When it comes to choosing which transmission for your next car lease, there’s simply a choice of two – manual or automatic. And while there are, technically speaking, at least five types of automatic transmission, in essence the very plainest way you can sum up the differences between the two main overarching technologies is like this: a manual car has three pedals in the driver’s footwell, while an automatic has just two.
This is because an automatic, as its name suggests, will change gears for you. Control systems within the car shift the vehicle through the ratios in the gearbox at given points in the rev range, depending on what you are asking of the engine in terms of acceleration and load. Automatic Cars have just four gears P – Park, R – Reverse, N – Neutral, D – Drive meaning once you’ve selected D there is no need to change gears whilst moving forward.
In a manual gearbox, however, the gears are presented on what is known as an ‘H-pattern’ gate, and to shift between each gear, the driver needs to use the left-hand clutch pedal as part of the process to make the required gear change. So, three pedals equals manual, while two pedals equals auto. It really is that straightforward.
Automatic transmission vehicles are preferred by an increasing number of drivers due to their simplicity in comparison to manual cars and a wide range of models offering automatic as an option. Operating an automatic car is comparatively effortless and less complicated than manual cars with a huge number of models providing both options. There are drivers who prefer the hands-on experience of a car with an automatic transmission. This is usually in high-performance cars where manual transmission and enhanced control is considered the preferred option.
In general, automatic cars relieve the daily stress of driving a manual car and offer improved efficiency and reliability. With those benefits in mind, here are ten of the best automatic cars to lease, with a mix of electric cars, crossovers and cars across all budgets.
What Are The Best Automatic Cars In 2023?
Audi e-tron GT
Citroen C3 Aircross
Audi e-tron GT
As a large, elegant, all-electric grand tourer, the Audi e-tron GT and an automatic transmission go together like hand and glove. It uses the same two-speed reduction gear system as a Porsche Taycan, which allows the Audi EV to be fiercely accelerative at lower speeds, but then to shift into a ‘higher’ ratio for motorway work and high-speed cruising, so it’s more relaxed. However, the shifter in the cabin is a simple P-R-N-D affair, so it’s familiar to operate for the driver.
Citroen C3 Aircross
Citroen’s C3 Aircross is their smallest crossover and offers the EAT6 automatic as the standard transmission for the more powerful 1.2-litre PureTech petrol turbocharged model, with 130hp. This gearbox is a perfect fit for the C3 Aircross’ character, as it is a crossover-SUV aimed at outright comfort above all else. So a smooth-shifting, low-stress automatic is definitely the transmission of choice for this French family car.
For more on Citroen’s compact SUV, take a look at our C3 Aircross review or C3 Aircross colour guide.
Ford’s third-generation Kuga is an excellent large SUV for families, and the full hybrid and plug-in hybrid models employ a slick CVT automatic with a strong 2.5-litre engine. It makes the Kuga not only surprisingly easy to use in heavy urban traffic, but also very easy on its fuel too. Check out our Ford Kuga lease deals for more details on this popular model.
The latest fourth-generation Honda Jazz is all about making your life easier. It has a large glasshouse for great visibility out in all directions, it has a simple and nicely laid-out cabin so everything is clear to read at a glance, and it is packed with technologies to take the sting and stresses out of daily driving duties. To that end, it comes with a clever 1.5-litre hybrid drivetrain called the e:HEV, which is exclusively paired to a seamless eCVT gearbox that makes the most of the instant torque provided by the electric portion of the Honda’s powertrain to provide punchy in-city acceleration.
Another EV equipped with an ultra-smooth reduction-gear transmission, the Kia EV6 is just a brilliant car all round. It has a range of up to 328 miles and a model which can even run 0-62mph in 3.5 seconds, if you need such a thing, but its real strengths include a huge, well-built and generously equipped interior that is perfect for daily driving duties, while its futuristic-looking interior will turn heads on the streets.
Skoda’s first all-electric the Enyaq iV is, predictably, an excellent machine. It comes as a regular SUV or a more rakish Coupe model, and there are a variety of powertrains to go at, including a performance-oriented vRS model. Yet all Enyaqs, whatever shape and power output they might be, are EVs, so it’s a click-it-into-D-and-forget-it reduction-gear transmission on this all-electric family SUV. Find unbeatables prices with our Skoda Enyaq lease deals.
Toyota’s superb fifth-gen RAV4 comes as both a normal Hybrid model and also as a Plug-In Hybrid, with a bigger battery pack and a greater all-electric-driving capability. But whichever one you go for, you get Toyota’s excellent electronic CVT system, which the company has worked hard on to give the most refinement possible. What you end up with is a large, practical family SUV that’s also remarkably economical, thanks to Toyota’s decades of hybrid know-how.
Not many cars in the supermini sector are electric, but there’s a zero-emission version of the Vauxhall Corsa which provides EV motoring at a relatively affordable price. It shares the powertrain of the Peugeot e-208, which means the Corsa-e has a 136hp electric motor and 50kWh lithium-ion battery pack, allowing for up to 222 miles of one-shot driving range and a 0-62mph time of just 7.6 seconds. Better still, as an EV, it has a single-speed reduction-gear transmission, so it’s ‘click-and-forget’ to get it moving on every trip.
We couldn’t do a round-up of great automotive automatic transmissions without talking about the Volkswagen Group’s dual-clutch system, known widely as the DSG. And what better car to experience it on than the long-serving and iconic Golf?
