How to choose, buy & drive an automatic car

Driving a Small Automatic Car

Automatic cars are much easier to drive than those with manual transmission. Some people learn from scratch, taking their driving test on an automatic, and thus have an automatic only licence. Others migrate from manual to automatic, for one reason or another. Seldom is there a transition the other way.

Having once owned and driven an automatic car, drivers are unlikely to return to manual transmission through choice, simply because the auto gearbox makes life easier. They are also, particularly in slow moving traffic, far less stressful. For many people they turn what would be the chore of driving into a pleasure.

Automatic cars can generally be defined as those with only two pedals rather than three, i.e. no clutch. When the need arises to change gear the automatic transmission does all the work for you. These are what we would call fully automatic cars.

There are now on the market many different variations of semi-automatic cars which partially assist with the gear change in one way or another, often dispensing with the clutch but leaving the balance of the operation to the driver. We have found this type not satisfactory for our customers and for this reason at present deal only with cars fitted with fully automatic transmissions. Some of these may have the option of manual operation but all can be driven in full automatic mode.

Learning to drive an Automatic

Learning to drive in an automatic is for most people far simpler than learning in a manual. You can both learn and take the driving test in an automatic car. However, when you pass the test, your driving licence will only entitle you to drive an automatic. If you subsequently wanted to drive a manual car, you would have to take the manual test.

Learning without the bother of co-ordinating the movements of both the clutch and gearlever enables you to concentrate on the start, stopping and steering controls. Only one foot is needed, usually the right, to control the accelerator and brake pedals.*

Once the initial gear selection has been made, usually all subsequent changes are carried out automatically. They are regulated by the car’s speed and the pressure applied on the accelerator. Practice makes perfect, so get plenty of practice ideally with an Approved Driving Instructor. See out  links page for our recommended instructors.

* Modifications can be arranged for those with physical disabilities.

Various transmission types

Without getting too deeply into the technology, basically there are three different types of automatic transmission available in modern small automatic cars, which we will refer to as “conventional”, CVT and semi- automatic.

Conventional automatic transmissions utilise various but similar means to dispense with the clutch and choose the correct gear to speed ratio. CVT cars do not change from gear to gear but employ a Constantly Variable Transmission belt and pulley system creating a limitless number of ratios to achieve the desired road speed. Both these systems in various guises adequately execute the job of completely dispensing with the need for the driver to change gear whilst moving. Some may have manual overrides, but all will perform the fully automatic function in a perfectly satisfactory manner.

Semi-auto transmissions are usually manual boxes with an electronic gear selection system which dispenses with the need to operate the clutch but may require the driver to select gear. Development is continuing, with manufacturers striving to produce even more efficient transmissions at competitive costs.

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