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Finance representative example (PCP)

Total cash price £19,599. Borrowing £15,679 with a £3,920 deposit at a representative APR of 12.9%.

49 monthly payments
£245.40
Fixed interest rate
12.9%
Total amount payable
£26,193.09
Cost of credit
£6,594.09
Optional final payment
£10,494.00
Annual mileage limit
6000 miles

Automatic gearboxes were once the preserve of luxury cars, intended solely to reduce driving effort, often at the expense of performance and efficiency. However, thanks to some clever engineering, modern automatics can now match and, in some cases, actually beat manual gearboxes – delivering even faster acceleration while also cutting fuel costs.

Not only are modern automatics significantly more advanced than their sluggish predecessors, they’re also more widely available than ever before. You’ll find an automatic option across nearly all car categories including compact, affordable options such as the Kia Picanto and even high-performance sports cars such as the Porsche Boxster.

By definition, all electric cars are automatic because they don’t need a traditional clutch or a multi-speed gearbox to work across a range of speeds. What’s more, hybrid cars – with the exception of some mild hybrids – typically use an automatic gearbox to accurately blend power from the engine with their electric motors. That means automatic buyers have loads of great options if they’re looking to cut their monthly fuel costs.

Of course, automatics are still very much the order of the day for premium and luxury cars. Executive cruisers such as the Mercedes E-Class, Audi A6 and BMW 5 Series are only offered with automatics, and you’ll never see a Range Rover Sport buyer do anything as vulgar as changing their own gears.


FAQs

For cars that have the option of both a manual and an automatic gearbox, the latter will almost always cost more to buy. In addition, carmakers sometimes don’t offer their least expensive engine options with an automatic, so you might need to pick a pricier version of the car you’re looking at to get the option to add an automatic gearbox.

While prices vary from car to car, automatics can also cost a small amount more to insure than an equivalent manual car, and their fuel economy might be slightly worse in the real world.

Nevertheless, for many buyers, those penalties are worth paying to get the extra convenience of an automatic gearbox.

In the bad old days of sluggish, lazy automatic gearboxes, these models would use a lot more fuel than their manual counterparts. This isn’t the case anymore thanks to modern automatic gearbox developments, with little to no fuel economy penalty compared with a manual-equipped car.

Put simply, yes. Automatic gearboxes are primarily intended to make driving easier by eliminating the need to shift gears yourself and removing the clutch pedal entirely.

If you’ve never driven an automatic-equipped car, it can feel a little strange at first because the car wants to move as soon as you start lifting off the brake pedal. However, you’ll very quickly get used to it and, within a few miles, will be wondering why you ever drove anything else.

In the UK, if you pass your test in an automatic car, you’ll be granted an automatic-only licence. This is a full driving licence but will only permit you to legally drive automatic-equipped vehicles. If you want to drive a manual car, you’ll need to retake your test in a car with a manual gearbox.

As a general rule, automatic cars can’t stall and will not roll backwards if you take your foot off the brake on an incline – assuming they’re in full working order.

Some older auto gearbox designs, such as those used in the mid-2000s by Citroen and Peugeot, were known for rolling a little before the computer would wake up and catch them, but these have long since been abandoned and, if you’re shopping nearly new cars, you won’t encounter any of these varieties.