Best automatic cars 2024
Like to make things easy with an automatic transmission rather than a manual? There has never been a better choice. Here’s our pick of the very best automatic cars.
With so much congestion on the roads and lots to concentrate on when behind the wheel, automatic cars are more popular than ever.
While traditionally choosing an automatic car may have meant increased fuel consumption and reduced performance, these days that’s not the case. Indeed, the best automatic cars are often faster and more economical than their manual counterparts.
With no clutch pedal and no need to change gear manually, an automatic car can be a godsend in heavy traffic or simply to take the stress out of driving. But they’re not all great – a bad automatic transmission can leave you waiting for power for what seems like an age.
The differences are largely down to the type of gearbox that’s fitted to different cars. With a varying number of gears, and various labels such as S tronic, DSG and CVT, there sometimes seems to be almost too much choice.
The other thing to consider is the number of gears. Seven, eight and even nine-speed gearboxes are increasingly common. In general, the more gears you have, the quieter and more economical your car will be, because the gearbox can offer taller gears for silent cruising at motorway speed. These are the best automatic cars covering everything from city hybrids to performance coupes.
Best automatic cars
- Toyota Yaris
- Honda Jazz
- Mercedes C-Class
- Volkswagen Golf
- Jaguar XE
- Peugeot 3008
- BMW X5
- Range Rover Sport
- BMW M2
- Porsche 911
Best automatic car for long term reliability
Our pick: Toyota Yaris Design Hybrid
Read our full Toyota Yaris review
If you want a reliable automatic car, you can't go wrong with a Toyota. The brand has a long withstanding - and well deserved - reputation for reliability, shown by its continual strong showing in owner satisfaction surveys. It's why the Toyota Yaris is so easy to recommend.
Available as a hybrid only, it comes with a CVT gearbox as standard. The engine is a 116PS 1.5-litre three-cylinder petrol that’s boosted by two electric motors and will easily return 60mpg making this extremely cheap to run.
Other small cars may be more engaging to drive but few can match the ease of ownership that the Toyota Yaris offers. It's also ideal around town thanks to light controls and a standard fit reversing camera.
Best automatic car for fuss-free urban motoring
Our pick: Honda Jazz EX
Read our full Honda Jazz review
If you want a completely hassle-free driving experience, then the Honda Jazz is one of the best automatic cars around.
It’s only offered as a hybrid and runs mostly on electric power at low speeds, meaning automatic shifts come as standard via a CVT automatic gearbox. It’s quiet, refined and utterly effortless to drive around town. It comes alive if you give it some revs, the transmission holding the rev counter in its peak zone and turning the car into a surprisingly lively companion.
On top of that, it’s a great all-rounder, with cinema-style ‘Magic Seats’ offering extra stowage and one of the most practical cabins of any small car.
Best automatic car for comfort
Our pick: Mercedes-Benz C220d AMG Line
Read our Mercedes reviews
It’s rare to find a manual version of the Mercedes C-Class: if you’re looking for a car with more luxury than mainstream models offer, then you’re less likely to want to change gear.
And so, with plenty of experience in supplying cars with automatic gearboxes, it’s no surprise that Mercedes uses one of the smoothest on the market. It’s a conventional torque converter gearbox, sacrificing some of the speed and efficiency of a dual-clutch model, but offering extremely smooth changes.
There are two different options – seven-speed and nine-speed called 7G-TRONIC and 9G-TRONIC respectively. Both are excellent, but the nine-speed is more efficient.
Best automatic car for hatchback practicality
Our pick: Volkswagen Golf 1.5 TSI R-Line
Read our full Volkswagen Golf review
The seven-speed dual-clutch DSG gearbox is a good match for the Volkswagen Golf – a car that likes to get on with things without making a fuss.
As hatchbacks go, the Volkswagen is supremely easy to live with, practical and offers a level of comfort and perceived quality beyond most direct rivals, with DSG offered in all trim levels from SE upwards.
The newest version of the Volkswagen Golf, introduced in 2020, uses this DSG gearbox with the ‘eTSI’ mild hybrids. It’s worth noting that the plug-in hybrid models (badged eHybrid or GTE) only have six gears, but they’re still as slick.
