Best automatic cars

BMW 3 Series front tracking
17 Jul, 2014 4:15pm James Disdale

Easy to drive and great for commuting, we list the best automatic cars to buy

There are plenty of reasons why you might be tempted by an automatic car. Ever-increasing congestion on the roads of Britain mean that relaxing your left foot and not having to worry about a clutch or gears is a soothing proposition.

Of course, there are other benefits to modern automatic cars - chief among which is efficiency. A modern auto can change gear more smoothly and accurately than a driver can, and the perk of that is that automatic-equipped cars can be more fuel efficient than their manual counterparts.

There's a few different types of automatic gearbox around, so knowing what to avoid and what to go for is important. The traditional option is known as a torque converter, which uses a fluid coupling between the engine and the gearbox to transfer power. These have been in use since the middle of last century and provide smooth gearchanges - but do tend to have an effect on performance and economy, though this has improved with time.

The more modern option is a dual-clutch setup. One clutch handles odd-numbered gears while the other handles even-numbers, and the two work in tandem for lightning-fast gearchanges. The result is smooth and can even be more economical than a manual gearbox - however they can be jerky from a standstill, they're expensive and difficult to repair should they go wrong.

A different choice altogether is a CVT or Continuously Variable Transmission. These use belts rather than gears to provide a single variable gear, making smooth and seamless gearchanging. Economical and cheap to repair, these types of gearbox are best avoided by keen drivers as they can give a somewhat disconnected feel to the car - as well as being noisy under load.

Rounding up with cheap and cheerful is the automated manual transmission. These transmissions essentially use a regular clutch and gear set-up but robotise the action. These have the advantage of being cheap, lightweight and simple - but are jerky around town and under hard acceleration. They're best avoided.

Bearing all this in mind, check out our list of the best automatic cars on sale today...