Best used automatic cars

Automatic cars now outnumber manuals among new car buyers, and there's also plenty of choice on the used market. Here are 10 of our favourite used buys...

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by
Mark Pearson
Updated27 April 2023

Used automatic cars

Traditionally, it was always the larger and plusher cars that came with an automatic gearbox, while smaller ones tended to be equipped with a manual. That has all changed over the last few years, however, and now more people are buying automatic cars than manual ones – of all sizes.

Part of this increase in popularity can be put down to the advent of the electric car, which dispenses with the conventional notion of a multi-ratio gearbox altogether. In other words, they're all automatic. 

So, what should you consider buying if you want to enjoy the ease of two-pedal motoring? Here, we've highlighted our top 10 favourite automatic cars from various different classes, starting with our favourite - the fabulous BMW 5 Series. And just to make it more interesting, all of them are used cars, and that means you can make some substantial savings on buying one new.

Take a look and see what takes your fancy.

Our pick: 530e M Sport 4dr Auto

0-62mph: 6.3 sec
MPG/range: 470.8mpg
CO2 emissions: 13g/km
Seats: 5
Boot: 520 litres
Insurance group: 39E

Strengths

  • Delightful to drive
  • Well equipped
  • Very economical

Weaknesses

  • A little pricey
  • Average rear seat space
  • Slight question mark over reliability

You’d be hard pushed to find a car at any price that has as broad a range of talents as the 5 Series. It comes with a range of punchy yet efficient engines, neat styling and a wonderful ride and handling balance. It's wonderfully refined, too. Our chosen spec 530e plug-in hybrid has an eight-speed automatic gearbox as standard and offers the potential for great economy. Add to that its luscious and spacious interior, excellent ergonomics and class-leading iDrive infotainment controller and it’s no wonder we rate this car so highly.

We found 2019 BMW 530e M Sport, 32,000 miles, £24,995

Read our used BMW 5 Series review

Search for a used BMW 5 Series for sale

Our pick: 2.0 e-Skyactiv G MHEV Centre-Line 5dr

0-62mph: 10.7 sec
MPG/range: 43.5mpg
CO2 emissions: 146g/km
Seats: 5
Boot: 522 litres
Insurance group: 17E

Strengths

  • Premium inside
  • Good handling
  • Well equipped

Weaknesses

  • Firm ride
  • Steering could be better
  • Lacklustre engines

The Mazda CX-5 is a terrific all-rounder. If you’re after a used SUV in which to transport your family around, it’s almost unbeatable, being good to drive, decently practical and, above all, superb value for money. Enthusiastic drivers will love it for its surprisingly agile handling, and families will love it for its practical, spacious and exceptionally high-quality interior. The CX-5 is also handsomely equipped and exceptionally well screwed together, with an excellent reliability record. 

We found: 2020 Mazda CX-5 2.0 SE-L Nav auto, 30,000 miles, £20,495

Read our used Mazda CX-5 review

Search for a used Mazda CX-5 for sale

Strengths

  • Good range of engines
  • Spacious interior and boot
  • Classy interior

Weaknesses

  • Slightly unsettled ride
  • Base S trim misses out on some kit

You know an estate car is doing its job well when it makes life a doddle, and the Passat Estate has that effect. Its huge boot will save you the question of whether items will fit (unless you're transporting an elephant), while its engines are smooth and economical and perfectly suited to smooth progress with the automatic dual-clutch gearbox option. Its interior is suitably smart, too, and its used prices are temptingly affordable. 

We found: 2019 Volkswagen Passat Estate 2.0 TDI SE Business DSG, 49,000 miles, £14,925

Read our used Volkswagen Passat review

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Strengths

  • Stylish and practical inside
  • Decent ride and handling
  • Flexible seating

Weaknesses

  • Not as well equipped as some rivals
  • Head room limited by panoramic roof
  • Slow-witted infotainment

The 5008  is stylish, practical and good to drive. Those rugged good looks cover an interior that's impressively flexible and will seat seven in comfort. Plus, there's a range of strong engines to choose from, and our favourite 1.2-litre 130 petrol pairs nicely with the eight-speed automatic gearbox. it's well-equipped in all trims and it rides and handles surprisingly well. All in, it's a great car and really good value too.

We found: 2020 Peugeot 5008 1.2 Puretech Allure auto, 26,000 miles, £22,395

Read our used Peugeot 5008 review

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Strengths

  • Smooth and powerful engines
  • Great ride on air suspension
  • Wonderful build quality

Weaknesses

  • Not as sharp to drive as some rivals
  • Plug-in hybrid loses seven-seat option
  • Expensive to run

The Q7 has won multiple What Car? awards for the very reason that it is an impeccable family car, an excellent long-distance tourer and an outstanding luxury vehicle. Few cars this side of £100,000 have a plusher and quieter interior. It's reliable, too. Plus, buy an earlier, pre-2019 model and you’ll get a much easier-to-operate infotainment system than the one found in later models and you'll be saving nearly half its original value, making a used Q7 an absolute bargain.

