Car Choice: In search of the automatically economic


Brian Westbury is looking for a car for his son and daughter-in-law. She can only drive an automatic, and they haven't been able to find any information or comparisons on economical automatics. Brian realises that they are not as frugal as manuals, and has a very simple requirement – a small, automatic four seater, with five doors, which must be, economical.

A car for the head

No budget is mentioned here, but I will assume Brian wants a brand new car with the latest technology. Also, there is no point going for a tiny – and potentially impractical – hatchback when something more spacious would make more sense for a young couple. For that reason I would direct Brian towards the latest Toyota Yaris. The 1.33 VVT-i with Continuously Variable Transmission (CVT) – essentially one gear that adapts to the driving conditions. The claimed fuel economy for this model is a remarkable 55.4mpg. It would come in TR specification, which is comprehensive enough and includes a touch screen display and Bluetooth, rear view camera and somewhere to plug your iPod. According to Toyota it would cost £14,760. What Brian's son and daughter-in-law will get is a thoroughly modern hatchback, which is spacious and practical.

A car for the heart

If the Toyota is a tad to expensive what are the alternatives? Well, there's the Citroën C1 – essentially a city car, with an electronic gearbox system (EGS) automatic gearbox. It allows you to choose between a manual mode, changing gear with paddles behind the steering wheel, or the conventional sequential lever. In fully automatic mode the gearbox will do its stuff and select the right gear, and Citroë* claims it optimises fuel consumption to the extent that it performs up to 5 per cent better than a manual gearbox. So the combined mpg for this model is an official 61.4 overall. Brand new, a 1.0i 68 EGS VTR+ 5 door would cost £10,595. That includes electric front windows and air conditioning. However, sorting through classified adverts turns up a 2011 model with just 89 miles on the clock at a main dealer for just £6,500. It comes with a CD, central locking and air conditioning. It may be a small car but it will accommodate four adults easily enough and is nippy in urban environments. For longer distances though, it has to be the Yaris.

Looking to buy?

Please write to Car Choice, Features, Independent on Sunday, 2 Derry Street, London W8 5HF or email James Ruppert at carchoice@, giving your age, address and phone number, details of the type of vehicle in which you are interested, and your budget.