Small automatic cars are the perfect combination for the easiest way to drive around the city. Automatic gearboxes remove gear changes, which are more frequent in built-up urban areas, and where small cars are designed to perform the best thanks to their compact design and smaller engine size.
Previously, automatic gearboxes were reserved for saloons, SUVs and high-end luxury cars. In order to keep the costs down on their smaller models, manufacturers usually only offered them in manual because they were the cheaper option.
According to figures from the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT), 40% of new cars sold in the UK (as of 2017) are automatic, which is a 70% increase compared to 2007.
Technological advances have helped automatic gearboxes to become more efficient and enjoyable to drive. Most models, even the small cars, now come equipped with an automatic option.
We’ve compiled a list of the best small automatic cars on the UK market.
13. Honda Jazz
The Jazz is the smallest model in the UK Honda range but still has enough space to transport four adults in comfort. Traditionally driven by the older generation who are attracted to its ease of access and reputation for reliability, this car offers a clever and spacious interior that is perfect for families.
Exclusively available with petrol engines, you can choose to add a CVT automatic gearbox to either the 1.3- or 1.5-litre i-VTEC units in the latest third generation versions. If you’re looking at older Jazz models, you need to find one registered after February 2011 – this is when the first automatic gearbox was introduced.
The 7-speed CVT box ensures you get the optimum engine output for your speed. The larger 1.5-litre engine is only available on the top-spec Sport model and is capable of 42.8mpg whether you choose to have it in manual or automatic. The 1.3-litre unit is more frugal, being able to return a maxumim fuel economy of 48.7mpg.
12. Hyundai i10
Often hailed as one of the best city cars on the market, the Hyundai i10 is better than most of its rivals as an automatic. If you want the convenience of an automatic gearbox, you have to choose the bigger 1.2-litre four-cylinder engine which is available on the SE, Premium and Premium SE trims.
Despite it’s compact body style, the i10 comes with five doors as standard alongside air con and front and rear electric windows. There’s enough space to transport passengers in the back and it will happily cruise at motorway speeds.
Although the automatic gearbox has an impact on the 1.2-litre engine’s fuel consumption figures compared to the manual version, it’s still capable of achieving up to 47.9mpg.
11. Kia Picanto
The Picanto is in direct competition with the Hyundai i10 for car buyers looking for an automatic city car. They’re very similar cars because they actually share the same running gear; however, Kia’s city car has a different engine.
The 1.25-litre four-cylinder petrol unit is available with an automatic gearbox in 2, 3 and X-Line models. Unfortunately, the entry-level 1 specification can only be paired with the smallest 1.0-litre engine which is exclusively offered with a manual transmission.
With very little to separate the Picanto and i10 in terms of space, quality and driving experience, Kia has the upper hand by offering a seven year manufacturer warranty. This is particularly attractive for used car buyers because the warranty is transferable between owners.
10. Toyota Yaris Hybrid
The Toyota Yaris is unique in the supermini class as the only model to offer a hybrid engine option. The addition of hybrid technology allows the Yaris to provide better fuel economy and lower CO2 emissions without resorting to diesel power.
Using a CVT gearbox to combine the power from the 1.5-litre petrol engine and electric motors, the Yaris is only available as an automatic. It’s most effective if you consistently complete short journeys; if your regular journey is largely spent in free-flowing traffic, the hybrid will only be marginally more economical than the petrol version.
The entry-level Active version comes well equipped with dual-zone air conditioning as standard. Overall fuel economy depends on specification, with the maximum claimed efficiency of up to 58.8mpg on Active, Icon and Icon Tech models.
9. SEAT Ibiza
As part of the wider Volkswagen group, the Ibiza shares a lot of mechanics with the Volkswagen Polo, Audi A1 and Skoda Fabia. This means that it benefits from a lot of safety and connectivity technology that hasn’t been seen in the supermini sector before.
The 1.0-litre TSI turbo three-cylinder petrol engine is available in three power outputs. For the 7-speed DSG double-clutch automatic gearbox, you have to select the 114bhp version which is capable of producing fuel economy figures up to 47.9mpg.
SEAT have designed the Ibiza to appeal to younger drivers with a sporty exterior. There’s no basic model in the line-up with the entry-level SE receiving alloy wheels and a touchscreen DAB radio with smartphone connectivity.
8. Audi A1
Although it’s branded as S Tronic, the Audi A1 uses the same 7-speed DSG automatic gearbox as the Volkswagen Polo, Skoda Fabia and SEAT Ibiza. However, unlike these models, it’s offered on more engines: the 1.0 TFSI 95PS, 1.4 TFSI 125PS and 150PS petrols as well as the 1.6 TDI 116PS diesel.
As you would expect, the A1 is well-equipped even in the entry-level SE trim which comes with 15″ alloy wheels, an 8.8″ touchscreen infotainment system and Audi’s smartphone interface.
