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Best small automatic cars to buy 2024

Prefer your small cars with fewer pedals? These are the best small automatic cars you can buy

There are many reasons for wanting a small automatic car. Their compact size makes them a doddle to manoeuvre and park, while the lack of a third pedal makes them a breeze to operate in town or out on the open road. Whatever your reason, there’s plenty of options on the market, especially with more and more small electric cars entering the fray. Our expert road-testers are here to make the search as easy as possible by rounding up the best small automatic cars to buy right now.

Whether you want a compact city car, a sensible supermini or a spacious small SUV, we have examples from each sector in our round-up of the top ten small cars that are available with an automatic gearbox. There’s a range of petrol, hybrid and electric models all up for grabs here, so there’s an option for just about everyone.

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Our picks aren’t just based on the quality of the car in general, but we’ve also taken the performance of the gearbox itself into account. Plenty of modern autos are silky smooth on the move, but others will leave you wishing you were doing the hard work yourself. These cars offer impressive fuel economy, too, while many should prove cheap to insure.

The best small automatic cars to buy now

Scroll down to find the best small automatic cars to buy right now, listed in reverse order.

10. Toyota Aygo X

  • Prices from £16,000
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The Toyota Aygo X is a city car with funky SUV-inspired styling, and for a premium of just over £1,000 it can be equipped with a CVT automatic transmission. This is mated to a 1.0-litre, three-cylinder petrol engine that produces 71bhp and 93Nm of torque

While this engine may sound quite weedy at first, the Aygo X only weighs around 1,000kg so it rarely struggles. It can actually feel quite peppy as long as you’re willing to rev it hard. The steering is light and has a reassuring weight to it, making it both easy to use around town yet not nervous at higher speeds. 

If you drive economically, Toyota claims the automatic Aygo X can reach 56.5mpg on the WLTP combined cycle — only slightly less on the manual’s 58.8mpg. 

9. Honda Jazz 

  • Prices from £26,000
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The latest Honda Jazz is only available as a hybrid. This powertrain comprises a 1.5-litre Atkinson-cycle petrol engine and two electric motors producing a total output of 108bhp and 253Nm of torque. At the centre is an ‘e-CVT’ automatic transmission which Honda says creates an easier delivery of power.

Unlike CVTs of old, we have no qualms with the refinement of the drivetrain in the Jazz. As you’d expect there’s some electric motor whine and the revs can soar if pushed hard, but Honda’s supermini is a comfortable place to rack up the miles.  

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If you want some extra SUV ruggedness in your life, the Jazz Crosstar model might appeal. It uses the same hybrid power and CVT gearbox with a lifted ride height and some wheel arch cladding. 

8. Peugeot E-208

  • Prices from £31,000

While it was already a good looker, the Peugeot E-208 received a facelift in 2023 that made this electric supermini’s styling even sharper, as well as adding some useful improvements to its battery tech.

Peugeot’s baby EV can now cover up to 248 miles on the WLTP combined cycle, so it won’t be out of its depth on big roads and longer trips. 154bhp and 260Nm means it should keep up with the traffic, too. 

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The E-208’s automatic transmission and small stature make it very easy to drive and park, so it’s an attractive package for the most part. The downside, though, is its steep starting price. 

7. Vauxhall Corsa Electric

  • Prices from £27,000

While some electric cars go all-out to create a futuristic feel in terms of design and technology, the Vauxhall Corsa Electric instead brings a welcome sense of familiarity. There’s little to differentiate between this zero-emission supermini and its combustion-powered sibling, apart from what’s lurking underneath the bonnet.

As with all EVs, the Corsa Electric is only available with an automatic transmission. The good news is that this, along with the car's compact size and straightforward layout, makes it just as easy to live with as a standard Corsa. If you’re making the switch from a combustion car, the claimed 246-mile battery range should help to alleviate any anxiety. 

6. Fiat 500 

  • Prices from £23,000
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The Fiat 500 quickly became a sales sensation when it first arrived in 1957. Then, in 2008, the modern 500 took the world by storm. Today, the latest 500 is now continuing this long legacy, only this time with fully-electric power.

Fiat’s city car still has plenty of the old-school charm of the original model but, naturally, it has grown a bit in size. However, it’s still smaller than the MINI hatchback so it feels very nimble to drive, especially around town. There’s still room for four passengers inside, though, along with a decent amount of interior storage.

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Two batteries are available in the Fiat 500: a 24kWh unit offering up to 119 miles of range or a 42kWh pack with up to 189 miles. Power is delivered by a single front-mounted electric motor. Whichever powertrain you choose, you’ll get an automatic transmission as standard.

5. Skoda Fabia 

  • Prices from £20,000

Opt for any of the turbocharged engines in the current Skoda Fabia line-up and you will have the option of a seven-speed DSG automatic transmission. If you’re planning to cover plenty of motorway miles in your supermini, this dual-clutch system’s smooth changes further complement the Fabia’s comfortable ride quality. 

The Fabia is a very safe car, too, with a generous amount of active safety tech including front assist, pedestrian protection and lane-keeping assist all fitted as standard. This helps contribute towards the small Skoda’s five-star Euro NCAP safety rating.

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No member of the current Fabia line-up is particularly thrilling to drive — there is no vRS performance model — but each variant should prove pretty cost-effective. Every engine can return around 50mpg without too much effort.

