12 Best automatic cars for new drivers

Roman Danaev

Best cars27 December 2023

The days when automatic gearboxes were considered the adversary of driving enjoyment are gone. In the last decade, technology has propelled automatic cars into a realm where they now rival the finesse of a manual shift. But there is another caveat — when it comes to finding the best first automatic car for new drivers, there's a lot to consider.

In this list, we'll present models that cater to new drivers seeking their first cars. These models meet the challenge with affordability, safety, a beginner-friendly driving experience, and a manageable size. Plus, they come with added luxuries for an enjoyable ride.

What's more, Carplus will be your ally in making your car dreams a reality and offer favourable car finance terms for the best automatic cars.

1. Volkswagen Polo

Average price for a used car£5,000
Body typeHatchback
Gearbox typeAutomatic
Doors3, 5
Seats5
FuelPetrol, diesel
Drive typeFront wheel-drive
TechnologyTouchscreen infotainment, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, We Connect Plus system
Safety featuresLane assist, cyclist and pedestrian monitoring, autonomous emergency braking, a driver alert system
Maintenance costsFrom £195/year (full service)
SegmentMid-range value

The Volkswagen Polo is a top-notch supermini with a premium feel — it offers quality and solidity that justifies its slightly higher cost. This small automatic car gets especially good with the sixth-generation model.

What makes it a great first car for a new driver is the Polo's light steering and controls. Those make low-speed manoeuvres easy and provide a sense of confidence on the road. The Polo's DSG automatic transmission works superbly, emphasising safety and comfort in the driving experience.

The newer models boast better fuel economy — the 1.6 TDI achieves an impressive 76.3mpg. Moreover, the Polo tends to have a flat-rate fee for a year's worth of road tax, currently set at £180 per year.

2. Renault Clio

Average price for a used car£4,500
Body typeHatchback
Gearbox typeAutomatic
Doors3, 5
Seats5
FuelPetrol, diesel, hybrid
Drive typeFront-wheel drive, rear-wheel drive
TechnologyRear parking sensors and a rear-view camera, blind spot monitoring, adaptive cruise control
Safety featuresESC stability and traction control, front head restraints, emergency braking assist
Maintenance costsFrom £195/year (full service)
SegmentBudget-conscious

The Renault Clio should be suitable for first-time drivers seeking a small automatic car. It has a lot of affordable models that don't compromise — the unique exterior and interior styling, featuring an aircraft-wing-shaped dashboard.

The search for an automatic car in the Clio points to the 1.5 diesel or the turbocharged 1.2 petrol. While not a speed demon, the Renault Sport version with a 1.6-litre turbo adds an exciting touch. In terms of ride comfort and handling, the Clio strikes a good balance.

Affordability extends to insurance premiums, which vary based on the specific trim and engine. Options like the 1.2 16V Dynamique Nav 5d are grouped at 4, which would be a wise decision for new drivers. Some, however, go up to 14.

3. Peugeot 108

Average price for a used car£4,900
Body typeHatchback
Gearbox typeAutomatic
Doors3, 5
Seats5
FuelPetrol
Drive typeFront-wheel drive
Technology7-inch touchscreen infotainment system, multimedia controls, in-built sat-nav, climate control
Safety featuresESP, ABS with electronic brakeforce distribution, speed limiter, electronic stability control
Maintenance costsFrom £180/year (full service)
SegmentBudget-conscious

The Peugeot 108 is the perfect first car for a new driver because it has a small automatic option with funky styling. It's tailored for inexperienced drivers and comes with low insurance costs.

The model is powered by an excellent Toyota-designed three-cylinder petrol engine. This gives the 108 nippy performance and a pleasant engine sound. Despite its compact size, this small automatic car is fun to drive. But the real advantage is in its lightweight build and responsive handling — ideal for urban environments.

Inside, the Peugeot 108 offers a pleasurable and practical driving experience. All models cost the standard rate of road tax at £180. And thanks to low running costs for fuel, insurance, and maintenance, it's a budget-friendly choice for an automatic car.

4. Nissan Micra

Average price for a used car£7,500
Body typeHatchback
Gearbox typeAutomatic
Doors5
Seats5
FuelPetrol, diesel
Drive typeFront-wheel drive, four-wheel drive
TechnologyCruise control, steering wheel adjustment, electronic brake force distribution, parking slot measurement
Safety featuresBackup camera, overspeed warning, speed sensing door lock, driver attention detection,
Maintenance costsFrom £149/year (full service)
SegmentMid-range value

The Nissan Micra is a compact automatic car designed in and out to save money. It's known for its excellent reliability and budget-friendly prices, so the Micra is perfect for new drivers seeking an affordable and practical option.

