It's no secret that the U.S. is becoming a shiftless society. More and more vehicles are coming equipped with automatics and CVTs, and the manual transmission is becoming harder and harder to find. According to a 2008 article on Progressive Insurance's Web site, only 8–10 percent of new cars are equipped with a manual transmission. As a die-hard shift-it-yourselfer, that's disappointing, and I'm sure the 2010 numbers are probably even lower.
It used to be that the manual transmission's benefit was fuel economy. However, with advances in technology, many automatics and most CVTs yield the same or better mileage than the shift-it-yourself trans. So if you're simply looking to get the best mileage out there, fine. But when it comes to the driving experience, I want a manual transmission.
Like many other enthusiasts, I prefer driving a car with a manual transmission. It's more engaging. It's more fun to drive—you typically get better performance from a manual. You become increasingly involved in the overall driving experience. To me, coming into a corner and making that perfect downshift is a great feeling. It's simply more rewarding to change gears myself rather than simply mashing the throttle and hanging on. I'll leave "point-and-shoot" operation to cameras, thank you.
Fortunately, the small car world seems to be one of the last bastions of manual shifting. Nearly all b-segment cars and most c-segment cars have a choice in transmission. But although the five- or six-speed may be available, it can be nearly impossible to actually find one. (Try finding a '10 Toyota Yaris five-door liftback with a five-speed, for example.)
Some of the latest crop of small cars, however, don't even offer a manual trans—a possible scary signs of things to come for us die-hards. For example, the aforementioned Yaris five door didn't offer a manual trans in 2009. The 2011 Scion iQ is not going to be offered with a manual for '11, either. Of course the Smart—the iQ's closest competitor—doesn't have a true manual transmission. Want the top-of-the-line Nissa Cube (the Krom)? Hope you want an automatic. And the list goes on ...
There are the "manumatics," of course; automatics you can shift yourself. For me, they don't cut it, and the performance is nearly the same as a traditional auto. There's also the dual-clutch gearboxes (e.g. Volkswagen's DSG, or the transmission in the Nissan GT-R). Performance is good (if not better) as a stick shift, but it operates like an automatic or a manumatic. What's lacking in my opinion, however, is the driving experience.
I know some people want an automatic, especially for stop-and-go driving, and that's fine. I know some people don't care what transmission the car comes with, either. Personally, I want my stick shift and clutch pedal damn it. I won't buy a car without them, and I hope I'll always have that option.
Take the poll below and tell us what you drive, then use the comments section to sound off!
Which transmission do you have?