Over a quarter of new cars sold in the UK have automatic gearboxes, and with the rise of electric and hybrid cars, those numbers are getting bigger.
Compare that to the USA, where over 95 per cent of new cars are autos, and it appears that the manual gearbox still has a lot going for it – but will it only be a matter of time before two-pedal transmissions win out?
If they’re as good as our top 10, it’s only a matter of time…
Smart ForTwo six-speed Twinamic
For years, the automatic gearbox was the Smart ForTwo’s Achilles’ Heel, but the introduction of the six-speed ‘Twinamic’ transmission in 2015 changed all that. No longer does the Smart bob up and down between gearchanges, with the slick-shifting six-speed dual clutch set-up instead giving smooth and progressive changes. That makes the Smart the ideal car for urban dwellers.
Volkswagen Polo DSG
Volkswagen pioneered the Double-clutch Sequential Gearbox, or DSG, in the early 2000s and has continued to refine the technology ever since. It’s one of the fastest-changing gearboxes around, and it works on everything from performance cars to superminis. It’s a supermini that gets out vote, with the humble VW Polo probably the best small automatic car you can buy.
Subaru Levorg Lineartronic
Subaru’s Lineartronic transmission is something bit different, as it’s a stepped CVT. CVT, or Continuously Variable Transmission, works to keep engine revs at their peak at all time, with no discernible change from the gearbox. But the Levorg has a manual override option, where you can step the changes and drive it like a manual. It’s clever stuff.
Porsche 911 PDK
The PDK gearbox fitted to the iconic Porsche 911 is an evolution of parent company Volkswagen’s DSG, retaining a dual clutch layout and the option of fully auto or manual modes, the latter of which can be controlled by paddles on the steering wheel. But the software in the 911 allows the changes to be even faster, earning the PDK ‘box the nickname Pretty Damned Kwik.
Honda Jazz CVT
While most small cars have a traditional auto box with a torque converter, which is the cheapest and simplest form of auto transmission, Honda has elected for a CVT in the latest Jazz. It’s the only small car on the market with a CVT box and is simplicity itself to drive, with effectively just one forward gear. It’s a bit weird at first, but it’s really effective.
Tesla Model S
Electric cars are all automatic, as the direct drive and instant torque of the electric motor doesn’t require a gearbox to operate. And of all the EVs on the road today, it’s the Tesla Model S that’s the shining star, with a comparable range to most petrol cars, barnstorming acceleration and incredibly smooth power delivery. It’s the most convincing fully electric car yet.
Range Rover Sport 8-speed
Introduced in 2013, the Range Rover Sport was the first car to use ZF’s 8-speed automatic gearbox, which is now commonplace across the Jaguar-Land Rover model range. The Range Rover Sport was brilliant then, and it remains brilliant now, as the pioneer of Land Rover’s lightweight technologies. It’s still a hugely desirable car.
Audi A1 Sport S-Tronic
Audi’s S-Tronic is a VW DSG gearbox under a different name, but in the A1 it’s quite a beguiling package, especially if you do lots of city commuting. It’s efficient, extremely smooth to drive and, thanks to the A1’s diminutive dimensions, it makes a great premium city car, with all the benefits that an automatic supermini provides alongside a badge that means business.
Jaguar F-PACE 8-speed
The F-PACE is another car from the JLR stable to use the 8-speed transmission that began life in the Range Rover Sport, yet the Jaguar SUV is both cheaper and more engaging to drive, with less of an off-road feel about it. It’s our favourite SUV of the moment, and the gearbox is juts one of its many merits.
Mercedes E-Class 9G-tronic
Introduced in 2015, the Mercedes-Benz 9G-tronic was the world’s first nine-speed gearbox, at least in a passenger car. It debuted in the S-Class, but it’s the more accessible E-Class that gets our vote, partly because it’s more affordable, but also because it’s a fine and handsome car that’s technologically advanced and terrific to drive.Looking for a new car? Save with CarKeys