The car is built on Nissan's reliable V Platform, which also supported the previous-generation Micra and various Renault models like the Clio, Modus, and Twingo. The Micra excels in city driving, with manoeuvrability and intuitive handling that a new driver will appreciate. Being a small automatic car, it just won't perform as well at high speeds or on bumpy roads.

When it comes to insurance costs, the Micra is a sensible choice — it falls within insurance groups five to nine. Thus, owners won't be burdened with high annual premiums.

5. Kia Picanto

Average price for a used car£3,500
Body typeHatchback
Gearbox typeAutomatic
Doors3, 5
Seats5
FuelPetrol, diesel
Drive typeFront-wheel-drive
TechnologyTouchscreen display, headlight levelling device, welcome and follow-me-home light functionality
Safety featuresBlind spot warning, crash protection, pedestrian safety, lane keep assist
Maintenance costsFrom £199/year (full service)
SegmentBudget-conscious

Kia Picanto is worth considering for its great driving manners and smart interior alone, but that's not it. As not just a small automatic car but the smallest Kia on the market, it's surprisingly spacious for its compact dimensions. The Picanto also has good build quality, so it's a reliable and cost-effective choice for those looking for first cars on the used market.

In the city, the Kia Picanto is easy to handle, with light steering and good visibility. The ride may feel a bit firm, but it becomes more enjoyable when you speed up. The model is equipped with two three-cylinder engine options, one with a turbocharger for some versatility for a new driver.

The insurance groups range from 4 (1.0 66bhp 5d) to 10 (GT-Line 1.0 T-GDi 99bhp 5d).

6. Hyundai i10

Average price for a used car£4,000
Body typeHatchback
Gearbox typeAutomatic
Doors5
Seats5
FuelPetrol, diesel
Drive typeFront-wheel-drive
Technology8-inch touchscreen display, Bluelink® connectivity, fully automated air conditioning, eCall
Safety featuresForward collision-avoidance assist, driver attention warning, leading vehicle departure alert
Maintenance costsFrom £159/year (full service)
SegmentBudget-conscious

The Hyundai i10 is a small automatic car with sharp styling, a well-crafted and spacious interior, and a quiet, comfortable ride — all at an affordable price.

This automatic car is refined and fuel-efficient diesel and petrol engines. The i10 provides a pleasant driving experience, which is assisted by precise steering for easy navigation through tight parking spaces and corners. This makes it particularly suitable for a new driver navigating city streets.

Inside, the i10 offers ample headroom in the front and rear, which accommodates seating for five individuals. However, the rear seats will be a bit tight for three adults. The range of insurance groups starts from 1 (1.0 Blue Drive S 5d) and goes up to 7 (Premium 1.2 87PS 5d).

7. Fiat 500

Average price for a used car£4,600
Body typeHatchback
Gearbox typeAutomatic
Doors3
Seats5
FuelPetrol, diesel
Drive typeFront wheel-drive
TechnologyTrip computer, automatic climate control, height adjustable steering wheel, power assist steering
Safety featuresKnee airbags, whiplash protection, emergency braking, pretensioners
Maintenance costsFrom £140/year (full service)
SegmentBudget-conscious

The Fiat 500 is a great automatic car for a new driver, and here's why. It's a longstanding model since 2008 that celebrates its 15th birthday, and its reliability is well-established, thanks to dependable engines.

The model is designed to handle narrow British roads. The compact size of the 500 makes it easy to navigate through traffic and a breeze to park — by the way, a great advantage for first-time drivers. The newer examples are slightly larger than the original, but it still remains one of the smallest cars and the best city cars on the market today.

The insurance costs range from 9 (1.2 Pop 2d Auto) to 19 (1.6 Multijet Sporting 5d). Nevertheless, the Fiat 500 is affordable to buy and economical to run.

8. Vauxhall Corsa

Average price for a used car£3,700
Body typeHatchback
Gearbox typeAutomatic
Doors3, 5
Seats5
FuelPetrol, diesel, hybrid
Drive typeFront-wheel drive
TechnologyCamera and radar-based auto emergency braking system, multimedia and multimedia navi, Vauxhall connect
Safety featuresSpeed sign recognition, lane departure warning, forward collision alert, pedestrian detection
Maintenance costsFrom £160/year (full service)
SegmentBudget-conscious

The Vauxhall Corsa is a common sight on the roads, and for good reason — this automatic car caters to a wide range of drivers. Sure, it's not the most thrilling choice, but the Corsa holds its ground, especially for a new driver in search of a first car with good value.

The 1.0-litre three-cylinder petrol unit stands out as the top choice for this small car. However, there are other engine options delivering an easy and quiet driving experience. Insurance groups broadly range from 1 to 10, from the 1.0i 12V ecoFLEX Expression 3d (group 1) to the 1.4 Design 5d Auto (group 9). Corsa's electric cars fall within the 15-17 range.

