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Automatic cars have become much more popular, but choosing to go automatic isn’t as straightforward as it may seem. Unlike a manual gearbox, where you manually change the gear using the clutch and gearstick, an automatic gearbox can come in various different guises. For example, in many modern automatic cars, you can also change the gears manually, it isn’t just a case of sitting back and letting the car do the work for you.
Manual cars have gearboxes with five, six or seven gears and are operated solely by the driver who selects which ratio they want to be in. The gears are changed by hand in conjunction with the clutch pedal which is operated with the left foot as each change is made.
Automatic cars change gear automatically when the driver selects ‘D’ for drive. Using a component called a torque converter instead of a clutch, automatic gearboxes offer smooth, relaxed gear changes, allowing the car to select the best ratio given the speed, engine revs and level of acceleration.
What is a CVT Gearbox? Some cars come with a Continuously Variable Transaxle (CVT) gearbox. This is a single gear which can artificially replicate different ratios by altering the size of the drive belt. CVTs are very smooth but can make the engine rev at high speed when accelerating. Many hybrids are fitted with this type of gearbox.
What is a single automated clutch? This is when an automatic gear lever is attached to a conventional manual gearbox with the clutch operated electronically rather than by the driver’s left foot. These are quite popular because they’re light and much cheaper than a traditional automatic, however, gear changes are often not that smooth as the software struggles to decide quickly enough the correct gear to be in.
What is a dual-automated clutch or twin clutch? These are the same as a single-automated clutch but with two clutches as the name suggests. which makes for a smoother gear change. This type of clutch can be operated faster than a manual gearbox can.
Should I buy an automatic car?
Choosing to buy an automatic car very much remains a personal preference. Some drivers swear by manual cars as they like to feel fully in control of the car and do not feel an automatic allows them to do this. However, some drivers love the ease of an automatic, particularly if their journeys involve heavy traffic which can be tedious in a manual car.
If you do decide to buy an automatic, find out exactly the kind of car you’re being offered before you commit to a sale. Ensure you’re happy with the way it drives, both when it chooses the gears itself and also when you are in control. Also, remember that opting for an automatic car will usually mean a price premium.