Automatic gearboxes have come a long way in the last ten years so our pick of the best automatic cars of 2018 may surprise you (especially our number one spot).  If you’re just starting your driver’s journey, remember – with a full UK manual driver’s license – you can drive a manual or an automatic, but if you learn to drive in an automatic car, you can only drive autos (unless you take another driving test).

Automatic vs Manual Gearboxes

Whilst popular in America, UK car-buyers have historically avoided automatic gearboxes in favour of manual transmissions. Wisely, that’s now changed, and automatics are more popular today than ever before. This is great news, as the cutting-edge technology used in today’s autos provides a fantastic driving experience. With an automatic gearbox, you’ll find:

  • The car is easier to drive with smoother transitions
  • You won’t stall (unless there’s a mechanical fault)
  • It’s easier in heavy traffic
  • You get more fuel for your money
  • It’s easier to tackle hilly terrain
  • You have a relaxed driving experience that lets you focus on the road ahead

2018’s Top 10 Automatic Cars

For this list, we’ve chosen cars that can be bought as a manual or an automatic (rather than choosing electric models, which are always automatic). If you’re interested in electric cars, check out our list of The Best Electric Cars in the UK.  Now, read on for our top 10 automatic cars of 2018.

1. Porsche 911

Sports car enthusiasts might be a little shocked by this choice, but the 7-speed PDK, which translates as Porsche dual-clutch transmission, transforms one of the best sports cars on the market. It improves the 911, making the car noticeably faster and easier to drive. It’s better suited to the turbo-charged engines too, offering better fuel economy. To top it off, the PDK even lowers maintenance costs, as you should never need clutch replacements. Plus, as you’d expect from a Porsche, the drive is both engaging and breath-taking. The Porsche 911 PDK also boasts a manual mode, should you wish to use it.

Best features:

  • Improved fuel economy
  • Shifts very fast and you can feel the difference
  • Optional launch control system for eye-wateringly fast 0-60mph speeds

2. Volkswagen Polo

Similar to Porsche’s PDK, Volkswagen’s seven-speed DSG, direct shift gearbox, is a dual-clutch transmission that adds to the Polo. Firstly, it increases fuel economy whilst lowering emissions. Secondly, it provides smooth transitions for driving that’s quick, agile and easy. In short, it makes the already popular Polo even more attractive. Add to that mix Polo’s good range of engines, the premium build quality of the Volkswagen brand, and a five star Euro NCAP safety rating and combined, you have a fantastic all-rounder suitable for driving enthusiasts, families and first-time buyers. Like the Porsche 911, drivers can choose to shift gears manually as well, using a gear lever or optional steering wheel paddles.

Best features:

  • Improved fuel economy
  • Good to drive
  • Spacious interior

3. Vauxhall Astra

The Vauxhall Astra is a popular family car. Automatic transmission adds to that appeal, giving drivers one less thing to worry about. Yet, choosing an automatic doesn’t mean you have to sacrifice the driving experience. The Astra offers an involved ride, helped in part by a great range of powerful and economical engines, most of which you can pair with an automatic gearbox. It’s spacious and comfortable and comes well-equipped as standard. Higher spec models, like the Sri, come with a lot of features and are surprisingly well-priced, providing good value for money.

Best features:

  • Low running costs
  • Good to drive
  • Well-equipped as standard

4. Jaguar F-Pace

The Jaguar F-Pace SUV crossover has always offered a good driving experience that’s more hatchback-like than SUV. It handles corners with agility, the steering is well-balanced and with automatic transmission there’s an extra layer of refinement that suits the luxury interior. The eight-speed automatic gearbox is incredibly smooth and responsive, too. The F-Pace is a great-looking car inside and out, and the automatic gearbox offers you a second to truly appreciate its beauty, providing a more relaxed driving experience. To get the most out of the car, we’d recommend the all-wheel drive with the 240bhp Ingenium 2.0-litre four-cylinder engine – it balances quick acceleration with good fuel economy.

