Best small automatic cars 2024

Although driving enthusiasts reckon a car must have a manual gearbox, an automatic transmission makes a lot of sense, especially if you spend most of your time in the city or stuck in traffic.

It helps that automatic cars are far better than they used to be. Gone are the days when an automatic transmission robbed an engine of its power, increased fuel consumption, and generally made you wish you'd caught the bus. Your right leg will be jealous of the all the downtime your left leg is enjoying, or something.

Automatic transmissions used to be the preserve of large cars, but as our list proves, there are plenty of small cars available with auto ’boxes. Indeed, the rise of electric cars – which are effectively automatics – means that small automatic cars are more common than ever before.

Here, we've selected some of our favourite small cars available with an automatic transmission. They're automatic for the people.

Best small automatic cars



Toyota Yaris

The five-door Yaris hatchback is exclusively available with Toyota’s well-proven ‘self-charging’ hybrid drive system. This is paired with a CVT automatic gearbox and enables a surprising degree of engine-off electric motoring. A display on the dashboard shows how far each journey has been driven in EV mode; it often reads 50% or more. The latest Yaris has other draws too, such as youthful and sporty styling, a bold interior and a space-efficient layout that translates a compact exterior into space inside for four or even five people. The boot is also usefully bigger than it once was.

Read our full Toyota Yaris review

Toyota Yaris Cross

The Toyota Yaris is a smart choice, but more people than ever want a small SUV rather than a hatchback. Thankfully the Yaris’s close relative, the raised up Yaris Cross, is a great alternative, and also comes with an automatic transmission. You’ll also get the high driving position that SUV customers love, and a much bigger boot than the Yaris hatchback, for extra practicality. The engine is the same 1.5-litre hybrid as in the hatchback, as is the CVT transmission.

Read our full Toyota Yaris Cross review

Honda e

If the vast bulk of your driving is done in town, and you want something compact and stylish, then the all-electric Honda e is a great option. Its major Achilles heel is a low battery range of 137 miles, and it’s too dinky for family use. But just about everything else about it is great – it’s got eye-catching looks outside and in, it’s crammed with technology and, of course, being an electric car, there’s no manual gearbox to busy up your driving experience. It drives really well, nipping in and out of traffic with ease. Not many small cars are this fun.

Read our full Honda e review

MINI Hatch

The MINI Hatch, sold in both three-door and longer five-door guises, is available in each of its most popular variants with an automatic gearbox. The six-speed ’box is excellent, with imperceptible gearchanges and a sporty-feeling override function for fun on twisty roads. It works brilliantly with the best-selling MINI Cooper’s 1.5-litre three-cylinder engine for a very premium-feeling drive. The MINI’s interior is similarly upmarket and, of course, you get that famously cheeky retro styling. A battery-powered MINI Electric is also available, which naturally comes with an automatic transmission as standard.

Read our full MINI Hatch review

Honda Jazz

The latest Honda Jazz uses the firm’s clever Dual Motor Hybrid system, first seen in the CR-V SUV. This gives two-pedal automatic driving without actually having a gearbox at all: the engine drives one motor, which creates electricity to drive the other. It’s all very high-tech, but the result is excellent fuel economy and a high percentage of engine-off pure electric running. It complements the Jazz’s other famous attributes: brilliant space efficiency, plentiful practicality and clever flip-up rear ‘Magic Seats’. The latest model looks more modern than previous versions, and has a more premium interior, too.

Read our full Honda Jazz review

Hyundai i10

The Hyundai i10 is one of the smallest automatic cars on sale. Both the 1.0-litre and 1.2 engines are available with an automatic – and choosing this option has the happy side-effect of lowering the insurance group rating, for a cheaper annual premium. Automatic versions cost around £500 more than the regular manual car, too, bolstering this able five-door hatchback’s appeal. Hyundai includes a standard five-year warranty that is not limited by any mileage cap, so the reliable and easy-to-drive i10 is perfect for small automatic drivers who cover many thousands of miles a year.

