Yes, the manual transmission is on its way out. On the low end, it’s being replaced with the painfully smooth CVT. On the high end, there are dual-clutch transmissions that shift in mere milliseconds.df
But, don’t lose all hope. There’s still hope for those of us who love the feel of slamming down the clutch and pushing it into the next gear.
Now, of course, sports cars like the Nissan 370Z, Porsche Cayman and Ford Mustang still cater to enthusiasts with manual options. But what about more sensible daily drivers?
We’ve put together five great options for new-car shoppers looking for something reasonable, without giving into the tyranny of automatic shifting.
#5 — The Chevy Cruze
It’s hard to get much more sensible than the Chevy Cruze. Coming in at under $17,000, it’s one of the most affordable new sedans you can buy today. And, while you can also get a manual in the base-model Civic, only the Cruze gives you the option to go up from the base model a bit, without downgrading to an automatic.
In fact, you can go all the way up to an LT equipped with fancy-schmancy satellite radio, aluminum wheels and a spoiler to help you keep from breaking loose on the way into the Trade Joe’s parking lot.
#4 — The Mazda CX-5
Do you crave the gargantuan size of an SUV but feel the need to occasionally park in a normal-sized parking lot? Then you need a crossover SUV.
Not only is the Mazda CX-5 the least boring crossover on the market (“least boring crossover” admittedly not being a very high bar), its sports mode was dubbed “too sporty” by Car & Driver.
It’s also one of the very few crossovers you can get this year with a manual transmission.
Sadly, if you want a manual, you’re stuck with the lowest trim available, which means no 2.0 to 2.5L engine upgrade, no AWD and no fancy features like “Bose® Centerpoint® Surround Sound System with AudioPilot® and 9 speakers.” But who needs that stuff anyway? You’ve got a stick shift.
#3 — The BMW 340i
Ok—so $46K is a lot to spend on a sedan. And, yes, we’re firmly in “luxury” territory. But BMW’s twin-turbo sedan is worth every penny. And, while even the autobahn-loving Germans have been cutting back on manual-availability, it’s a credit to BMW that they’ll still let you buy a very nice sedan with a stick.
And, of course, BMW hasn’t made a bad 3-series for a very long time.
#2 — The Jeep Wrangler Unlimited
If you live in the United States and you want a stripped-down capable, classic off-roader, you have pretty much one option: the Jeep Wrangler. It’s been basically the same vehicle for the last two or three decades, and Jeep is smart enough to not mess with a good thing. Which means, among other things, it’s one of the very few cars where switching from a manual to an automatic transmission will still cost you an extra $1,350 — $1,350 that only idiots would pay.
#1 — The Fiat 500 Abarth
As one ex-Top Gear presenter said, “160 Horsepower in a car the size of a shoe, that’s fantastic!” And he was absolutely right.
A Fiat 500 is a quite practical, if silly, car. The Abarth version is what happens when some slightly mad Italians do their best to turn it into a tiny-little track monster. It’s equally at home at an autocross day or dropping off the kids from their tiny back seat.
Now, fully available in the USA thanks to the Fiat/Chrysler amalgamation (which is also responsible for our last pick, the Wrangler), there’s really no reason not to buy one.