The number of new cars available with a manual transmission in the United States drops annually.
BMW no longer offers the M5 with a stick-shift and the Audi TT is automatic-only regardless of which engine it’s equipped with. In the past year alone we've lost the Audi A4, the BMW 3 Series, and the Jaguar F-Type, which are now all automatic-only. The Cadillac ATS has died and taken its stick with it, while the Corvette C7 will soon follow it - the new Corvette C8 is automatic-only, too.
From Toyota to Ferrari, companies all blame the manual’s demise on a lack of demand from buyers. The market speaks for itself and it clearly favors the automatic transmission.
So we must celebrate the dwindling supply of hold-outs. Here are the best new cars still available with a manual transmission in the US. Our advice: get one while you still can.
BMW 2 Series & 4 Series
BMW, the self-appointed purveyor of the ultimate driving machine, offers most variants of the entry-level 2 Series (pictured) with a six-speed manual transmission. The automatic-only models in the range are the 230i convertible and cars equipped with xDrive all-wheel drive.
The manual transmission is a no-cost option on the 230i and the M240i. The alternative is a ubiquitous eight-speed automatic manufactured by ZF. The M2 comes with a six-speed stick, too, but its automatic option is a seven-speed dual-clutch unit with shift paddles that BMW charges $2900 for.
The new 3 Series may have gone automatic-only, but for now the two-door 4 Series (based on the previous 3 Series) is still available with a manual, though not on convertibles except for the M4.
The seventh-generation Chevrolet Corvette had at least one feature in common with the Porsche 911: a seven-speed manual transmission. Porsche beat Chevrolet to the punch; it started offering a seven-speed when it introduced the 991-generation 911 in 2011, about three years before the seventh-generation Corvette made its debut. But the all-new, mid-engined Corvette C8 lost its clutch pedal, sad to say.
Dodge Challenger Hellcat
The supercharged, 6.2-liter Hellcat V8 engine powers three cars: Dodge’s Challenger and Charger plus the Jeep Grand Cherokee. Only the Challenger gives buyers the option of shifting themselves. The standard transmission is a six-speed manual and Dodge charges $2995 for an eight-speed automatic.
The Hellcat and Hellcat Widebody are among the four Challenger variants offered with a manual transmission. All come with a V8 engine. V6-powered models are automatic-only.
The Ford Mustang came standard with a three-speed manual transmission when it made its debut in early 1964. Ford charged precisely $179.80 (about $1460 in 2019 money) for its Cruise-O-Matic automatic transmission. Fast-forward 54 years and the Mustang still comes standard with a manual. It has twice the number of gears, and buyers who want the optional 10-speed automatic need to pay $1595 for it. The wonderful Bullitt (pictured) and Shelby GT350 special editions are only available in manual while the GT500 range-topper isn't offered with three pedals.
Genesis concluded it needed to offer the G70 with a stick to lure motorists out of BMW’s 3 Series. But, unlike its German rival, the South Korean firm decided to only offer its six-speed manual on cars ordered with rear-wheel drive and a four-cylinder engine. Every other version gets an eight-speed automatic. Six-speed manual cars do get a sportier setup complete with Brembo brakes, 19-inch wheels, and a sports exhaust.
Now in its fourth generation, the Jeep Wrangler continues to offer a standard manual transmission. The firm points out it geared first and reverse particularly low to help the Wrangler get over rough terrain with ease. Glancing at the specifications sheet reveals the off-roader is slowly succumbing to the rise of the automatic, however.
The manual is only offered with the Pentastar 3.6-liter V6. Stepping up to the optional 2.0-liter turbo four (which uses a 48-volt starter-generator) requires selecting the eight-speed automatic Jeep charges $2000 for. Factor in the $1000 charge for the four-cylinder and the Wrangler’s price jumps by $3000.
The coupe, sedan and hatchback variants of the Honda Civic are available with a six-speed manual transmission. Honda charges $800 to equip base models with a continuously variable transmission (CVT). Buyers who move up in the trim hierarchy unlock the CVT at no extra cost.
Honda’s hot rod Civic, the 306 HP Type R, is only offered with a six-speed manual transmission. It’s a model-specific close-ratio unit with Honda’s Rev-Match Control technology.
Mazda MX-5 Miata
Mazda’s MX-5 Miata will likely be the last car on the market to offer a manual transmission. It’s not burdened by problems other sports cars face like rising power outputs and securing bragging rights on a drag strip. It’s all about handling and driver engagement; it was meant to be experienced with a stick. The Miata’s designers talk about shifting gears like an art form.
