Tuesday, January 15, 2013

The manual transmission penalty

Those of us who want a car with a manual transmission are often penalized by not being able to get other options we want. As if those of us who want to row our own gears don't want some of the other niceties found on different trim levels that are only available with an automatic.

For example, we had the 2013 Subaru Impreza XV Crosstrek 2.0i Limited last week for review, which included the moonroof option and the CVT gearbox. We went to Subaru.com to research the vehicle a bit more. It's available in two trims: 2.0i Premium and 2.0i Limited. Being die-hard manual transmission drivers, we went to see if the Crosstrek could be had with a manual, and sure enough it can, at least in the Premium model. While we don't really want leather, don't need automatic climate control, or the best stereo, Mercedes (my wife), really wants our next vehicle to have a moonroof. But guess what? You cannot buy a Crosstrek with a manual transmission and get the moonroof. To get the moonroof, you have to upgrade to the Limited trim level, and that only comes with a CVT. In fact, most of the Subaru lineup is that way. Granted, you can get a standard Impreza 2.0i Premium with a moonroof option and a manual trans, but it doesn't have the factory roof rails. I guess you just can't have it all. 

Subaru isn't the only company that does this. There are a number of automakers that only offer the manual transmission on the base models or exclude options if you want a stick shift. Want a Nissan Versa Sedan with power windows and a manual transmission? Sorry—ain't gonna happen. You'll have to step up to the Plus model and, as you may have guessed, it's only available with the CVT. How about a Mazda CX-5 with a six-speed manual? You can have it with front-wheel drive and the standard options, but not anything else, including no AWD.Heck, I remember my first car, a 1992 Mitsubishi Expo, couldn't be had with a rear window wiper unless you got an automatic transmission. Really? How much sense does that make?

I'm sure all this has to do with take rates and specific options, and I'm sure the automakers have this down to a science. But for us—a household that only buys manual transmissions—we're often relegated to specific options, trim levels, and packages because we want to row our own gears. I suppose it's part of the plight that is being a die-hard stick shifter.


Steve Baker said...

If you want a base-level trim '13 Yaris with manual, you're stuck with white or silver. Period.
And the "SE" version is apparently unavailable with the listed manual box at any 'Yota dealer in New England.
FIAT has tons of manuals, in stock - so guess where I'm going next...

rubicon4wheeler said...

It costs manufacturers sales if they don't offer the cars people want. I am a die-hard manual transmission driver, and I simply won't buy a car or truck if I can't get it with a proper 3-pedal manual transmission. I also hate leather seating (freezing in the winter, hot and sweaty in the summer, fast-wearing, slippery, and uncomfortable compared to fabric) and sunroofs/moonroofs that cut back on precious headroom and create horrible glare on my eyeglasses. By forcing me to accept (or worse, pay for) unwanted options just to get my requisite manual transmission, manufacturers are only hurting themselves.

Duke said...

Just another reason why I'm looking forward to your Crosstrek review. I want the manual Crosstrek but I want a factory sat nav unit too, which I can't have unless I get the CVT. And the CX-5 I think is in the same position. And like you mentioned, the CX-5 with the manual is FWD only. And the manual CX-5 comes in your choice of one of three colors: Black, dark blue, or silver. Nobody wants to sell me the car I want.

FiestaVeloster said...

Subaru XV's good, but it's going to compete against the Juke, RVR, and the CX-5(varies).

nlpnt said...

It's interesting to see that the Detroit Three are moving away from this - Ford's purged the Focus line of auto-only variants except the SFE (which nobody actually buys) and the electric (which doesn't have, or need, a transmission as such) and even offers the new Fusion with manual (only on the SE but with the Sport and Luxury packages that are trim levels in themselves). Dodge launched the Dart with every variation in manual or auto and even GM added more manual variants to the Cruze for 2012 and is holding the line for '13 (now where's the hatchback?).

@Steve: Toyota's build-and-price is notorious for only showing what's in stock in your region. Try playing with different zip codes.