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Why do automatic cars use more fuel?

Old-school torque converter automatics normally do use more fuel, unless they have lots of gears. Past seven speeds, the automatic starts to win, by having better matched gears most of the time.

Dual-clutch systems are manual gearboxes, and are usually more efficient because the computer does a better selection of gears than the driver. Sometimes the manufacturers mess that up in the search for comfort by selecting too high a gear to reduce engine RPM and letting the engine come off-cam or off-boost. My VW TDi is measurably more economical in sport mode than in normal, which is somewhat ridiculous. But then, many manual drivers mess up their fuel consumption by doing exactly the same, or by being scared of engine RPM (so much noise! Must be bad!).

CVTs don’t have gears at all, you can’t drive one manually (they pick a few ratios for manual mode), and for the size of vehicles that can use them are very efficient indeed.

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