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Nervous driver - should I buy an automatic?

(15 Posts)
CurrerBell Thu 24-Oct-13 18:45:42

We are thinking of changing our Honda FR-V for a new family car. The FR-V is great in every respect except one - I really struggle to drive it! I don't like the pull-out handbrake, and I struggle to get the bite and move away smoothly, especially on hill starts. I've been stalling a lot recently and have started to feel quite panicky, particularly on hills and roundabouts in busy traffic...

DH hasn't had any problems with the car so it seems it's just me... not sure what I'm doing wrong! It's really knocked my confidence in driving.

We are considering buying an automatic, although I've never driven one before. Could that be the answer? Are they so much better to drive?

IamInvisisble Thu 24-Oct-13 18:50:04

When we had our Citroen C4 Picasso it had an automatic parking break. You never rolled back on a hill start because it never went off until you pulled off, IYSWIM and came on whenever it was necessary, and when you turned the engine off.

Maybe looking for something like that would be beneficial.

The car was semi-automatic so was a dream to drive, you didn't have to do much other than steer!

MadameJosephine Thu 24-Oct-13 18:50:27

I drive an automatic and I love it, my clutch control was always dreadful and in the end I actually took my test in an automatic. That are a bit more expensive to buy and I'm told they get worse mileage but IMO it's worth it

Coolforcatz Thu 24-Oct-13 18:55:37

Autos are great for driving round town, they're generally thirstier and more expensive to tax, and heavier on brakes, but still great.

Diesels are very forgiving to drive, very torquey motors, so you don't need to use the throttle when setting off, just the clutch.

Slipshodsibyl Thu 24-Oct-13 18:58:09

If you buy an automatic I think you will never go back. They are very easy to drive. The only disadvantage for menus that I often have to drive hire cars in this country or overseas and it can be tricky and expensive to hire automatics so I still need to use them and if you are ever in this situation you will need to keep your hand in.

Otherwise, go for it. You will love it.

Slipshodsibyl Thu 24-Oct-13 19:01:26

Oh dear - sorry - the only problem for 'me is ' and 'I still need to use a gear stick if I hire or borrow so still need to keep my hand in.'

CurrerBell Thu 24-Oct-13 19:18:49

Thanks all for the quick replies! That is what I'm worried about I guess - that I'll get used to an automatic and will never be able to go back... although to be honest I'm not driving at all at the moment due to the panic attacks, so anything would be an improvement to me giving up altogether!

Our FR-V is a diesel but for some reason I just find it so hard to drive... it is so frustrating that I can't get past this, as the car is otherwise so good. It must be something to do with my clutch control / legs tensing up.

An electronic handbrake or semi-automatic sounds like what I may be looking for... DH is really keen on getting a VW Golf and they do a kind of semi-automatic I think. Not quite as practical as the FR-V though for trips to Ikea or giving lifts to friends.

Coolforcatz Thu 24-Oct-13 19:47:32

The pull-out handbrakes and even the electronic handbrakes are annoying.

Your FR-V shouldn't be so willing to stall being a diesel, unless you treat the clutch as an on/off switch it should chug along without much effort. Take it out somewhere quiet and play with it, see if you can get all the way to fourth without touching the throttle.

WMittens Thu 24-Oct-13 20:11:04

'Losing' the manual skill

This is probably the main concern about going auto, but it's going be become less and less of an issue - the variety of clutchless transmissions are becoming much more popular, with some models/trims already only available with auto/flappy-paddle gearboxes (some Porsche 911s, Renault Clio RS, BMW M5).

Within 5 to 10 years I would expect automatics (including automated manuals) to be the large majority of new car sales with manuals being a "purist's" option.

Electronic parking brake/hill start assist

This may take some of the faffing out of the equation (as you don't have to think about it), but it won't cure bad clutch control - if you're ham-footed with the clutch you will still stall (and it's quicker to reapply a manual handbrake to stop yourself rolling back). An automatic would be a better option.

WMittens Thu 24-Oct-13 20:16:04


...and I'm told they get worse mileage but IMO it's worth it

Certainly true of old automatic transmissions, but the newer ones are often touted as being the more fuel efficient choice* and efficiency is a lot of what is driving auto adoption.

Newer gearboxes now may have seven, eight or even nine different gear ratios, so the gearbox ECU can keep the engine in 'eco' operating conditions for more of the time.

*Whether or not that stacks up against real world experience is a different matter.

WMittens Thu 24-Oct-13 20:23:42

I find autos need a bit more planning, especially with small engines. I have a 4-litre, 290hp car with an auto gearbox and there is a small delay when setting off between pressing the gas pedal and the car moving forward (apart from the usual torque converter auto creep). You do get used to it, but balancing clutch, throttle and handbrake gives you much more control.

Similar problem with overtaking - despite a big engine and kickdown on the gearbox (floor the throttle and it changes to the lowest suitable gear for the best acceleration) you still need good forward planning on the "do I?/don't I?" overtakes. Even with the engine screaming away there's a significant pause before it makes progress, and a couple of times the overtaking opportunity has been lost because of it. Again, a manual gearbox and clutch means you have more control over the available acceleration.

CurrerBell Fri 25-Oct-13 18:15:34

That's interesting - thanks for all the info.

I've just seen the VW Up and really want one! We are considering it as a cheap second car for me, and DH could keep the FR-V or trade it in for a Golf.

However, the automatic version of the Up is more expensive and doesn't sound too great really - very slow to respond. I might have to see if I can cope with the manual... I just have to keep telling myself that I used to drive without any major problems prior to the FR-V (I swear it's the car that's the problem, not me!!).

Coolforcatz Fri 25-Oct-13 18:47:27

If you're looking at the VW Up then consider the Skoda Citigo, it's exactly the same car and has some cracking deals, it's better VFM than the VW. I'm looking at them myself too.

CurrerBell Sun 27-Oct-13 20:34:11

Thanks, I have looked at the Citigo and it might be good as a second car in the future. After a weekend looking at cars we've settled on a Golf DSG (automatic) as the main family car. I'm actually looking forward to driving again! I think I'll stick to automatics from now on - so much easier. smile

octanegirl Thu 31-Oct-13 08:00:54

If a manual makes you nervous, buy an auto. Simples.

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