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

Ever increasing congestion of the roads means that cars fitted with automatic gearboxes are more appealing than ever. Better still, thanks to advances in technology, these labour-saving transmissions are often more efficient than a standard manual gearbox.

These days there are several different types of transmission to choose from – all will shift gears for you automatically, but they do it in very different ways. Most popular is the traditional auto, which uses a fluid coupling called a torque convertor to transfer power from the engine to the gearbox. 

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Many manufacturers now offer a twin-clutch set-up, which promises unrivalled smoothness and double-quick shift times. Essentially this system splits the gearbox in two, with each half getting its own electronically controlled clutch. The benefit of this set-up is that the gearbox can pre-select the next ratio, resulting in virtually seamless changes.

For smaller cars, manufacturers often favour a Continuously Variable Transmission (CVT). By employing a pair of belt or chain-linked pulleys, this system can deliver smooth acceleration and a theoretically infinite amount of ratios, which promises to be good for both performance and efficiency.

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Finally, some firms use low-cost automated manual units. By combining a standard manual gearbox with an electro-hydraulically operated clutch, these systems deliver automatic shifts for a fraction of the cost. However, they are often jerky and unresponsive, making them frustrating to drive.

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