Small automatic cars: The best and the worst

Be warned, some are better than others

Auto gearboxes have come a long way since the days when they were only for people who couldn’t work a clutch. Even so, if you’re after a small car with a self-shifter the choices are distinctly limited.

Here’s a quintet to consider. But be warned, some are better than others…


Smart Fortwo 0.9 90 Passion Twinamic


The standard response to a tiny parking space these days is ‘the only thing you could get in there is a Smart.’ Instant kudos for the Fortwo, then, whose ability to turn on a sixpence makes it doubly handy in town. Best of all, the dual-clutch auto box is far nicer than the jerky old unit in earlier Smarts, though at almost thirteen grand this is a lot of money for a little car.

Renault Clio Dynamique MediaNav 90 dCi EDC auto


To get the best combination of diesel engine and auto box, you’ve also got to spring for the Clio’s range-topping kit list. It’s a good car, and that kit list is long – but seventeen grand is a lot for a supermini, however good.

Ford Fiesta 1.0 Ecoboost Powershift


Another pricey one at more than £15,000, but as with the Clio you should be able to score a discount by poking the salesman with a pointy stick. It’s worth working at, too – the Fiesta is an excellent all-rounder, and the Powershift auto works like a dream with the turbocharged 1.0-litre engine.


Hyundai i10 1.2 SE auto


A tidy, well kitted auto for less than £11,000 is not to be sniffed at, and it gets the job done. The only problem is that the manual model is even cheaper – still, if you’ve got to have an auto there’s much more to the i10 than just a low price.


Volkswagen Up


A bit of a shock to see the Up included here as the one to avoid, perhaps, because it’s a brilliant city car that’s great to drive and has a classy, roomy cabin. But its many virtues just serve to make the jerky, witless auto option look even worse – especially as the self-shifters on the rest of VW’s range are so good. It’s bad enough to be a deal-breaker on a car that would otherwise be a dead cert.

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