When driving instructor Tracey Bradshaw decided to switch from a manual to an automatic car, little did she know what a great decision she had made.
“I’ve been a driving instructor since 2003,” said the 54-year-old from Newcastle upon Tyne who runs Freedom Automatic Driving School. After 15 years I was diagnosed with arthritis and began to get pain in my feet. So I thought I’d try an automatic. Another instructor friend of mine had a hybrid Yaris – he really liked it and I liked the look of it too.”
“So I ordered one – it’s my first Toyota – from C & A Cars – a leasing company that specialises in supplying dual-control cars to driving instructors. It’s the 1.5 Icon edition. I wanted a blue one and had to wait nine months for it.
“I instantly found it so easy to drive – I absolutely love it, in all my years of driving, 33, and teaching, 19, it is by far the best car I’ve ever had for both myself and my pupils. For me having the right vehicle is really important as I spend half my life in it.
“Also what’s important is the dealership. Stoneacre, are only in Gateshead which is very close – they understand my business – they’re good for getting me in really quickly and let me take the car in really early in the morning so I can keep working – they’re so accommodating. I’ll stay with Toyota now.
“I actually prefer automatics now. Manuals will be a thing of the past and I wouldn’t go back to one.
“Years ago driving automatics was frowned-upon but people are now coming round to them. Ten years ago 95% of students were learning in manuals but now that’s probably dropped to 75%. Historically some nervous drivers were attracted to automatics. I’ve seen a big shift from these anxious and sometimes elderly drivers to young confident drivers who want to drive eco-hybrids and electric cars in the future.
“Here in Newcastle I also get a lot of international students, who have only ever driven automatics. Their international licences are only valid for a year or so – depending on where they’re from.
“One massive benefit to learning to drive in an automatic hybrid is that it’s so much easier. Because of the lack of clutch and gears students have more time to think about roadcraft. This probably also means they need fewer lessons.
“Today’s driving test includes a section of ‘independent driving’ – they can follow road signs or a satnav – so the tech in the Yaris is a great help. Examiners still pretty much expect everything to be done by the book, but are quite happy for students not to use the handbrake as long as the control of the car is properly maintained, the Yaris’s automatic handbrake and hill assist make this so easy.
“But I have covered up the speed limit displayed on the dash with some black tape – it’s great to use as a guide but it’s not 100% accurate.
“The reversing camera is absolutely amazing, used correctly it is an excellent addition to safety and makes the accuracy whilst reversing so much easier, I think sometimes my pupils don’t realise how lucky they are learning in such a great car,” explained Tracey.
Thirty-three-year-old Layla Hussain is one of Tracey’s students. Her driving test was postponed due to Covid but is now booked for November.
“I wanted to learn in an automatic – lots of my friends have too – they’re the future. Wherever you travel in the world you can always hire an automatic car. The Yaris is a smooth drive – I can’t feel the bumps or hear road noise. It’s comfortable, spacious and cool looking too.”
Layla nervously added: “I’ll definitely be buying a hybrid Toyota when I’ve passed my test”