9. Toyota Yaris

Average price for a used car£3,400
Body typeHatchback, saloon
Gearbox typeAutomatic
Doors3, 4, 5
Seats5
FuelPetrol, diesel, hybrid
Drive typeFront-wheel drive, four-wheel drive
TechnologyTraction control, pollen air filter, dual-zone automatic air conditioning, blind spot monitor
Safety featuresToyota safety sense, pre-collision, intersection turn assistance, anti-lock brake system
Maintenance costsFrom £155/year (full service)
SegmentBudget-conscious

The Toyota Yaris will suit potential buyers who want a small automatic car with a focus on reliability. The good news is that there's a wide range of purchase prices in the used market, so you'll find a city car for various budgets.

Every new Yaris is an automatic car fitted with a 1.5-litre engine, a battery pack, a CVT gearbox, and two electric motors. For those opting for older models, the range begins with a 1.0-litre petrol three-cylinder engine.

The Yaris comes with an annual road tax lower than the average at £170. Insurance costs vary, but even higher groups (up to 12) are reasonable for new drivers. At fuel efficiency of 44.8-48.7 mpg, fuel costs are fair, too.

10. Škoda Fabia

Average price for a used car£3,800
Body typeHatchback
Gearbox typeAutomatic
Doors5
Seats5
FuelPetrol, diesel
Drive typeFront-wheel-drive
TechnologyRain sensor, service interval indicator, electromechanical power steering, multi-function trip computer
Safety featuresHydraulic brake assist, vulnerable road user detection, electronic drag torque regulation
Maintenance costsFrom £195/year (full service)
SegmentBudget-conscious

The Škoda Fabia may not set your heart racing, but for first cars, it's a practical and economical choice. Opting for a used Fabia delivers excellent value for a new driver.

The 1.0 MPI engine is suitable for short journeys, but the turbocharged (TSI and TDI) engines provide more punch. The ride around town can be a bit unsettled, even for an automatic car. That said, the Fabia becomes composed at higher speeds and starts to offer good handling and grip. Refinement is notable, with low wind and road noise.

Insurance costs are reasonable, with the 1.0 MPI S 5dr in group 4, and a higher trim like the 1.5 TSI 150 SE L 5dr DSG in group 19.

11. Mazda 2

Average price for a used car£4,100
Body typeHatchback
Gearbox typeAutomatic
Doors3, 5
Seats5
FuelPetrol, diesel
Drive typeFront-wheel-drive, four-wheel-drive
TechnologyNavigation system, trip computer, analogue rev counter, reversing camera
Safety featuresBlind spot monitoring, high beam control, advanced smart city brake support
Maintenance costsFrom £184/year (full service)
SegmentBudget-conscious

The Mazda 2 offers a unique approach with non-turbocharged engines in automatic cars, which sets it apart from competitors like the Škoda Fabia and Vauxhall Corsa. This choice contributes to better real-world fuel economy. All models have over 50mpg, which ensures favourable running costs.

The entry-level small automatic car is powered by an 86 BHP, rev-happy motor. This helps the Mazda 2 deliver adequate power while maintaining a relaxed demeanour at motorway speeds. Its handling feels planted and provides a good grip in bends, and the firm yet effective suspension handles bumps with ease.

For insurance considerations, the 1.5 e-Skyactiv G Sport 5dr falls into group 19. If this is steep for a new driver, the 1.5 SE 5d is more accessible in group 13.

12. Honda Jazz

Average price for a used car£8,400
Body typeHatchback
Gearbox typeAutomatic
Doors5
Seats5
FuelPetrol, diesel, hybrid
Drive typeFour-wheel drive
TechnologyHonda Connect with 9" touchscreen, multi-information display, agile handling assist, traffic jam assist
Safety featuresImmobiliser, security alarm, Honda super locks, remote central locking
Maintenance costsFrom £193/year (full service)
SegmentMid-range value

The Honda Jazz is a long-time favourite among more mature drivers in the UK, but any new driver shopping for their great first car should pay attention, too. This small automatic car delivers massive space despite its light weight and makes parking stress-free.

Recent updates for this automatic car include sharper looks and a dynamic Sport variant. This version is aimed at capturing the interest of younger buyers. Inside, the Jazz impresses with its spacious front and back.

Most trims fall into insurance group 13, with only a couple, like the 1.5 i-VTEC Sport Navi 5d, placed in group 19. Finally, the Jazz consistently achieves fuel economy above 45 mpg.

Final words

Choosing your first car is a big deal, and hopefully, this list of the best automatic cars for new drivers will make the decision-making process easier.

Research is key, especially in the used market for small cars. Important: flashy features may seem appealing for a new driver, but a reliable and easy-to-drive automatic car will make your daily commute and overall driving experience much more enjoyable. And, when testing, focus on how you feel in the car.

Finally, make your first car experience a straightforward and sensible one with the Carplus finance tool.

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