Best self-parking cars 2020
We name the 10 best self-parking cars, so read on to find out which cars take the stress out of parking
Can you parallel park? This tricky manoeuvre has long been seen as a yardstick among drivers and a feared part of any driving test. Just browse any online video site and there’ll be thousands of clips featuring drivers toiling with the procedure, scuffing their car or simply giving up altogether.
In 1991, the reverse parking manoeuvre became a compulsory part of the driving test, but tens of thousands of drivers on UK roads may never have had any training on the proper techniques for parking accurately and swiftly.
With many drivers worried about their parking and some prepared to avoid difficult spaces altogether, several manufacturers have come to the rescue. Parking sensors and reversing cameras are useful, but wouldn’t it be even better if the car simply parked itself? That feat was pure fantasy seen only in TV shows like Knight Rider a few decades ago, but today you can buy most cars from Mercedes with Parktronic or even a popular small cars like the Ford Fiesta boasting the technology.
Select self-parking mode, cruise steadily past your desired parking area and the display screen will show you when it has found a big enough space you can park in. Come to a halt, select the space (if your vehicle requires this step), select a gear when prompted to and take your hands off the steering wheel. In most vehicles, you'll be alerted to gently edge backwards and brake while the car steers for you. You’ll need to be aware of your surroundings and keep your eyes peeled for any potential hazards, but you’ll be guided accurately into the space.
The latest evolution of self-parking technology doesn’t even need you to touch the pedals, selecting forward and reverse gears itself in cars with automatic gearboxes and applying the parking brake when finished. A handful of luxury cars even offer a simple ‘remote control’ feature, where you can park the car while standing next to it, using the key or your smartphone to instruct it. That’s sure to turn some heads outside your local supermarket.
You can find our list of the 10 best self-parking cars below...
If you’d rather hone your parking skills instead of relying on self-parking, you might want to take a look at our top 10 smallest cars or our rundown of the best city cars that are ideal for tackling tight parking spaces.
Mercedes offers our favourite self-parking system called Parktronic, which automatically scans for suitable spaces (including perpendicular bays) without any prompts, only requiring you to stop and select reverse. Once you choose to let the C-Class park for you, it takes control of the steering, acceleration, braking and will even select forward and reverse gears autonomously. This makes it a very powerful tool, which is also easy for drivers to use because it works so seamlessly; although it wasn’t completely perfect in our testing, taking too many movements to get into a space. It isn’t a pricey option; instead coming as standard on trim levels above SE grade, with a 180-degree reversing camera also included to help spot nearby traffic or pedestrians. The same technology works just as well fitted to the larger Mercedes E-Class.
The Peugeot 3008 is one of our favourite cars on sale and that extends to its automatic parking system, which comes fitted with the the optional Visio Park 2 accessory pack, costing £450 for Allure, GT Line and GT trim levels. In our testing we described it as “quick and decisive”, confidently parking the car in bays. It carried out parallel parking maneuvers with similar ease and speed, although it does require you to indicate in the direction you want to park. Its system for driving you out of a parking space worked briskly, too, however it did get quite close to the vehicle in front.
The Citroen C4 Picasso is a five-seat family MPV that’s likely to be driven with excited kids on board, so it’s handy to be able to let the car take care of parking when you reach their favourite places. The C4 Picasso and Peugeot 3008 are closely related, but unlike the Peugeot, the Citroen gets its ‘Park Assist’ system as standard in Flair trim, while it’s an option for Feel versions. It can also steer you into parallel and bay spaces, or drive you out of tight gaps while you accelerate and brake, and works with similar pace and precision. An optional 360-degree camera system is also available as an extra, giving you a bird’s-eye view of your surroundings.
The BMW 5 Series is an executive saloon car, so parking without any technological aids could certainly be a nerve-wracking experience. To let the car park for you, press the Parking Assistant button next to the gearlever and drive past the space with the indicator set to the side of the car you want to park on. Once a space is found, it’ll pop up on the infotainment screen, allowing you select it using the iDrive controller. Next, press and hold the Parking Assistant button with your feet off the pedals and hands off the steering wheel and the 5 Series will park itself, putting its automatic gearbox in park at the end of the manoeuvre. Release the button at any time during the procedure and the car will stop. When this system was first introduced for the BMW 7 Series, it hit the headlines thanks to its remote parking, allowing you to stand outside the car and ‘drive’ it forwards and backwards using an advanced key fob with its own touchscreen. This makes it ideal for narrow garages or spaces where getting in and out of the car would be difficult. However, our testers found it slow and “like walking a dog at Crufts”, making it a bit of a gimmick.
