Top 10 Automatic Transmission Vehicles

When it comes to reviewing cars, we pay a lot of attention to the quality of the interior, the exterior, and also the features that it has, but we’re also very attentive when it comes to how the car drives. Lately, power and torque figures aren’t the be-all-end-all metrics in determining whether a car feels fun to drive. 

In our experience, transmissions often make or break the experience of driving a car, especially an automatic. You’d be surprised to know that even modern cars might have been cursed with a clunky automatic transmission. However, that is not the case here today because here are our top 10 best automatic cars in the Philippines based on our reviews and based on our time with them in and out of the city. 

Before we get into this list, it’s important to note that this list will be solely based on the feel of the cars while driving. Traditional, dual-clutch (DCT), and continuously variable transmissions (CVT) will be mentioned in this list, but what gets them on the list is their responsiveness. We’ll also be considering the engine combination as well, whether or not the transmission makes the motor shine or vice versa. The list is arranged in no particular order we’ll try to bar sports cars and premium cars as much as possible. Some of the entries will have two cars in them since they share the same internals or engine and transmission platforms. 

Honda Civic and Honda HR-V

Here is what we think is the best CVT in the market today. When the Civic was first launched with the RS turbo variant in the lineup, Honda’s transmission choice raised quite a few eyebrows. However, after a ton of time with the model, we can safely say that it’s one of the sportiest and most consistent CVTs in the market today. Honda’s done well to mimic the feel of a traditional automatic transmission, and it was even able to replicate gear shifts to a good level of accuracy, allowing the 1.5-liter turbocharged motor to let out its 175 hp and 240 Nm of torque. 

The same case can be made for the Honda HR-V and its V and RS trims. The CVT paired with the 1.5-liter turbo motor makes a return and is just as good as the Civic’s, in fact, it’s the same engine. With the same response and the same power delivery, it makes the list as well. 

Toyota Corolla Cross Toyota Corolla Altis

Now, on the flip side of things, if you want an absolutely smooth CVT experience, on top of a hybrid experience, then the Toyota Corolla Cross and the Corolla Altis both have great transmissions that allow for an absolutely smooth drive and ride. We didn’t mind that the transmission was devoid of gears, and we didn’t mind that the CVT still felt like a rubber band when you put your foot on the floor. The tradeoff here is that it is absolutely smooth, especially when paired with the parallel hybrid system which Toyota has perfected over the years. It is because of the hybrid system that the Corolla Cross and the Corolla Altis make this list. We don’t consider the gasoline-only models to be a part of the list. Hybrid is really the way to go here if you want absolute smoothness and a ton more fuel efficiency. The hybrid system makes up for the lack of torque that the gasoline motor has at low engine speeds, and it smoothens everything out, especially in stop-and-go traffic. Because of that, it’s one of our favorite transmission systems. 

Suzuki Jimny

Until this day, the Suzuki Jimny has one of the most magical automatic transmissions in the market today, not because it has a ton of gears, not because it accommodates four-wheel-drive, but because it makes the absolute most out of the 1.5-liter engine that the Jimny comes with. The simple architecture of the Jimny’s gearbox has a low gear ratio that really allows the Jimny to climb. Don’t let the K15B’s specifications fool you because you will be dumbfounded at what 101 hp and 130 Nm of torque can do when paired with the automatic transmission. 

NIssan Kicks

Now here’s a break from the norm, both powertrain-wise and transmission-wise. The Nissan Kicks is one of the first mainstream cars in the Philippines that is popularizing the Automatic Single Speed Gear Reduction transmission, in other words, an electric vehicle transmission system. As one of the first in its segment and at its price point, it’s really a novel experience for most Filipinos, earning it a spot on this list. In practice, however, it might take some getting used to since the transmission actually has features like Nissan’s e-Pedal which essentially turns the Kicks into a one-pedal driving experience. Whether or not it’s the best remains to be seen, but until we can see more of these transmissions on the road, the Kicks is our pick for now. 

Ford Ranger and Ford Everest

Prior to the most current generation, the Ford Everest and Ranger had so-so transmissions. The 10-speed automatic felt mushy at times and paired with the diesel engine, we felt that the numbers didn’t back up the experience. Now, however, moving into the Next-Gen models, we feel that Ford’s reached a level of refinement that matches the number of gears in the box. Shifting in the next-gen T6 models feels a lot smoother and imperceptible. On top of that, Ford did something to the models’ engines, the 2.0-liter bi and single turbos, to help smoothen things out even more. There were times when the transmission felt as smooth as a CVT. We’re placing the T6 duo on this list mainly because of its smoothness, and its responsiveness is on par with other SUVs in the category. 

Mazda 2 Sedan

In the subcompact arena, we feel that Mazda does it best. While the rest of the industry is shifting (pun intended) towards CVTs and DCTs, it’s quite hard to beat the traditional torque converter. Mazda, as far as we’re concerned, perfected the traditional automatic in the mainstream segment of cars here in the Philippines. We can also add the rest of the Mazda vehicles, but the main standout here is the Mazda2 since we feel that the 2 has the best feeling transmission in its category. Now, the gearbox won’t win awards for absolute smoothness, but it does help to bring out the best that the 1.5-liter SkyActiv-G motor has to offer. With quick gear changes and preferable ergonomics for sporty driving, the Mazda2 is one of our picks that makes it onto this list. 

GAC Empow

We’re not fans of cheap DCTs, but the Empow is a rather affordable car that leaves us without complaint on the transmission front. It’s not as slamming as a Porsche PDK or Toyota GR Supra’s ZF unit, or Nissan GT-R’s DCT, but it definitely has a rather sporty shift compared to the rest, especially in its Sport+ mode, if you get to unlock it. The Empow is a great car for GAC, and it goes to show that the Chinese brand has hit its stride when it comes to driving dynamics. Paired with the torquey 1.5-liter motor which makes 168 hp and 250 Nm of torque, the 7-speed wet DCT is a joy to run, and it’s still relatively smooth in traffic, but it is very responsive when put into any of the sportier modes. 

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