We found: 2018 Audi Q7 3.0 TDI S line, 58,000 miles, £30,999

Read our used Audi Q7 review

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Our pick: 1.2 Premium 5dr

0-62mph: 12.6 sec
MPG/range: 51.4mpg
CO2 emissions: 125g/km
Seats: 5
Boot: 252 litres
Insurance group: 6E

Strengths

  • Comfortable and quiet to drive
  • Five seats and decent rear space
  • Loads of safety kit on even entry-level model

Weaknesses

  • Not the cheapest small car out there
  • Non-turbocharged engines are a bit lacklustre
  • Insurance can be pricey

If you're looking for a tiny town car that offers more civilised motoring on a sensible budget, the Hyundai i10 is an ideal candidate. It's relatively spacious, comes with a smart-looking interior and a great infotainment system, and it rides and drives more impressively than plenty of bigger, pricier cars. Automatic versions are great around town. Used examples of the latest 2020-onwards version are now plentiful at great prices.

We found 2020 Hyundai i10 1.0 MPi SE Connect auto, 15,000 miles, £12,000

Read our used Hyundai i10 review

Search for a used Hyundai i10 for sale

Strengths

  • Fabulous interior design and quality
  • Brilliant handling
  • Superb resale values

Weaknesses

  • Rear seats are cramped
  • Not very well equipped

The TT is a chic sports car that has a very smart interior, as well as efficient engines and sharp handling. It's an incredibly well-rounded package. If you choose one of the more powerful engines offered, such as the 227bhp 2.0-litre petrol, it's quick, too, and it mates up perfectly with the automatic S tronic gearbox. And the cherry on top: reasonable used prices across the board. What more could you want?

We found: 2018 Audi TT Black Edition 2.0 TFSI S tronic, 43,000 miles, £22,500

Read our used Audi TT review

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Our pick: 330e 22.3 kWh M Sport 4dr Step Auto

0-62mph: 5.9 sec
MPG/range: 353.1mpg
CO2 emissions: 19g/km
Seats: 5
Boot: 375 litres
Insurance group: 34E

Strengths

  • Great fun to drive
  • Sharp steering and superb body control
  • Intuitive infotainment system
  • Well equipped

Weaknesses

  • Interior not as well finished as Audi A4
  • Lumbar support was an expensive extra
  • Rather firm ride, especially on M Sport models

The executive BMW 3 Series is great to drive and is available with a wide selection of superb engines that are extremely efficient. They were made for pairing with the eight-speed automatic gearbox, which ushers through changes swiftly and smoothly. It's supremely competent and wonderfully classy. What’s more, it’s spacious enough for the average family and most versions are very comfortable. 

We found: 2021 BMW 3 Series 320d M Sport auto, 29,000 miles, £26,995

Read our used BMW 3 Series review

Search for a used BMW 3 Series for sale

Our pick: 40 TFSI e Sport 5dr S Tronic

0-62mph: 7.6 sec
MPG/range: 256.8mpg
CO2 emissions: 26g/km
Seats: 5
Boot: 280 litres
Insurance group: 24E

Strengths

  • Strong engines
  • Beautifully finished interior
  • Great to drive

Weaknesses

  • Not as spacious as the VW Golf in the back
  • Firm low-speed ride
  • Lower trims sparsely equipped

We reckoned that, as a new car, this 2013-2020 version of the classy Audi A3 Sportback was the best family hatchback around. And we think it's great as a used buy, too. It's a premium product with a spacious and practical high-quality interior, a superb ride and handling and an excellent range of engines, of which we'd seek out one of the smooth petrols and pair it with the automatic dual-clutch S tronic gearbox. What’s more, there are plenty of good examples around. 

We found 2020 Audi A3 Sportback 35 TFSI SE Technik S tronic, 15,000 miles, £18,850

Read our used Audi A3 review

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Our pick: 4.0 GTS 2dr

0-62mph: 4.5 sec
MPG/range: 25.9mpg
CO2 emissions: 247g/km
Seats: 2
Boot: 270 litres
Insurance group: 46E

Strengths

  • Brilliant handling
  • Strong engines
  • Classy interior

Weaknesses

  • Disappointing engine noise in four-cylinder cars
  • Cheap-skate equipment list
  • Expensive, even used

The Cayman is a fantastic drive, either with a six-speed manual gearbox or, as here, in the automatic PDK version. It comes with all the features you'd expect from a pukka Porsche sports car; it's precise, well-balanced, engaging and a real hoot to punt down a B-road. Used prices are high, generally, because its residual values are so good, but that just means you won't lose a lot of money when you come to trade it in. 

We found: 2018 Porsche Cayman S PDK, 39,000 miles, £42,995

Read our used Porsche Cayman review

Search for a used Porsche Cayman for sale