Wow it’s as simple as driving a kart, I remember saying a few years ago when my now wife came home with an automatic Ford Fiesta.
She had lived in Australia for almost a year and had become used to an automatic gearbox. She saw no point in returning to manual life in Britain.
I was skeptical. Weren’t automatic cars just for lazy junk drivers?
Manual is king – after all, most learn in a manual car, then buy a manual car, and car enthusiasts tell you that real driving involves changing gear, so a manual car is the best personal mode of transportation to get from A to B. .
Automatic cars, there must be a catch …
My gateway automatic: our confidence Ford Fiesta was snappy, nimble and a joy to drive
That was soon blown out of the water for me when I first approached a roundabout in the Fiesta and realized how much more time to think and zip I had in a vending machine.
I have since fallen in love with automatic driving and found that it made navigating abroad in the US and Italy much easier. Press the igniter button, go from P to D or R and foot down.
When the Fiesta was ditched for a larger vehicle for our growing family, the only option was an automatic replacement.
Now diehard petrolheads I know will read this with a ghastly look – including This is Money editor and old school hot hatch Peugeot 205 GTI owner Simon Lambert and I can only apologize if this is just too disturbing to read .
But as someone who doesn’t fall into this category and likes the easy life, I can’t imagine ever going back to a clunky manual transmission.
In recent times we have had enormous pressure on electric cars. Wherever you stand, it is clear that technology improves as more manufacturers put money into research and development.
This means that hopefully prices should drop as more adoption is used and better charging infrastructure – in fact, a new super site in Braintree is only 20 minutes away from my home.
However, something that the general public hasn’t thought much about, I think, is the fact that all series-produced electric cars have a single-speed automatic gearbox.
That means you don’t have to switch. It’s just automatic driving.
Buy an electric car? You drive an automatic. And soon, you probably won’t have much choice about this.
So we’ve already seen the beginning of the manual gearbox end, and for the vast majority of people, that actually matters. Consumer Trends is looking at whether automatic cars have already taken over in recent years and what the future holds for driving.
‘I hate driving …’
I’ve lost count in recent years to the number of times someone has told me they hate driving, especially those who live in London or haven’t driven a car for years, and that they don’t practice anymore.
Try a vending machine, is my usual reaction. A friend I said this to last summer took my advice and revealed for a while after that she had done just that and didn’t want to go back.
Meanwhile, an elderly relative, who broke her left wrist a few years ago, found driving painful as she recovered from shifting clumsy gears and planned to give up.
Again, my answer? Try a vending machine. She did just that and hasn’t looked back.
There are statistics that support the acceptance of automatic models.
According to the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders, about two in five new cars registered in 2017 were automatic. The number is double that of ten years earlier.
Meanwhile, the much-maligned UK driving test has also seen an increase in people taking the automatic route.
Maybe it’s the fear of turning or that dreaded hill start.
Of course it means that in the future they will only be able to drive an automatic transmission, but that seems to be less of a problem given the choice and drive for electric.
Automatic acceleration: The number of automatic tests has nearly tripled in just eight years, DVSA data shows
According to data from DVSA, the number of automatic driving tests has nearly tripled in just eight years.
That was 202,506 in 2019/20 (year to March 2020), compared to 70,429 in 2011/12. Meanwhile, the total number of tests – both automatic and manual – has remained roughly the same at 1.6 million.
It means that about 13 percent of the tests in the most recent set of data were for an automatic, compared to 4.5 percent in 2011/12.
This suggests that future drivers would like to embrace a future without being allowed to drive manually.
It suggests some people don’t care about clutch operation and shifting.
It’s worth pointing out, however, that the success rate is much lower for automatics, perhaps indicating a less confident driver.
Going Automatic: The RAC says many of its vans now run automatically and offer improved economy and lower operating costs
Foggy eyes for manuals?
Rod Dennis, RAC spokesperson, estimates that the day of the manual driving test is over.
He told me, ‘While manual gearboxes still dominate today, the writing is probably on the wall for them as electric cars gain popularity.
And in a strange way, given that the rise of one-speed cars is unstoppable, there’s a chance that drivers will get pretty blurry about ‘manuals’.
Since the emergence of one-speed cars is unstoppable, there is a chance that drivers will become rather blurry about ‘manuals’.
After all, shifting the gears up and down has been an integral part of driving – and learning to drive – for so many of us, and it’s one of the most important ways we control the car.
“The incredibly smooth delivery of power from electric motors, while no less satisfying, is a completely different experience.”
Probably one day in the near future all manual cars will be labeled as classics.
Rod also points out that more than half of the RAC’s patrol cars are now equipped with automatic gearboxes, and that share is growing.
He added: “They provide a smoother and more comfortable driving experience for our patrols, improved economy and, interestingly, lower operating costs because less maintenance is required. So the fuel and environmental benefits of vending machines are clear. ‘
Higher Spend: Automatic cars are a bit more expensive than their manual counterparts, but worth the extra money in my opinion. Picture: a VW Golf
Automatic cars typically cost around £ 1,000 more than their manual counterparts.
For example, a 2.0-liter diesel VW Golf in the mid-range ‘Style’ trim level costs £ 26,545 with a six-speed manual or £ 28,045 with the seven-speed DSG automatic.
Cars also typically cost a little more to insure, due to the higher cost of repairing the gearbox if something goes wrong.
But as Rod points out, while the car does the job and gets you into gear faster, fuel economy is usually a bit better, which could offset the cost.
It can also be difficult to get used to a vending machine and go back to the manual. This can be tricky in a situation such as renting a car abroad – depending on where you are.
In the US, almost all cars are automatic, so cost and choice are no problem. In Europe, the reverse is true, so it may cost a little more for an automatic rental car.
But that’s where my list ends. Personally, I think trying a vending machine is the perfect way to make electric cars later in the decade.
It’s also worth pointing out that while autonomous vehicles are also still in their infancy, that has little to no input from the driver – just because you’re not shifting into an automatic doesn’t mean you’re still not getting the most of the work and it’s not fun.
Not that I think there is much driving fun to be had in 2021 Great Britain …
Traffic, mid-lane motorways, speed cameras, box junction fines, nasty A roads, nasty B roads, rural roads with potholes … it’s time to embrace the new Go-Kart era, safe and easy from A to B puts away those images of wind-in-the-hair driving convertibles on beautiful tree-lined roads from the 1960s.
The past is manual. The future is automatic.
THE BEST OF MOTORS
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