

8. Seat Mii electric

Size 3,557mm long
Used deals Limited stock

We mentioned the Seat Mii earlier, but we didn’t cover the new electric version that arrived in 2020. As before, the Mii is practically identical to electric variants of the Skoda Citigo and Volkswagen Up under the skin, and all three cars are brilliant choices if you’re prepared to ditch petrol for electric power.

The Mii electric contains a 36.8kWh battery that in theory can get you 161 miles on a single charge. Topping up at home via an external electric-car charger will likely take more than six hours (most people plug their cars in overnight) at a cost of just over £5. There are no petrol cars that will get you that far on £5 of fuel, so the potential running costs are supremely low.

It should be pretty nifty around town too. 0-62mph in 12.3 seconds doesn’t stand out, but the thing to remember about electric cars is that they’re usually very nippy over 0-30mph, as electric motors offer pretty much instant power. On city roads this is all you’ll ever need, and the Mii’s small dimensions mean you’ll get through tight gaps too.

With only low-mileage, 2020 versions of the Mii electric available on BuyaCar for the time being, there aren’t huge savings to be had over the £19,800 asking price when new. You’re better off looking at the VW e-Up for a value deal, as these are far more numerous on the used and nearly-new market, as the electric Up went on sale several years before the Mii and Citigo. The Skoda Citigo e iV will be a rarity in the UK, as it was only sold here for a matter of months.

*Representative PCP finance - Ford Fiesta:

48 monthly payments of £192
Deposit: £0
Mileage limit: 8,000 per year
Optional final payment to buy car: £2,923
Total amount payable to buy car: £11,926
Total cost of credit: £2,426
Amount borrowed: £9,500
APR: 9.9%

BuyaCar is a credit broker, not a lender. Our rates start from 6.9% APR. The rate you are offered will depend on your individual circumstances.

 

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