The high-quality interior and typical Audi refinement make it a pleasurable small car to drive. The latest, second generation version is only available as a five-door hatchback, whereas the previous model was available as a three-door as well.
7. Mazda 2
If you’re looking for a small automatic car that’s fun to drive, you won’t find one much better than the Mazda 2 supermini. It provides sharp handling and an engaging driving experience every time you get behind the wheel.
Every Mazda 2 is equipped with a version of the same 1.5-litre Skyactive-G petrol engine which comes in three power outputs: 75PS, 90PS or 115PS. However, the 6-speed automatic gearbox is only available with the 90PS unit.
This bigger engine provides a punchy performance and competitive fuel economy figures of 58.9mpg for the automatic transmission. The Mazda 2 is in high demand on the used market, highlighting its popularity and potential for high residual values.
6. Renault Clio
Updated for 2019, the Renault Clio is boosted by new technology to try and help it to stand out in the competitive supermini class. Despite this upgrade, the engine and gearbox choices remain the same as the previous version.
The 6-speed EDC automatic gearbox can either be paired with the 1.2-litre TCe 120 turbo petrol or the 1.5 dCi 90 diesel engine. As you would expect, the diesel unit returns an impressive fuel economy figure of 80.7mpg; nonetheless, the petrol version still offers a respectable 52.3mpg.
The Clio has been a mainstay in the Renault line-up since the 1990s so there are plenty of used versions on the UK market. The fourth generation models (from 2012 onwards) received a major redesign with a sportier and more contemporary look.
5. Renault Zoe
The Renault Zoe isn’t technically an automatic car because it doesn’t have a gearbox. This 100% electric model uses an electric motor – instead of a traditional combustion engine – which doesn’t have gears, so all you have to do it is select D and start driving.
As more research and development work takes places, electric vehicles are able to travel further on a single charge. Renault claim that the latest Zoe can complete up to 250 miles, whereas older versions should be capable of around 186 miles.
If you’re looking for an alternative automatic hatchback, the Zoe provides similar levels of practicality as the Renault Clio and Ford Fiesta, while offering economy figures as cheap as 3p per mile depending on your energy supplier.
4. Ford Fiesta
The Ford Fiesta has been the UK’s favourite car for a number of years, regularly topping the new car monthly and annual sales charts. Its popularity is largely down to its practicality, spaciousness and fuel economy.
Ford’s Powershift automatic gearbox is only available with the 1.0-litre EcoBoost 100PS turbo three-cylinder petrol engine which is offered on the Zetec, ST-Line, B&O Play, Titanium, Titanium X and Vignale trims in the latest version.
In terms of fuel economy, the automatic Fiesta is still capable of achieving up to 54.3mpg. Because it’s such a popular model, there are plenty of excellent used versions available for a range of different budgets.
3. Skoda Fabia
As a supermini contender, the Fabia is comfortable and practical without being particularly exciting. It offers tidy handling and a spacious interior which results in an enjoyable driving experience.
The Fabia stands above the crowd when you add the 7-speed DSG automatic gearbox which is available on the 1.0-litre TSI 110PS three-cylinder turbocharged petrol or the 1.4-litre TDI 90PS diesel engine.
In order to save as much fuel as possible, it will automatically select the highest gear possible – you might find it in seventh gear at slower speeds than you expected. In terms of fuel economy, the auto Fabia has a claimed figure of 61.4mpg.
2. MINI Hatchback
The iconic British model has always been a popular small car since BMW reintroduced it into the UK market in 2001. Available as a three- or five-door, the MINI hatch delivers a fun driving experience alongside retro looks.
Its 1.5-litre three-cylinder turbo petrol engine can be paired with the new 7-speed dual-clutch automatic gearbox for the One, Cooper and Cooper S specifications. With the traditional torque converter auto in place, fuel economy can reach a maximum of 60.1mpg.
The MINI hatch is now considered a premium model and should be viewed at the same level as the Audi A1. It retains the ‘go-kart-like’ handling which makes it so enjoyable to drive.
1. Volkswagen Polo
The Volkswagen Polo is the quality option in the supermini class, offering lots of space and tech as well as the best interior. It effectively straddles the gap between standard superminis and premium models like the MINI hatch and Audi A1.
Although the 7-speed DSG gearbox is used on three other models in this list of small automatic cars, you have to remember that it’s a Volkswagen product. In the Polo, the German manufacturer has paired the auto box with the 1.0-litre TSI three-cylinder petrol engine which is available in 95PS and 115PS forms.
If you want something with a bit more power, the top of the range Polo GTI exclusively comes with a detuned version of the 2.0-litre TSI engine found in the Golf GTI with a 6-speed automatic gearbox as standard.
Older, fifth generation models, offer automatic versions with the 1.0-litre TSI 110PS three-cylinder unit and the 1.2-litre TSI 90PS four-cylinder petrol engine.