Do Your Own Shifting With These 15 Models
Cars equipped with manual transmissions are getting harder to come by. Times have changed, and no longer are stick-shifts considered less expensive, more efficient, or more reliable than automatics. In many cases, automatics get higher fuel economy estimates than manuals, and that helps manufacturers hit their government mandated efficiency targets.
But there are still cars where manuals make sense. Despite the availability of cars with automatics with paddle shifters that enable you to simulate a car with a stick-shift, there’s something that sports car and performance vehicle drivers love about the connection to the driving experience provided by a car with a clutch pedal. Some cars, such as the Mini Cooper and Chevy Sonic, still can get better fuel economy from their manual transmission-equipped models.
Check out the following slides to see 15 of the best manual transmission equipped vehicles available today. It’s not an exhaustive list of every one that’s available, and we’ve excluded some models that are available with sticks, because their automatic versions get much better fuel efficiency.
2017 Mazda MX-5 Miata
The venerable Mazda Miata has been called the best reason to learn how to drive a stick-shift. Though the 2017 Mazda Miata isn’t the most powerful sports car, the quick-shifting manual allows enthusiastic drivers to wring out every last drop of performance as they attack twisty byways.
In our rankings of sports cars, the Miata holds the top spot. An alternative to the Miata is the 2017 Fiat 124 Spider, which shares many components with the Miata but has a slightly more potent choice of engines. The 124 Spider holds the No. 4 spot in our sports car rankings and is our 2017 Best Sports Car for the Money award winner.
2017 Ford Focus RS
If you want the hottest version of Ford’s Focus compact, you have no choice but to get a manual. The 2017 Ford Focus RS is powered by a 350-horsepower 2.3-liter turbo. Power is fed to all four wheels through a six-speed gearbox.
Tamer versions of the Focus, which is tied with the Toyota Prius Prime for the No. 10 spot in our rankings of compact cars, are also available with stick-shifts. In Focus models equipped with the standard 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine, your choices are an unrefined six-speed dual clutch transmission or a traditional five-speed manual. Opt for the super-efficient three-cylinder EcoBoost engine you’ll get the best fuel economy with the standard six-speed stick.
2017 Chevrolet Camaro
Lest you think that all manual transmissions are throwbacks to a time with little refinement and no electronic assistance, you need to experience the six-speed manual gearbox that comes standard on the 2017 Chevrolet Camaro SS. The Camaro holds the No. 2 slot in our sports car rankings.
The V8 Camaro comes with an advanced rev-matching system that makes any driver look like a pro at heel-and-toe downshifts by blipping the throttle at the precise moment necessary to match engine speed to the next gear. Gone are the days of neck-snapping jolts if you miss the timing on your downshifts.
Manual transmissions are available on nearly all Camaro trims, ranging from the base turbocharged four-cylinder coupe to the 6.2-liter supercharged V8-powered Camaro ZL1.
2017 Toyota Tacoma
Manual transmissions in pickups were once common, but now they are a rarity, found on only a few trim levels of compact trucks. The 2017 Toyota Tacoma holds the No. 4 position in our rankings of compact pickups, and it has manual gearboxes available in both four-cylinder and V6 models.
It’s not uncommon for some vehicles with stick-shifts to sit on dealers’ lots for a long time, but manual transmission Tacomas seem to be an exception to this rule – especially when the manual is fitted to a TRD off-road four-wheel drive model.
2017 Porsche 911
Want to start a brawl in a room full of Porsche aficionados? Simply ask which is the better transmission in the 2017 Porsche 911, the seven-speed manual or the seven-speed PDK (also known as the dual-clutch or Porsche Doppelkupplung). Motoring purists will opt for the stick with unwavering conviction.
The 2016 Porsche 911 holds the second spot in our rankings of luxury sports cars, behind the number one-ranked 2016 Porsche Boxster. For 2017, all 911s use new turbocharged six-cylinder engines that not only produce more power than previous generations, but are also more fuel-efficient.
2016 Mazda CX-5
Mazda is known for its ability to build excellent driving dynamics into every vehicle they build, and the 2016 CX-5 compact SUV is no exception. It’s also one of a dwindling number of SUVs that still comes standard with a manual transmission, so you can maximize its sporty personality.
The 2016 Mazda CX-5 is tied with the Kia Sportage and Hyundai Tucson for the No. 2 slot in U.S. News & World Report’s rankings of compact SUVs. Models equipped with the standard six-speed manual not only earn the same excellent EPA-estimated fuel economy numbers in the city as the automatic, but gain one additional mile per gallon on the highway.
2017 Chevrolet Sonic
Subcompact economy cars aren’t known for being particularly fun to drive, but if you equip a 2017 Chevrolet Sonic with the available 1.4-liter turbocharged engine and a six-speed manual transmission, you’ll have the most engaging combination available on the car, and the most efficient.
In our rankings of subcompact cars, the Sonic holds the second position. Pricing starts at $15,145. For 2017, the Sonic gains an updated exterior and a new touch-screen infotainment system that supports Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.
