We all know that traffic can get bad in the Philippines, this is why most buyers prefer to use an automatic transmission vehicle instead of a manual one. No doubt, traffic has been a considerable factor in why people choose to drive a car with an automatic transmission. It’s easier to just switch between pedals than fiddling the gears and finessing the clutch each time you have to crawl on EDSA or C5. What's worse is if you have to do this on a daily basis in a predominantly uphill area such as Baguio.
In this list, we’ve compiled a number of vehicles that represent the very best application of automatic transmissions in our local market. Do note that we haven’t included Continuously Variable Transmissions (CVTs) on the list as they are an entirely different style of automatically “shifting gears.” That said, traditional automatic transmissions, DCT, and CVTs all contribute to creating a more approachable and relaxing driving choice for customers.
Not in any particular order, and with no brand bias, these vehicles, in our opinion, combine fuel efficiency and comfort when it comes to going through gears, plus a little fun factor, making driving a less stressful and more pleasurable experience, even in traffic.
The Mazda 3 has been known to be one of the sportier sedans you can get on the market today. It is one of the last few models out there that hasn’t fully transitioned to the use of CVTs. With that being said, the Japanese automaker has tuned its gearbox to be smart and sporty. The transmission senses what you want it to do via the throttle pedal and 9 times out 10 will deliver you the power that you want from the car. Overall Mazda has done well to deliver a sporty ride thanks to an intuitive transmission that you will surely enjoy.
The Geely Coolray makes it onto this list because of its power plant and transmission. Its 7-speed wet DCT makes it onto the list as it too delivers a sport yet smooth shifting experience. While the gearbox does struggle a bit to put the power from the 1.5-liter turbo down to the ground from a dead stop, it handles it well when the vehicle starts rolling. Admittedly the gearbox can be a little slow from time to time, but we do give it props for being able to put down 177hp and 255 Nm of torque to the front wheels.
Another crossover with a great gearbox is the MG ZS-T. For a turbocharged vehicle, you don’t feel the aggressiveness of the motor when the car shifts. It's a smooth experience, but when you want to floor it, the crossover will happily downshift a couple of gears to give you the power you want. When in sport mode, the transmission is fairly quick to react to what you want it to do, but don’t expect it to be as quick as a Porsche’s PDK. Overall still one of the better automatic transmissions out there and fairly surprising especially coming from a newly established brand in the local market.
While we have covered sedans and crossovers, one of the better transmissions we have encountered with a pickup truck is the 6-speed automatic gearbox found in the Isuzu D-MAX. Shifting was quick and was proactive, detecting downhills quickly and downshifting to apply engine braking to supplement slowing down. Coupled with the fuel-efficient and capable 3.0-liter turbocharged diesel mill in the D-Max, you’ve got one of the best shifting pickups out there.
Another transmission we found to be quite interesting is the Nissan Navara, the pickup truck despite its big size and its intention for being used as a commercial vehicle provides you with a smooth-shifting experience. In drive, the kick down to a lower gear is almost instantaneous with a little bit of breathing room in between. The automatic gearbox handles power well and is smart enough to know when you want to just coast along and save gas or when you want to wring out all the power the engine has.