What is a semi-automatic car?

Most cars these days function with either manual or automatic transmission, but did you know you can also get semi automatic transmission too? If you're thinking about buying a car with a semi automatic gearbox, and you're not quite sure how it works, or maybe you've never even heard of it before, we've got you covered. You'll be able to understand how it differs from manual transmission and this way, you can get the most out of your driving.

What does semi-automatic mean?

Semi-automatic cars are becoming increasingly common, but what does semi automatic transmission mean? A semi automatic car means that the vehicle combines manual and automatic gearboxes - offering the best of both worlds, according to Start Rescue. This means that there is no clutch pedal, so no need for any manual gear changes, and a "flappy-paddle gearbox". Thanks to this, many think that a semi-automatic is really easy to drive, and you can choose how to control the gears too.

While you can drive a semi-automatic like a fully automatic, you can also take manual control of it too, using the paddles on either side of the steering wheel to change gear, says Book My Garage. This goes to show how semi-automatics are designed to offer the convenience of automatic transmission, while also including the extra control of a manual.

How does a semi-automatic car work

A semi automatic transmission works by utilising kinetic energy, which helps to rotate the wheels and carefully tuned gear ratios control how fast or slow they spin.

Matsumoto Naoki from Car from Japan explains how it works in detail: "A semi-automatic gearbox makes use of a set of actuators and a hydraulic motor in place of a gear lever and clutch pedal, respectively. There is also a control unit that is in the charge of various actions including engine torque, the speed of the car, accelerator pedal position, and some others."

One of the great things about semi-automatic transmission is that you have the option to switch and take manual control if you wanted to. The computer will tell you when to shift up or down via the corresponding paddle and the computer always controls the clutch function, so you don't have to worry about syncing it all up, says Book My Garage.

What are the differences between semi-automatic and automatic?

One of the main differences between a fully automatic car and a semi automatic car is the gear lever layout. In a fully automatic car, there is no option to select gears manually. For example, in an automatic, there is usually just the gearbox layout of "PRND" (Park, Reverse, Neutral and Drive). However, in a semi-automatic, you can select the gears just like with a manual, but with the difference of a clutch pedal, which is switched on electronically, according to Stoneacre.

A semi-automatic can sometimes be found to be operated by a lever or a push-button system on the wheel and it won't have a Park mode because there will be an Automatic mode replacing the Drive mode.

Car from Japan has also reported that "It will not shift the gears by itself but will help the driver to navigate through gears. The driver has to give inputs for the car to move up or down a gear." Whereas, with an automatic, it can change though the gears without any input at all. Also, a semi-auto is typically more fuel-efficient than an automatic car, which is great news given the cost of living crisis.

What are the benefits of a semi-automatic gearbox?

There are many different advantages to having a semi-automatic, for example, they are considered to be less effort to use because there is no need to keep flexing your leg pressing on the clutch pedal. If there's one less thing you need to do when you're driving, such as not having to keep pushing your left leg down on the clutch, then that's a winner!

According to Buyacar, semi-automatic cars are great for making faster gear changes, compared to a manual, as the electronics are faster than how quickly we can change gear as a human. Talking of gear changes, Auto Pro Tips have reported that if you're looking to have a better driving experience and an easier time shifting gears, then a semi-automatic is the one to go for.

If you're a new driver and are someone that doesn't feel very confident with changing gears on a manual gearbox transmission, you can always opt for your first semi-automatic car instead. Semi-automatic vehicles leave the pleasure of changing gears to you as the driver, allowing you to have more control and better command over your car and helping you to understand the right time to shift gears, without needing to worry about disengaging the clutch.

What are the common semi-automatic gearbox problems?

As with most things, there is usually a flip side of the coin, and there are some common problems that tend to occur with a semi auto gearbox. Some motorists can be put off by the thought of having a semi-automatic car simply because they don't think they are as enjoyable to drive as a manual car, with a clutch pedal and traditional gear stick, making them feel like they are much more involved as a driver, says Buyacar.

Semi-automatic gearboxes are similar to those that you get with having regular manual transmission, says Start Rescue, in terms of:

  • Burning smells
  • Slipping gears
  • Delayed or no response when in gear
  • Car shaking or grinding in gear stick

Another thing to bear in mind too is that if you're someone who is budget conscious, you might feel a little wary that generally speaking, semi-automatic vehicles tend to be more expensive compared to manual. This isn't surprising given that the electrical components of a semi-automatic are more sophisticated, which means it costs the manufacturer more and in turn, increases the price for us as the consumer.

Can you stall a semi-automatic car?

We'd love to tell you that there is no way you can stall a semi-automatic car, but sadly there is a possibility. It's virtually impossible for you to stall a semi-automatic car because it has no clutch pedal however, if your semi automatic does stall, it's probably going to be due to technical problems.

All in all, if you prefer the hassle of not having to operate a car manually, then a semi-automatic car is the way forward. With part of the process automated, you can focus on enjoying driving rather than stressing about stalling. They can be pricey, but they are worth it if you really want it.

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