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VW Polo interior steering wheel

Driving an automatic for the first time

Chloe Martell profile

Chloe Martell

June 27, 2019

Young driver stories 6 min read

I passed my test just over a year ago and up until recently, I had only ever driven manual cars. Before learning, I was actually considering learning to drive and taking my test in an automatic but ultimately decided against it. Although I may have passed my test quicker that way, it would have meant I could only drive automatic cars, unless I took an additional test. Ultimately, automatic cars can be a bit more expensive to buy and repair, so I decided to learn to drive and take the test in a manual car – giving me the option to get manual or automatic cars in the future without worrying about taking any additional tests.

Before actually getting behind the wheel of an automatic, I assumed it would be easier to drive. No gears? Yes, please! However, 14 months of me mastering gear changes and clutch control clearly had an impact, because driving an automatic car was much more difficult than I first anticipated.

If you want to read my review on the VW Polo (casting aside the automatic trouble) you can find that here!

Hopping in the car

My first challenge when it came to an automatic car? Starting it. Sounds silly, but the majority of the cars I have driven need the clutch down to start. The only problem here? There is no clutch! Needless to say, I spent a good 5-10 minutes wondering how on earth I got the car started. In the end, it turned out I had to put my foot on the brake (and push down quite hard) and then turn the key. I could’ve sworn that I tried this first, but clearly, I didn’t push the brake down hard enough because it didn’t work! It seems strange that such an easy thing to do took me so long. I think I knew at this point that this drive was going to be pretty difficult.


Driving away in an automatic

Now don’t get me wrong, I actually liked the VW Polo to drive a lot, it was just the automatic part of it that threw me off in this particular one (you can get them in manual if you want too). I really struggled to stop myself from going for the clutch – so the first mile or so was me juddering along the road getting to grips with the car, and the automatic-ness of it. I found myself reaching for the clutch, and the gear lever, which you only really switch between drive, parking and reverse – yes, I almost tried to switch it into park whilst driving a few times!

Getting to grips with an automatic car

Although the first section of my journey was a bit of a nightmare, after a while I did get used to it. It almost felt like when you would drive mini go-karts at the seaside as a kid. A go pedal, and a brake pedal – simple! Of course, being 6 years old and trundling around a track on the seafront is a little bit different, but once I’d got to grips with driving the automatic it wasn’t too bad, at all – I could get used to this!


Hitting the ‘brake’

Now I don’t know about you, but if I ever see a police car on the road – I feel instantly guilty, even though I’ve never committed a crime in my life. After pulling up and taking some pictures of the beautiful VW Polo, and got back in the car and was headed back. To get out of where I was, I had to drive down a one-way track, and as I was almost out the other end, a police car turned down the track and was heading towards me.

There were two things that could have happened here. Did I?

A – Continue driving like a sensible, normal person to get out of the police cars way


B – Put my left foot on what should’ve been the clutch, but was actually the brake, and nearly throw myself forwards out of the windscreen

You guessed it – I slammed my left foot down on the brake thinking it was the clutch and shot forward like a bullet from a gun. If you have ever attempted to brake with your left foot (and I wouldn’t recommend it) then you know what I mean. But I didn’t cautiously tap it, I full on threw my foot down. I am honestly surprised that the police officer didn’t pull me over to check if I actually had a driving licence, because it looked like this was the first time I’d driven. It was like I was in my first ever driving lesson all over again – stalling and juddering all over the place. What a nightmare!


Country roads, take my home

As much as I liked the VW Polo’s look and feel, I couldn’t wait to get out of it. I thought it was all going fine, but then nearly flinging myself and all the stuff on the backseat out of the front window kind of shook me. I was way too used to changing gear to take this car for a long drive. Don’t get me wrong, I think if I had time to get used to an automatic car before setting off on the roads, I would’ve been fine, and I don’t doubt that if I was used to it, I wouldn’t mind owning an automatic car! I really liked the VW Polo, and I have no doubt that if I had test driven a manual one – I’d love it even more! But for now, automatic cars just aren’t for me!

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Chloe Martell profile

By Chloe Martell

'As a new driver, I'm so eager to share my driving journey with you all - from when I was a learner, going through my test and all the aspects of my driving life now, including my love of cars!'  See more posts by Chloe

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