4. BYD Dolphin

  • Prices from £30,000
  • Best value for money

While you may be initially apprehensive about buying a car from a relatively-unknown brand, BYD — Build Your Dreams — is, in fact, the world’s largest EV maker, so it’s safe to say its engineers know what they’re doing.

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The reason you might not have heard of BYD is because the Dolphin is only the second car that the Chinese brand has sold in the UK. It’s off to a very strong start, though, as this small electric car boasts solid build quality, well over 200 miles of battery range, a five-star safety rating and plenty of impressive technology. All while undercutting many of its rivals when it comes to cost.

Being an EV, the Dolphin is only available as an automatic, and there’s a decent amount of punch on offer with 310Nm of torque on tap. 0-62mph is dealt with in 7.2 seconds, so it’s certainly no slouch, either.

3. Jeep Avenger

  • Prices from £24,000
  • Best for interior space
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Best known for its bulky off-roaders, Jeep surprised the world by building a small road-biased SUV that’s actually rather sensible. The best part, though, is that the Avenger still retains plenty of the unique character that’s associated with the American brand.

While it’s never going to conquer terrain like the Wrangler, the little Avenger is great to drive on the road, stylish to look at and even quite affordable to buy. There’s plenty of choice when it comes to power, too, as you can opt for a petrol, full-hybrid or fully-electric variant.

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If you want an automatic gearbox, you’ll need to pick either the full-hybrid or EV. While these are pricier to buy than the entry-level petrol version, you’ll soon save a few pennies when it comes to running costs.

2. Toyota Yaris

  • Prices from £23,000
  • Best for fuel economy

There’s no doubt the Toyota Yaris is one of the racier-looking superminis on the road, although sadly the driving experience is worthy rather than fun. Drive it as sensibly as intended, though, and this hybrid’s eco-credentials should certainly appeal.

As one of the smallest hybrids on sale today, you won’t be surprised to hear the Yaris is economical, and the claimed 68mpg is definitely impressive.

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With light controls, the Yaris is easy to place around town or in traffic, but the ride can be a little too far on the fidgety side for some, and there’s pronounced lean in corners if you’re trying to press on. The CVT gearbox works well at low speeds around town, or when driving gently, but if you want to extract maximum performance then it can cause the engine to seem as though it’s revving too hard for the given speed. You soon get used to it though, and the trade-off is those great economy and emissions numbers.

1. Renault Clio Hybrid

  • Prices from £21,000
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The Renault Clio is one of our favourite superminis, and the hybrid version — known as the E-Tech — offers a great combination of efficiency, performance and, of course, an automatic gearbox. 

With an efficient 1.6-litre petrol engine, electric motor and small battery pack, the Clio E-Tech Full Hybrid produces a healthy 143bhp, yet it can also return up to 67.3mpg with CO2 emissions as low as 96g/km. This makes the Clio a good pick for company-car drivers, as well as people who just need an automatic. However, the electric cars on this list offer the very biggest savings.

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On the outside the Clio is as stylish as ever, but now it’s just as impressive behind the wheel. The steering, handling and damping and technology are up there with the very best in class, while it feels just as refined as several cars from the class above. 

Top 10 best small automatic cars

  1. Renault Clio Hybrid
  2. Toyota Yaris
  3. Jeep Avenger
  4. BYD Dolphin
  5. Skoda Fabia
  6. Fiat 500
  7. Vauxhall Corsa Electric 
  8. Peugeot E-208
  9. Honda Jazz 
  10. Toyota Aygo X

Why choose a small automatic car?

Many city cars, compact hatchbacks and superminis are terrific to drive, but plenty of drivers just want a car to simply transport them from A to B, and the more straightforwardly it can deliver on that promise the better. Small SUVs are another category of car widely available with auto transmissions and these tend to deliver a little more practicality and comfort.

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Even drivers who enjoy changing up and down a gearbox manually have to admit there are times when an automatic car would be a blessing – and for lots of commuters in urban areas ‘those times’ make up most of their experience behind the wheel.

Small automatic cars used to be pretty horrid. Slower and thirstier than their manual counterparts, with asthmatic, lazy or lurching gear shifts – and you couldn’t even bump start them with a flat battery.

Well you still can’t bump start an auto, but in all other respects the quality of small cars with automatic gears has improved no end. Thanks to the advent of slick changing dual-clutch gearboxes, high-tech multi-speed torque converter autos and even the resurgence of the Constantly Variable Transmission (CVT), nowadays the lot of the small automatic driver is often happier than the driver stuck with an ‘old-fashioned’ manual transmission.

The rise of electric cars is having an impact here, too, as EV powertrains don’t need you to change gears for them either. Small EVs are becoming more and more commonplace as well. In fact, given the necessity for car companies to eke every last mile out of every litre of fuel these days, in all likelihood, it won’t be long before super-efficient auto transmissions are the rule in the small car sector, instead of the exception.

Whichever auto you end up with, if it's one of the top 10 small autos we’ve picked for this list, it will be just as good as the manual version to drive – and in many cases better. If you can't find what you're looking for at the right price brand new, you can always extend your search to used small cars with automatic gearboxes.

Now read our list of the best superminis to buy...

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Shane is responsible for looking after the day-to-day running of the Auto Express website and social media channels. Prior to joining Auto Express in 2021, he worked as a radio producer and presenter for outlets such as the BBC.

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