Automatic transmission is available on the 1.5 eTSI plug-in hybrid and 2.0-litre turbodiesel models, as well as some of the high-performance options. Derivatives like the Golf R have a seven-speed DSG automatic that allows for manual shifting if you’re in the mood, but which in general operates like the very best and most refined torque-converter autos. It really is the best of both worlds.
For even more on VW’s iconic hatchback, take a look at our VW Golf review, or check out our latest VW Golf lease deals.
Finishing with a large, luxurious saloon car, which is the very heartland of automatic transmissions, Volvo’s glorious S90 comes as a potent 455hp ‘T8’ plug-in hybrid model. This uses a traditional automatic gearbox, in this case an eight-speed unit made by Japanese company Aisin. Like everything else in the S90, this self-shifter is elegant, refined and ultra-smooth to deal with, and as there’s no manual option in this model range then you’re assured of the best gearbox specification with the big Volvo.
What Are The Benefits Of Leasing An Automatic Car?
Automatic gearboxes are popular because they take away one of the more complex procedures of driving – they are basically easier to operate and live with than manual cars. In a manual vehicle, even getting it moving in the first place requires a delicate balancing procedure between throttle and clutch, in order to find the ‘biting point’ that allows the car to start moving without it stalling.
It’s also possible to mess up changing gears once you’re rolling, if you move the lever too far across the gate – so you might end up engaging sixth gear when you meant to go for fourth, for example. And when you’re in heavy traffic, the constant shuffling of the gear lever through the lower gears and the regular use of the clutch becomes tiresome.
But, in general, an automatic car takes all of the day-to-day stress of driving a manual away. That’s why automatic is the only choice on large, luxury cars – such as the Audi A8, BMW 7 Series, Mercedes S-Class and other high-end saloons, like all Bentleys and Rolls-Royces – because it better suits their laid-back, refined characters.
In an automatic car, control software is solely responsible for the shifting of gears. A lot of automatics offer a ‘manual override’ function, which allows the driver to either change gears with the lever in a special ‘shift gate’ or, in sportier models, via paddle shifters mounted on either the steering wheel or steering column. But even then, there’s no clutch action to have to perform and no chance of inadvertently getting the wrong gear.
What Types Of Automatic Gearboxes Are There?
Technically there are five types of automatic gearbox, which are the traditional torque converter system, the robotised manual, the dual-clutch gearbox, the continuously variable transmission (CVT) and, in the age of the electric vehicle (EV), the single- or dual-speed reduction gear.
Each of these has its own strengths and weaknesses, but all that matters to you as the end user is that all of them have just a throttle pedal and a brake pedal, so there’s no third ‘clutch’ pedal, and all of them use the ‘P-R-N-D’ layout of selecting gears. That means ‘Park’, ‘Reverse’, ‘Neutral’ and ‘Drive’, so in practice all you do as the driver is select ‘D’ for ‘Drive’ and off you go. The car does the rest.
Are All Electric Cars Automatic?
Automatics are not just preferred these days, they are actually becoming the norm. All electric cars, for example, use reduction-gear automatics. These are normally one-speed, but some expensive cars, like the Audi e-tron GT and Porsche Taycan, have two-speed units. Most larger vehicle ranges will exclusively come with automatic transmissions – for example, BMW dropped the manual gearbox option on the X5 SUV when the second generation of the car was launched way back in 2006.
But even small cars like superminis, crossovers and city cars are widely available with automatic gearbox options now, to the extent that many industry experts think the manual gearbox will become extinct long before the internal combustion engine does.
Are Automatic Cars More Efficient Than Manual?
Modern automatics are every bit as good and efficient as their three-pedal manual gearbox counterparts. Previously automatic options on a car would ruin its fuel economy and its performance, but nowadays most automatic cars use less fuel than their manual counterparts (if they even have such a thing), while vehicles fitted with an automatic gearbox typically have faster acceleration times too – thanks to newer technology like Launch Control and super-rapid gearshifts.
Are Automatic Cars Reliable?
Automatic transmissions, by and large, tend to be more reliable than manuals. This is because the very thing in a manual gearbox that needs a third pedal in the driver’s footwell – namely, the clutch – wears out over time and needs replacing. In particular, the CVT automatic is known as a very reliable gearbox, which is why it is favoured by Japanese manufacturers like Toyota and Honda for their hybrid vehicles.
Are Automatic Cars More Expensive?
Usually, an automatic gearbox will cost a little more than a manual transmission, even on entry level models, but there are exceptions to that rule – some models of Porsche 911, for example, come as automatics as standard and selecting the manual gearbox is a ‘no-cost option’. And as we’ve already said, there are a lot of car ranges where a manual gearbox is not available at all, so you won’t be paying a premium for a standard-fit automatic.
What Are Insurance Costs Like For An Automatic Car?
They are broadly comparable but can be slightly higher, simply because of the increased purchase prices of the automatic gearbox on a new car.
Are Automatic Cars More Economical?
Traditionally, they were usually less economical than their manual equivalents, but advances in technology and control systems mean that nowadays, automatics can be better on fuel and cleaner for CO2 emissions than the same model of car fitted with a manual transmission. For more on cars that are kinder to your wallet, take a look at our top picks for the most economical cars in 2023.
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