The Volkswagen Golf does just about everything very well and this extends to its self-parking skills. The Golf can differentiate between different styles of parking space and we found it particularly adept at bay parking, just like you’ll need at the majority of shops and supermarkets. In our automatic-equipped Golf, however, we found the system could disengage if we switched from drive to reverse too quickly, or didn’t stop for long enough between moving forwards and backwards. Even without a reversing camera, the parking sensors and dashboard display provide plenty of guidance. Park Assist is optional across the Golf range, costing just shy of £600.
The Volvo XC60’s Scandinavian interior exudes relaxing vibes and letting your SUV park itself should surely lower your pulse even further. Volvo’s ongoing war against buttons means you need to swipe the Sensus touchscreen display to select the XC60’s self-parking features, but once you do, it makes light work of parallel and bay parking. Volvo’s Park Assist Pilot comes as part of the Xenium option pack, costing £2,000. That’s certainly not cheap, but also includes an opening panoramic sunroof and 360-degree camera view, making it look better value.
The fact the Ford Fiesta even appears on this list is impressive, but it’s even more triumphant considering how well its self-parking system works. Yes, Britain’s best-selling car, and the model thousands of people learn to drive in every year, can park itself in most spaces with the minimum of fuss or effort. Just don’t expect your driving instructor to let you use it – they may well gaffer tape over the button! Called Active Park Assist, the system can tackle parallel and perpendicular (bay) parking spaces 20% longer or wider than the Fiesta itself. Press the button to activate it, and it'll steer while you accelerate, brake and change gear, prompted by on-screen guidance and audible signals. If you come back to your car to find it surrounded like a sardine, you can also use Park-Out Assist to help steer you out of a space. The Fiesta’s self-parking tech costs up to £500 for Titanium trims, dropping to £200 on the Fiesta Vignale.
The Vauxhall Astra is a modest family hatchback rather than a big saloon or SUV, but our testers were very impressed by the speed and accuracy of its Advanced Park Assist technology, which was also able to park the car in admirably tight gaps. Simply press the button in front of the gearstick and the system quickly identifies spaces and gives clear prompts telling you what to do, while taking care of steering for you. The self-parking feature is available as an option on the SRi and Elite models and includes blind-spot monitoring, folding door mirrors and a clear reversing camera along with the parking assistance.
Press the Park Assist button on the dashboard and the Jaguar XF will automatically scan for spaces on the passenger side, or the driver’s side if you indicate in that direction. Once a space is found, the display and speakers will alert you to stop and let go of the steering wheel, before prompting you to reverse carefully, looking out for traffic and pedestrians. We found the interface clear and easy to understand, but the big Jag was a little slow to park, using a number of movements to get into the space. If you come back to the XF and it’s in a tight spot, you can press the same button a few times to select the icon for exiting a space. The system will measure the room available and confirm if it’s ready. Follow the instructions (select a gear, accelerate and brake), monitor for traffic and the XF should steer itself safely out of the space.
Tesla has become famous thanks to its desirable electric cars that are not only incredibly fast, but can almost drive themselves thanks to their Autopilot semi-autonomous driving mode. The American manufacturer is certainly impressing customers, and even came top in our 2016 Driver Power customer satisfaction survey, beating the likes of Lexus, Porsche and Jaguar. Based in Silicon Valley, Tesla is a software company as much as a carmaker, and its self-parking system is one of the most advanced available. Drive past a parallel or perpendicular space and it’ll appear on the huge portrait touchscreen, allowing you to select the right one. Next, place the car in gear and take your hands and feet off all the controls, allowing the Tesla to park autonomously. It’ll even put the handbrake on at the end. It’s not perfect, however: a Model S failed our parking test between two cars on a runway because of the lack of a kerb – an issue that only affected the Tesla. A software update in late 2016 introduced a feature called ‘Summon’, which allows the car to be driven in and out of a tight garage or space remotely. In time, the plan is that the car will be able to ‘wake up’ and drive itself to greet its owner at the front door.
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