Best automatic compact executive CAR
Our pick: Jaguar XE 20t
Read our full Jaguar XE review
Jaguar Land Rover’s eight-speed automatic gearbox is one of the best on the market and now that used prices have fallen quite considerably since the model was new, the smallest Jaguar is the most affordable way of getting to try it out.
You’ll find it in the 20t and 25t models, where it offers excellent fuel economy and extremely eager acceleration.
The XE also received a major update early in 2019, with revised trim options, a sleeker exterior and updates to the interior – including a significantly improved dashboard screen, which brought it closer to the likes of BMW, Mercedes and Audi for interior quality.
Best automatic car for family buyers
Our pick: Peugeot 3008
Read our full Peugeot 3008 review
Proving that family SUVs don't have to be dull to look at, the striking Peugeot 3008 is also one of the best all-round SUVs on the market, blending a modern interior with plenty of space, a good-sized boot and comfortable seats.
It comes with a wide range of engines including a hybrid that uses a 6-speed dual shift gearbox, but we prefer the 8-speed EAT8 torque convertor automatic that's available with petrol, diesel and plug-in hybrid models.
It works especially well with the 1.2 Puretech petrol engine, with fast but smooth shifts making it fun to drive and responsive. Add in a comfortable ride and it's easy to see why the Peugeot 3008 is so popular.
Best automatic car for SUV desirability
Our pick: BMW X5 X50d M
Read our full BMW X5 review
BMW was one of the first manufacturers to offer an eight-speed transmission, with the beefy BMW X5 SUV having been equipped with one since the 2001 model year. This means that unlike with many of the best automatic cars, there’s a broader spread of used examples available, to suit a wider variety of budgets.
The transmission is used on petrol and diesel models and of those the X50d M is the jewel in the crown – extremely powerful, stupidly well-equipped and with terrific handling for an SUV, it delivers a driving experience like nothing else in its class, with seamless gear changes and excellent refinement.
The practical X5 is an ideal family car with plenty of space, good long distance comfort and a large boot too. It's also one of the best handling SUVs on the market.
Best automatic car for off-road dynamism
Our pick: Range Rover Sport P510e Dynamic HSE
Read our Land Rover reviews
The eight-speed gearbox in the Range Rover Sport has to be a jack-of-all-trades. Its different settings allow it to boost off-road performance or prioritise smooth on-road driving, as well as to operate in both high and low ratios.
Despite these many different demands, it shines at both extremes, confirming its status as one of the best automatic cars around. For a big 7 seater car, it’s relatively efficient too, with an official fuel economy figure as high as 35mpg in the mild hybrid diesel model (or a claimed 85mpg for the plug-in hybrid, subject to how you use it).
As with other Jaguar and Land Rover automatic gearboxes, early models were controlled by a dial that rises out of the centre console next to the driver. Newer models use a more conventional-looking automatic gearstick.
Best automatic car for thrilling performance
Our pick: BMW M2 AT
Read our BMW reviews
The seven-speed automatic gearbox in the BMW M2 is an optional extra but it’s one well worth paying for. The manual gearbox is good, but the automatic is better in many ways. For a start, it takes the car to 62mph more quickly – the automatic makes it in a blistering 4.3 seconds, whereas the manual takes 4.5 seconds.
There are paddles behind the steering wheel that give you the chance to change gear yourself, and in sport settings, it will let you take the car all the way to the 7000rpm redline. The paddles feel weighty and well-made too, making the gear changing experience feel solid and precise, rather than limp and vague.
While we love a manual gearbox on a performance car, it's easy to see the appeal of a sports automatic given how impressive they are.
Best automatic car for sensational acceleration
Our pick: Porsche 911 GT3 Touring
Read our full Porsche 911 review
For maximum driving involvement in a sports car, you’ll want a manual gearbox. But for the optimum performance and fastest gear changes, a dual-clutch automatic gearbox changes gears more quickly than any human arm could manage. For some drivers that’s even more of a thrill.
Porsche has form with this type of gearbox – it developed the very first dual-clutch gearbox for the 956 racing car in the early 1980s. The latest version of Porsche’s automatic gearbox, called PDK, has eight gears, and can enable the Porsche 911 to accelerate from 0-62mph in as little as 3.5 seconds.
If you want to take control, then there are paddles behind the steering wheel that change gear quickly in response to your taps. In traffic, you’ll be relieved that there’s no heavy clutch to handle.