Best Automatic Family Cars

30th Apr 2019

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There are many advantages to choosing a car with automatic transmission. They require less effort to drive, particularly on hills and in heavy traffic, and have become highly popular over the last few years, so there’s plenty of choice on the market. Here are our favourite family-friendly automatics.

Mercedes-Benz A-Class

Mercedes’ entry-level car manages to be an affordable option for families without sacrificing the manufacturer’s trademark quality. Its chunky MPV style changed in favour of a more conventional family hatchback body when the third generation was launched in 2012, and there are plenty of models from the latest generation (launched earlier this year) on the used car market too. Whichever generation you go for, you get premium Mercedes looks inside and out plus highly economical engines, with some returning over 60mpg. Most models are automatic so you get plenty of choice, and there’s also the option of the high-performance AMG models.

The latest generation models have greater cabin and boot space plus a stunningly modern cabin, so may be worth the extra cost.

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Land Rover Discovery Sport

Land Rover are renowned for their superb practicality and off-road ability, and this extends to the entry level Discovery Sport. There’s plenty of room for five5 with two extra seats available as standard and the boot is huge too, making this suitable for large families. It has a comfortable, well-finished interior with top of the range materials and an 8-inch touchscreen as standard.

Land Rover’s Ingenium diesel engines are economical too, and automatics come in 2.0-litre or 2.2-litre guise. Indeed, this is one of those cars where it’s well worth getting the automatic version as it’s a smooth nine-speed transmission (the manual is only six-speed) enabling you to maximise performance. The Discovery Sport also offers good driving dynamics and refinement, while excellent residual values make this a very worthwhile investment for your family.

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Discovery Sport

Vauxhall Insignia

The Insignia is a spacious family car offering plenty of choice. Given that it’s a hatchback or an estate, it offers handling and driving comfort that not many SUVs can match without compromising on practicality – there’s room for all the family and a large boot too. Mk1 models are still great value, though if you go for the Insignia Grand Sport (2017 onwards) you get an upgrade in terms of looks. The engines with automatic transmission are almost exclusively powered by diesel, and these are available in 1.6-litre and 2.0-litre versions, both turbocharged.

One of the Insignia’s main selling points is the amount of kit you get: even entry-level first-generation models come with DAB radio, Bluetooth and cruise control. The Grand Sport’s standard equipment includes air-con and a touchscreen infotainment system, while trim upgrades offer sat nav and even a Bose stereo.

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Ford Focus

The Focus is a famous best-seller in Britain and is a favourite among families. Practical, great to drive, and comfortable, it has everything you need in a family car. Looks and tech have been upgraded a great deal in recent years too, and whether you go for the hatchback or the estate there’s plenty of legroom and boot space for passengers and cargo. It is rightly one of the most popular cars in Britain.

It’s an excellent automatic choice too. Ford offer a superb range of engines with automatic transmission including the award-winning 1.0-litre petrol EcoBoost, the impressively smooth 1.6-litre petrol and 1.5-litre diesel Powershift engines, and the powerful 2.0-litre diesel.

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BMW 1 Series

BMW’s entry level car brings their trademark quality to the humble hatchback. It gives you the opportunity to experience a premium car without breaking the bank, and its popularity is evident from its sales success over the last few years. It’s got distinctive looks, solid build quality and is excellent to drive. Equipment levels are good too - the standard SE models come with alloy wheels, climate control, and keyless start, while the Sport and M Sport trim levels don’t cost much more.

The 5-door hatchback is the most popular variant for families and a variety of petrol and diesel engines are available with automatic transmission. There are plenty of nearly-new models on the used car market too, so you can get yourself a premium BMW in top condition for a great price.

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1 Series

Volkswagen Golf

A household name of the family car market for decades, the Golf is now in its seventh generation. Its driving and build quality are as good as ever and it’s a great option if you’re looking for an automatic. It is instantly recognisable on the roads with that neat, compact design, yet it’s deceptively spacious inside. The boot is large too and the estate version is even more roomy.

Your automatic options include 1.4-litre and 2.0-litre petrols, 1.6-litre and 2.0-litre diesels, and even the renowned GTI performance version. They’re all turbocharged and all use BlueMotion (including stop/start) technology to save fuel and keep your running costs down.

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Citroen Grand C4 Picasso

A distinctive-looking and incredibly practical MPV, the Grand C4 Picasso is a great option for large families. It’s got seven7 seats, with the middle and rear seats foldable, enabling you to create a huge load area in addition to the already sizeable boot. The interior is full of useful compartments too.

Latest generation models are much-improved in terms of driving quality, with a suspension that soaks up bumps nicely and a tight turning circle, making parking easy. The revised traction control system means the C4 Picasso grips well on slippery surfaces too. This is a car that delivers a comfortable ride for all the family whatever the type of journey.

Engines with automatic transmission include the 1.6-litre e-HDi and BlueHDi diesels plus a 2.0-litre BlueHDi. These deliver smooth transmission and impressive economy rates, with the 1.6-litre engines capable of over 70mpg.

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Grand C4 Picasso

Ford Kuga

The Kuga is based on the Ford Focus, meaning despite its SUV bodystyle it drives like a nifty hatchback. The front end does indeed resemble the Focus, and if you go for a post-2016 facelift model the looks are even better, with sharper headlights, striking lines on the bonnet, and a large metallic grille.

It’s great to drive, with excellent handling, and is easy to park with the option of acoustic sensors and an automatic parking system for post-facelift models. Practicality is good too, with room for five5 and a decent-sized boot plus rear seats that fold flat.

Your engine options with automatic include a 1.5-litre EcoBoost petrol plus 1.5-litre and 2.0-litre TDCi diesels. A bonus of the 2.0-litre automatic is that it comes with all-wheel-drive. Though the Kuga is primarily designed to excel on the tarmac, this feature does make it capable on muddy fields or tracks.

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Vauxhall Astra

A staple of the family cars market, the Astra is now in its seventh generation. It remains a top choice for families, with both the hatchback and estate versions being spacious and generously equipped with a 7.0-inch touchscreen with Bluetooth and Apple CarPlay/Android Auto, cruise control, and air con as standard. It’s good to drive too, striking a nice balance between an easy comfortable drive and an enjoyable level of driving engagement. It’s a good all-round car suitable for a variety of family journeys.

Your engine options with automatic transmission include a 1.4-litre turbocharged petrol plus 1.6-litre and 2.0-litre CTDi diesels.

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Renault Captur

A popular choice over the last couple of years, the Captur is a highly modern and versatile family SUV, with its compact size making it a great city car and a large boot ideal for long journeys. It’s nippy and agile enough for getting around town yet also provides a highly comfortable ride on the motorway. There’s plenty of scope for customisation with a variety of exterior colours and five trim levels to choose from, while the interior is comfortable and spacious.

If you’re looking for an automatic model you can choose between the 1.2-litre TCE petrol and the 1.5-litre DCI diesel.

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As technology continues to advance, the variety of automatic cars just gets bigger. These days manufacturers are offering 6-speed, 8-speed, semi-automatic and even dual clutch automatics, so there's a huge range of models offering different driving experiences.

We've picked out 10 of the best automatics on the used market here, but there are plenty of other gems out there. Take a look through the used cars available at Evans Halshaw to see for yourself.