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In the late 1960s, when automatic gearboxes were first invented, they were mainly restricted to small city cars, for buyers seeking the best automatic small car to get them from A to B. Fifty years later, automatic gearboxes can be found on almost all types of car from large estates and SUVs down to small hybrids and superminis.
Below Trusted Dealers takes a look at a few of the key differences between automatic and manual cars, to help buyers make an informed choice before entering the showroom.
In the past, many drivers have been put off automatic cars because they believe they take the ‘fun’ out of driving, but in recent years the build up of congestion on the roads leading to long traffic jams and delays has meant that automatic cars have become a relief, particularly for daily commuters who wish to avoid constant gear shifts. In fact, many fans of automatic cars believe that once you’ve tried one you’ll never revert back.
Automatic cars do tend to burn more fuel, mainly because they have to work harder. But recently, things have changed and there are now the best automatic small cars are actually more fuel efficient. Automatic cars used to only have three or four speeds but most new cars now have around eight gears which helps to reduce fuel wastage and equates to around a 6% fuel economy improvement.
You’ll pay more to buy an automatic car than a manual one, and it will cost you more to maintain and repair it. Add this to the fact that many manual cars do offer better mpg and are usually less money to ensure, and you may wish to think again. On the upside, automatics retain their value much better than manual cars so you’ll see the benefit when you trade on.
Automatic cars are safer than manual cars due to the simple fact drivers will have both hands firmly planted on the steering wheel in an automatic car. In addition, people who drive manual cars can be more aggressive at the hands of the gearbox which can lead to higher fuel consumption and worse still and increase in accidents.
With electronics now monitoring cars’ efficiency and with more gears available, automatics are frequently more economical than manual ones and with greater fuel efficiency comes lower CO2 emissions which not only means your car will be kinder on the environment, you’ll pay less road tax too.
Whichever car you choose, make sure you do your research thoroughly and you know which automatic car you’re being offered. It’s also important to take the car for a test drive to check you’re happy with the way it drives, both when it chooses the gears itself and when you take control.