The Best Automatic Cars of 2020

8 minutes Published: 11/05/2020
Sidse Sorensen

Face it, you're not a gear head.

A slick shift from 1st to 2nd doesn't fill you with joy - not least because you're stuck in bumper-to-bumper traffic on a daily basis.

Some of us just want an easy life, and that's okay.

Automatic cars in the UK used to only be found in upmarket, more luxurious cars. If you sourced an affordable car that had an automatic transmission, it was almost guaranteed to be dreadful.

Thankfully, this isn't the case anymore - there's a lot of affordable car models that have automatic gearboxes that are actually good.

Of course, you can still enjoy an excellent automatic transmission on a more luxurious vehicle.

Check out our roundup of the best automatic cars!

Hate a manual car and fancy an eco-friendly option? Consider one of our Best Electric Cars, or Best Hybrid Cars, which are all automatic by default!

1. Hyundai I10

RRP: £9,195 - £16,965
  • Doors: 5
  • Engine: 1.2
  • Fuel: P
  • Body: Hatchback
  • Drive: M, A
  • CO2: 141g/km

Pros

  • Great value for money.

  • Build quality is brilliant.

Cons

  • Not very exciting looking.

  • Driving it can be a touch dull.

A city car with an automatic transmission? Even just a few years ago, this would’ve been unthinkable.

What’s more, the Hyundai i10 actually has a good automatic transmission. It’s far better than similar competitors. For instance, take the Volkswagen Up - a car with most of the same features as the i10. While the i10’s automatic transmission is smooth and refined, the Up is plagued with a disappointing gearbox that makes it painful to drive for more than 10 minutes.

The Hyundai i10 makes a fantastic first car. It’s super small so it’s excellent for city driving, manages to hold its own on the motorway, and has a five year manufacturer warranty for peace of mind!

2. Ford Fiesta

RRP: £12,520 - £26,230
  • Doors: 3 - 5
  • Engine: 2.0
  • Fuel: P, D
  • Body: Hatchback
  • Drive: M, A
  • CO2: 179g/km

Pros

  • Looks fantastic.

  • Still amazing to drive with an automatic transmission.

Cons

  • EcoBoost option is a bit too expensive.

  • Base trims are lacking in tech.

It makes sense that Britain’s most popular car is available as an automatic. While more expensive up front, Ford’s ultra efficient EcoBoost engine gives you an incredible fuel economy, so you won’t be spending a fortune to run the thing.

The manual gearbox on the Fiesta is renowned for being fun to drive. Thankfully, an automatic transmission doesn't change this. The steering is still super responsive and the handling is excellent. The EcoBoost automatic transmissions are deceptively powerful - so you’ll have no problem overtaking on the motorway.

If a city car is a touch too small for you but you still want a compact car, then the Fiesta is one of the best cars for the job. With both three and five-door models available, you can easily fit a few adults in the back.

3. Volkswagen Golf Hatchback

RRP: £17,570 - £37,245
  • Doors: 3 - 5
  • Engine: 3.2
  • Fuel: P, D, H
  • Body: Hatchback
  • Drive: M, A
  • CO2: 278g/km

Pros

  • Cabin quality is as good as you’d expect. Lots of boot space.

  • Refined driving experience.

Cons

  • Not as good as it once was.

  • Competitors offer better value for money.

The Golf is a true all rounder. Big sister of the Volkswagen Polo, the Golf is a brilliant family car.

Driving with your significant other criticising you and your kids bouncing off the windows in the back can be stressful. Luckily, the VW Golf is available with an automatic transmission, so you have one less thing to worry about! Volkswagen’s dual-clutch transmission is efficient and handles gear changes seamlessly.

The Volkswagen Golf is as nice to drive as ever. It’s refined, smooth but with a sporty edge that makes country roads exciting to drive on. The automatic transmission is well balanced, so you won’t feel short on power.

