Plenty of buyers crave the ease of an automatic car – that's why they’re often in demand on the used market. The problem is that automatics are more mechanically complex than manuals, so they suffer from a reputation for poor reliability once they get beyond a certain age; and there are plenty of automatics out there that are simply unpleasant to use, even when they’re in top-notch condition.
So to help you to figure out which used automatic is the best buy for you, we’ve put together this guide to the best automatics for as little as £2000. Believe it or not, it’s possible to get a sensible, reliable automatic for as little as that – as this guide proves. Of course, if you’ve got more to spend, we’ve got you covered, too, with a selection of the best used automatic cars for every budget right up to £25,000.
There are lots of reasons for wanting a small car with an automatic gearbox, not least of which is the sheer boredom of sitting motionless in traffic jams every day developing an aching foot from repeatedly pressing down the clutch pedal.
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 ‘those times’ make up most of their experience behind the wheel.
Other people want a compact automatic hatchback or supermini because they’re just not interested in the driving bit at all. For them a car is simply transport from A to B, and the more straightforwardly it can deliver on that promise the better.
Which is why, frankly, 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.
Whichever automatic gearbox you choose – or if you’re looking at specific types of car whichever gearbox chooses you – they’re all pretty much the same to drive.
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.
According to the latest data from the SMMT (Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders), there are around 40 million vehicles on UK roads and automatic model use has grown by more than half a million to 10,454,067 cars since 2019.
What's more, the number of young drivers choosing to take their tests in automatic cars has tripled since 2008, according to the DVSA (Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency). Only 3.8% of tests were taken in an automatic back then – now it's closer to 14%.
When new petrol and diesel cars are banned from sale in 2030, there will be no choice because electric vehicles (EVs) are all automatic, in the sense that they don't have a gearbox. In other words, they are single-speed vehicles with two pedals – one for accelerating, the other for braking.
We've selected 10 second-hand cars with great automatic gearboxes, including one EV. They all have one thing in common – they’re almost effortless and make driving in traffic a doddle. click here