Read our full Hyundai i10 review

Vauxhall Corsa

The latest Vauxhall Corsa is proving a bit of a hit. It's now one of the UK’s best-selling cars, finally overtaking its arch-rival, the Ford Fiesta. The pure electric version, called the Corsa Electric, has an automatic gearbox as standard, but a two-pedal option is also available on core petrol models. It is a smooth and very intuitive eight-speed automatic ’box, as fitted to larger and more expensive cars. And unlike manual versions of the Corsa, it gets a power boost from 100PS to a peppy 130PS. It makes for a highly sophisticated small automatic car.

Read our full Vauxhall Corsa review

Kia Picanto

The Kia Picanto is another very small car available with an automatic gearbox. It uses an automated manual system, which mechanises the shifts of the regular manual gearbox. This has the advantage of reducing the price premium for an automatic, and also helps keep fuel efficiency broadly in line with the manual. The disadvantage is a certain loss of smoothness. Available across the range of well-equipped Picanto models, all versions also come with Kia’s standout seven-year warranty. Automatic Picanto models also have lower insurance groups than manual versions.

Read our full Kia Picanto review

Suzuki Ignis

If you're after a small car that's ready for the urban jungle, look no further than the Suzuki Ignis. This characterful city car comes with SUV-like styling and one of the most interesting interiors at this end of the market – it feels like you're getting so much more for your money. Thanks to a 1.2-litre mild-hybrid engine and lightweight construction, you can look forward to an official 52.3mpg if you opt for the smooth CVT transmission, and although this is lower than the manual version's 56.9mpg, both are likely to achieve around 50mpg in the real world. The Ignis might be small on the outside, but you'll be amazed at how large it feels inside.

Read our full Suzuki Ignis review

Fiat 500 Electric

As its name suggests, the new Fiat 500 Electric is available purely as an EV. This means it comes with an automatic gearbox as standard. With a driving range of up to 199 miles, it’s a city-friendly small automatic that is perfectly able to take on longer journeys. And it’s so satisfying to drive, with a supple ride, nimble handling and ultra-low noise levels, you’ll have no qualms about doing so. It remains a compact car, so is best for two adults and, at a push, two toddlers, but everyone will enjoy the upmarket feel to the interior. The loveable looks of the classic 500 have also been brilliantly reinterpreted for this electric evolution.

Read our full Fiat 500 Electric review

Are small automatic cars easy to drive?

Small automatic cars are superb choices for those who mainly drive in the city. Instead of having to constantly press a clutch pedal, owners can rest their left leg and left arm, and let the car do all the hard work. If you often drive in traffic, this ease of use is particularly beneficial. You don’t need to learn any special tricks: simply shift the automatic gear stick into ‘D’ for ‘drive’ (or press the equivalent button) and you’re away.

Are electric cars all automatics?

You can’t buy an electric car with a manual gearbox. The technology dictates that they all come in two-pedal automatic guise. This means that embracing the future is particularly easy – again, you don’t need to learn any special techniques to drive an electric car. In terms of driver inputs, they are essentially the same as an automatic. The added bonus of choosing an EV is that you effectively get an automatic gearbox for free.

Are small automatic cars reliable?

The days of small automatic cars sometimes coming with a question mark over their reliability are long gone. These days, automatics are probably even more dependable than cars with a regular manual gearbox; there’s no clutch to wear out, for example. The best have sophisticated gearboxes from much larger cars for decades of worry-free driving. If reliability is a concern, both the Honda Jazz and Toyota Yaris – featured on this list – have impeccable records.

Ask HJ

What's the best small automatic car for £5000?

What would be the best small automatic car to buy for under £5000? Ideally, something which is good for the occasional trip outside the city.
We'd recommend a Hyundai i20 or Suzuki Swift. Both are reliable little cars with good automatic gearboxes that'll keep up with traffic on the open road.
Answered by Andrew Brady
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