4. Mercedes A Class Hatchback

RRP: £22,630 - £55,235
  • Doors: 3 - 5
  • Engine: 2.1
  • Fuel: D, P, H
  • Body: Hatchback
  • Drive: M, A
  • CO2: 32 - 197g/km

Pros

  • Stunning looking.

  • The tech is amazing for a small car. Steering wheel is well designed.

Cons

  • Way too expensive for a small hatchback.

  • Doesn’t drive as well as cheaper rivals, like the Ford Fiesta.

Mercedes is an extremely desirable brand, and people will overlook issues just to get their hands on that badge. Nothing demonstrates this more than how well the previous generation Mercedes A-Class sold in the UK - despite being a bit rubbish!

The latest generation however, is impressive. The new A-Class has a distinctive muscular design that makes it stand out from others in class. It really does have that premium Mercedes look and feel.

Mercedes are often fitted with automatics and it’s easy to see why. When you pay for luxury, you want easy driving! The Mercedes A-Class eight-speed transmission is brilliant.

This all comes at a price though. The A-Class may be a budget option in the Mercedes world, but it’s still a fairly expensive small hatchback. If you have the budget and want luxury and a small form factor, you can’t go wrong with the A-Class, which is one of the best small automatic cars.

5. BMW 3 Series Saloon

RRP: £24,920 - £48,920
  • Doors: 2 - 4
  • Engine: 3.0
  • Fuel: P, D, H
  • Body: Saloon
  • Drive: M, A
  • CO2: 243g/km

Pros

  • Handling and powertrains are still class-leading.

  • Lots of great tech, even on standard trim.

Cons

  • Competitors, like the Skoda Octavia, are almost as good yet are much cheaper.

  • Can be uncomfortable on rocky/uneven terrain.

A true mainstay of European motoring, the BMW 3 Series remains an excellent choice year after year. BMW offers an excellent happy medium between decadent luxuries and performance.

Unfortunately for BMW, the days of the 3 Series being head and shoulders above the competition in this class are over. With cheaper competitors getting better and better each year, BMW has their work cut out in making the 3 Series stand out.

While no longer dominating, the 3 Series continues to be an exceptional figure in the class - it looks as good as ever and drives like a dream. BMW has had a lot of practice perfecting the automatic transmission, and the quality of the six-speed automatic transmission proves that this is an area where they continue to reign over competitors in this class.

6. Honda Civic Hatchback

RRP: £18,180 - £32,960
  • Doors: 3 - 5
  • Engine: 2.2
  • Fuel: P, D
  • Body: Hatchback
  • Drive: M, A
  • CO2: 215g/km

Pros

  • Twin-turbo engines (particularly the 1.5 litre petrol engine) are great.

  •  Safety kit, even on standard trim, is excellent.

Cons

  • Divisive design.

  • Not as spacious as it used to be.

When Honda revealed the Civic’s sportier new look in 2018, the opinions were polarising. Some loved it, and some preferred the simpler and inoffensive design of the old Civic.

Well we happen to love it, and we also love the automatic transmission on the new Civic. You know you’re getting value with money when you go Honda, and their incredible reliability record speaks for itself.

While not as refined an automatic experience as a BMW 3 Series, you can bet that the BMW will need repaired before the Honda does!

7. Skoda Octavia Hatchback (2017)

  • Doors:
  • Engine:
  • Fuel:
  • Body: Saloon
  • Drive:
  • CO2:

Pros

  • Good interior build quality.

  • Deceptively spacious.

Cons

  • Design is a bit dull.

  • Competitors are more exciting to drive.

It’s easy to forget that there was a time when Skoda was a laughable car maker. Now, the VW-owned automotive company is at the top of their game, and it shows with the latest Skoda Octavia.

The Skoda Octavia’s value for money is truly incredible, coming in significantly cheaper than upmarket rivals Audi and BMW.