Best features:

  • Good to drive
  • Smooth and responsive
  • Very stylish

5. BMW 3 Series

Arguably, the eight-speed automatic BMW 3 Series is better than the six-speed manual, which is saying something, because that’s a brilliant setup in its own right. For starters, the automatic gearbox offers better fuel economy and lower CO2 emissions. Whilst that might not be enough for some people to justify the extra initial cost, when you consider the fact that this car enhances the best features of the 3-Series, you have a winning combo. The eight-speed auto glides smoothly for a relaxed drive but can still provide quick power and fun when you want it. If you want more of that power, you can get the 3-Series with an optional Sport Auto gearbox as well.

Best features:

  • Great to drive and economical
  • Good fuel economy and low emissions
  • Optional Sport Auto gearbox

6. Skoda Fabia

As part of the VW Group, the Skoda Fabia gets to use the same seven-speed DSG technology that’s in the Volkswagen Polo, and it’s a great match. The automatic gearbox suits the Fabia, making a car that’s already pleasantly easy to drive even easier to drive. Better yet, it helps unlock the power of the available engines with fast, smooth shifts. With the DSG, you also get to switch to manual mode whenever you want to feel more involved with the driving – so it’s a win-win situation. Whilst the automatic transmission adds a little extra to the starting price, the competitively low cost of the Fabia makes it a worthwhile addition for its ease of driving alone.

Best features:

  • Very easy to drive
  • Great value for money
  • Spacious interior

7. Mercedes-Benz E-Class

The Mercedes E-Class comes fitted with a nine-speed automatic gearbox as standard, no doubt to increase the levels of luxury in this already luxurious, yet surprisingly affordable car. Needless to say, it works, and the gearbox provides the right gear precisely when you need it for a smooth and relaxed drive that matches the elegant interior perfectly. For an even more relaxed ride, opt for the very reasonably priced Driver Assistance Plus package and get a whole host of driver assistance aids that practically turn the E-Class autonomous. If you have a bigger budget, check out the Mercedes S-Class. It’s one of the best fully automatic luxury cars on the market.

Best features:

  • Competitively priced
  • Luxurious and elegant with badge appeal
  • Excellent kit

8. Audi A1

The Audi A1 S Tronic uses the same seven-speed DSG gearbox as the Volkswagen Polo and Skoda Fabia, which is not a bad thing at all, as it’s one of the most advanced twin-clutch gearboxes available. Naturally, by adding that to the already impressive Audi A1, you get a car that changes gear with incredible precision and speed – we’re talking blink of an eye speeds. Whilst some might argue that dulls the Audi driving experience, others would say it offers true speed and refinement, but that’s a debate between manuals and automatics that will no doubt rage on for years to come! What sets the Audi apart from others with the same technology is the great selection of engines you can pair the auto transmission with.

Best features:

  • Great selection of engines
  • Prestigious brand and top build quality
  • Good fuel economy

9. Seat Leon

Also part of the VW Group, the Seat Leon is another car that makes great use of the twin-clutch seven-speed DSG gearbox. With an automatic transmission, the Leon offers a perceptibly smoother ride, whilst losing none of its driving appeal thanks to the speed and precision of the DSG box. It’s a refined car with a stylish exterior and an interior that offers plenty of space. Whilst the ride can still be a little firm, the smooth transitions act as something of a counterbalance. There’s a decent range of petrol and diesel engines available, too.

Best features:

  • Fun to drive
  • Good value for money
  • Spacious cabin

10. Skoda Kodiaq

Hook the Skoda Kodiaq up to a DSG transmission and you get a match made in automobile heaven. This spacious SUV with enough room for seven seats is a comfortable car that’s easy to drive. As an automatic it’s even easier, which lends itself well to the spacious cabin and higher driving position. The Kodiaq comes packed with equipment too, especially with higher trim levels. There’s also a small range of engines to choose from, though many would argue it’s best with the 2.0-litre TDI diesel engine and four-wheel drive – as this is a setup that certainly makes the most out of the Kodiaq.

Best features:

  • Available as a 7-seater
  • Available as a 4×4
  • Great to drive