2017 Jeep Wrangler
There are two types of off-roaders: Those who want to cruise along, letting their rig creep over obstacles with an automatic transmission, and those who are looking for a more challenging experience of finding just the right balance of accelerator, gear, and clutch.
The 2017 Jeep Wrangler offers a choice of both, with a six-speed manual transmission standard and a five-speed automatic as a $1,400 option. The stick-shift is fun off-road and offers identical efficiency numbers to the automatic, but if most of your adventures are in the urban jungle you’ll want to choose the easier-to-drive automatic.
The Wrangler holds the No. 15 spot out of 19 vehicles in our rankings of compact SUVs, but is one of the most capable vehicles available with the pavement ends and the mud begins.
2017 Subaru BRZ
The Subaru BRZ receives a bit more power and a refreshed exterior for 2017. However, it still isn’t as powerful as many class competitors, so you’ll want to opt for the standard manual transmission, rather than the available automatic, so that you can squeeze the most performance out of the sports coupe.
You give up significant fuel economy with the stick-shift, compared to the BRZ’s automatic, but it’s made up for by a much more rewarding driving experience. The BRZ and its doppelganger, the 2017 Toyota 86, come with 2.0-liter four-cylinder engines that produce 205 horsepower.
Prices for the 2017 Subaru BRZ start at $25,495 and it holds the No. 7 spot in our rankings of sports cars.
2017 Volkswagen GTI
The original Volkswagen GTI was a pioneer in what is now known as the “hot hatch” market – compact cars with upgrades that give them sports car-like performance, without giving up passenger space or cargo capacity. The 210-horsepower 2017 VW GTI comes standard with a six-speed manual transmission.
It’s ranked No. 5 of 25 vehicles in our rankings of compact cars and pricing starts at $24,995. If the GTI doesn’t have enough power for your lead foot, you should consider the even more potent 2017 Volkswagen Golf R, which has a 292-horsepower turbo under the hood.
2017 Ford Mustang
You can get a six-speed manual transmission on nearly every flavor of the 2017 Ford Mustang. The Mustang scores the No. 3 slot in our rankings of sports cars, and is available with a choice of three engines ranging from a turbocharged four-cylinder to a 435-horsepower V8.
On the Mustang GT, the manual transmission can be used with launch control to give you perfect takeoffs from the start line, every time. You just stand on the throttle, dump the clutch, and let the Mustang manage the traction as you quickly accelerate away.
Mustang prices start at $25,185.
2017 Cadillac ATS-V
There’s only one Cadillac that you can currently buy with a stick-shift, and it’s their smallest model. Both the base 2.0-liter turbocharged 2017 Cadillac ATS and the high-performance 464-horsepower twin-turbo Cadillac ATS-V are available with six-speed manual transmissions.
The ATS scores the No. 11 spot out of 19 vehicles in our rankings of luxury small cars. Even the base model of the ATS cranks out 272 horsepower, so it’s a good thing that the 2017 model is equipped with Teen Driver Technology, so parents can keep track on the behavior of their kids when they are out on a drive.
2017 Mini Cooper
Automatic transmissions are getting more efficient, and by adding more gears and state-of-the-art technology, many automatics now help cars to better fuel efficiency estimates than their manual transmission-equipped peers. However, the 2017 Mini Cooper is an exception to the trend, getting better economy with its stick-shift.
The six-speed manual Mini Cooper’s EPA-estimated 28 mpg in the city is one mpg better than the automatic’s, and the highway mileage of 38 mpg is two better than the auto. Opinions are mixed on the quality of the manual, with some complaining of imprecise shifting, but others finding that the stick is more fun to drive than the automatic. The Mini Cooper is knotted in a four-way tie for the No. 3 position in our rankings of 17 compact cars.
Mini is owned by BMW, which has many great stick-shift vehicles of their own.
2017 Honda Accord
It’s getting tough to find a manual transmission in the midsize car segment, but Honda still offers one in the Accord sedan and coupe. In the sedan, it’s only available with four-cylinder engines, while the coupe offers a stick-shift with either the four-cylinder or V6.
The 2017 Honda Accord is in a five-way tie for the third position in U.S. News & World Report’s rankings of midsize cars. Most Accords sold feature a continuously variable automatic transmission, and in some models, the CVT can be shifted in steps using steering wheel-mounted paddle shifters to simulate a manual gearbox.
2017 Subaru WRX
When Subaru announced that the current generation WRX was going to use a continuously variable automatic transmission some purists thought that their world was going to come crashing to an end. Fortunately for them, Subaru still offers a six-speed manual gearbox (and the CVT isn’t that bad, either).
Opt for the higher-performance 2017 Subaru WRX STI, and the only transmission available is a six-speed manual. The WRX is one of four cars tied for the No. 14 spot in our rankings of 25 compact cars. WRX prices start at $26,695, while WRX STI pricing starts at $35,195. Both models feature standard all-wheel drive.
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