The Octavia manages to offer lots of practicality while still being fun. With a wide range of trims, you can go as sporty as you want to (or can afford)!

With the performance spec ‘VRS’, the Octavia gives the likes of the BMW 3 Series a run for its money. Skoda has learned a lot from owners Volkswagen, and they sure know how to design a great automatic transmission - which makes the Octavia even more enjoyable to own.

8. Toyota Prius

RRP: £23,240 - £34,040
  • Doors: 5
  • Engine: 1.8
  • Fuel: H
  • Body: Hatchback
  • Drive: A
  • CO2: 28 - 104g/km

Pros

  • Incredible fuel economy.

  • Lots of safety features as standard.

Cons

  • Not the sleekest looking car.

  • A reliable but not riveting ride.

Not all of us want an exciting, high performance car. For many of us, particularly those on a budget, just want something that has excellent fuel economy and reliability.

The Prius has a reputation of being ‘boring, but efficient’, and it’s admittedly well earned. You’re not going to giggle driving round country roads in a Prius. Toyota’s CVT transmission (continuously variable transmission) is a bit dull, but it does the job.

And with such a huge fuel economy, who needs fun?! Available as a Hybrid or Electric, the Prius has an excellent CVT automatic transmission with ridiculously low running costs. It’s super easy to drive and is a true no-hassle car.

9. Audi A3 Sportback

RRP: £19,930 - £39,735
  • Doors: 5
  • Engine: 3.2
  • Fuel: P, D, H
  • Body: Hatchback
  • Drive: M, A
  • CO2: 250g/km

Pros

  • Truly stunning inside and out.

  • Great fun to drive, while still being comfortable.

Cons

  • Lack of design change from the old one might disappoint some.

  • Trim options can be a bit confusing.

Audi isn’t the most adventurous car brand these days - the last few generations of the A3 have looked pretty much the same. However, this isn’t a bad thing.

Focused on evolution over revolution, the A3 becomes more and more refined (however subtly) with each new iteration. New tech is incorporated in an elegant manner, and the car’s dashboard never looks overcrowded.

Audi is a brand focused on luxury and ease of use. The A3 doesn’t disappoint in this regard, with the A3’s automatic transmission being a pleasure to use. It’s smooth and intelligent, and manages to strike a fine balance between luxury and fun.

10. Jaguar XF Saloon

RRP: £32,245 - £52,125
  • Doors: 4
  • Engine: 5.0
  • Fuel: P, D
  • Body: Saloon
  • Drive: A, M
  • CO2: 114 - 299g/km

Pros

  • An absolute joy to drive - refined, comfortable, and fun. Diesel engines are efficient.

  • Really well designed body.

Cons

  • Interior should be better for the price.

  • Competitors offer better value for money.

For many, the only people who drive Jaguars are balding men who are rapidly approaching retirement age - well-off types who want a relaxed and easy life.

It can’t be denied, whether you’re 54 or 24, that the Jaguar XF is an incredible car. With an 8 speed gearbox, Jaguar has one of the best automatic transmissions in the game. A true ‘executive saloon’, the XF is as refined a drive as you’d expect it to be for the price.

Jaguars are all about luxury, but it’s luxury with logic. Every feature makes sense and doesn’t feel like pointless tech.

Summary

Nowadays, automatic cars come in all shapes and sizes. From the pint sized Hyundai i10, to the intimidating Jaguar XF, there’s something for everyone.

One of the drawbacks of an automatic is the higher up-front cost. For many, this is a deal breaker. If you have your heart set on an automatic but can’t afford to buy a new car outright (and don’t trust used cars), then why not check out a lease deal.

Leasing lets you pay low monthly payments for one of our best automatic cars without having to worry about the big up front cost.

If you fancy an eco-friendly car type that offers an automatic transmission, check out our Best Electric Cars, or even our Best Hybrid Cars! And if you're still keen to see what else is out there, look at all of our automatic car lease deals.