‘The location of the shift lever, whether it’s more in the front, off to the side or farther back, will determine what muscles are used to operate it. We need to balance the amount of strength needed to feel oneness,’ explained Takeo Kijima, the MX-5’s former project manager.
Mini is in something of a limbo. It goes into the 2020 model year without its usual six-speed manual transmission. However, the company says it will make a return before the start of the 2021 model year. We're glad to hear it. The short-throw shifter emphasizes the smaller Hardtop models’ kart-like handling. The plug-in hybrid variant of the Countryman predictably comes only with a six-speed automatic, which is par for the course in its segment.
The entry-level 2.0i and the mid-range Sport variants of the Subaru Impreza are available with a five-speed manual transmission. Buyers are lucky Subaru offers one at all because the firm has previously hinted it’s considering going automatic-only for safety reasons. Electronic driving aids like automatic emergency braking (AEB) work better with an automatic because there’s no risk of stalling the car.
Oddly, the Crosstrek – which is little more than an Impreza on stilts with an SUV-like design – receives a manual transmission with an extra gear.
Toyota Corolla Hatch
Introduced at the 2018 New York auto show, the Toyota Corolla Hatch stands out as one of the newest cars available with a stick. The six-speed unit is an alternative to a clever but complicated continuously variable transmission (CVT) that starts in an actual first gear before switching to the belt-drive system. This setup attenuates the rubber band-like acceleration often associated with a CVT, according to Toyota. It adds $1100 to the cost of a Corolla Hatch regardless of which trim level buyers select. The stick is comparatively simple: clutch in, next gear in, clutch out.
The Tacoma, Toyota’s smallest pickup truck, is available with a stick if you tick the right boxes. The entry-level Tacoma SR and most of the TRD-badged models come only with a six-speed automatic transmission. Toyota makes a manual available TRD Pro (pictured) model, which is aimed at buyers who want to go far off the beaten path.
Volkswagen sells three versions of the Golf hatchback in the US: the standard model, the GTI, the R (pictured) and the e-Golf. The first three are all available with a manual transmission.
In the Golf, the five-speed is offered mostly as a budget-friendly choice for buyers who don’t want to pay $1100 for a six-speed automatic. In contrast, Volkswagen makes a six-speed manual available in the GTI and the R to satisfy enthusiasts seeking a more analog car.
While it’s no longer possible to stick-shift a Cayenne, Porsche remains committed to offering its dedicated sports cars with a manual transmission for as long as possible. Every version of the 718 is available with a six-speed stick, from the entry-level Cayman to the flagship, flat-six-powered GT4. Porsche’s dual-clutch automatic shifts much quicker than a human but many enthusiasts wouldn’t give up a few tenths of a second for the satisfaction of shifting their own gears. The 718 Cayman GT4 and 718 Spyder are manual only.
Fiat 500 Abarth
Fiat created a dilemma for 500 Abarth buyers. The standard five-speed manual transmission suits the car’s character well, it delivers a level of driver involvement the automatic can’t match, but the 1.4-liter turbo four makes 160 HP and 170 lb-ft of torque when the car is fitted with three pedals. Selecting the optional six-speed automatic unlocks 183 lb-ft while bumping horsepower down to 154. The difference in torque is small but noticeable behind the wheel. Enthusiasts consequently need to choose between maximum involvement and full power; we bet they’d rather have both.
Hyundai Veloster N
Hyundai’s first entry into America’s hot hatch segment is a home run. The Veloster is an asymmetrical, 250 HP fast hatch that demonstrates the South Korean brand can excel even in areas it has little experience in. Hyundai was confident enough in its ability to take on Volkswagen in the segment it helped create that it released the Veloster N exclusively with a six-speed manual transmission. The rumor claiming a dual-clutch automatic gearbox is right around the corner hasn’t come true yet.
Mazda positions the Mazda3 as the enthusiast’s choice in the segment but it has a difficult time making a business case for the manual transmission. While every trim level previously came standard with a stick, only the range-topping, front-wheel drive variant of the redesigned hatchback released in 2019 is offered with three pedals. The entry-level hatchback, the all-wheel drive model and every version of the Madza3 sedan are automatic-only. We predict the 3’s manual option won’t last very long, sadly.
Subaru BRZ/Toyota 86
Subaru and Toyota couldn’t have credibly developed a nimble, rear-wheel drive coupe aimed at Mazda’s MX-5 Miata roadster without making it available with a manual transmission. The BRZ/86 twins come standard with a six-speed stick regardless of price or trim level. An automatic is available at an extra cost on most variants.
Volkswagen Jetta GLI
Volkswagen upset enthusiasts in 2018 when it deleted the six-speed manual transmission from the Jetta GLI’s list of options. The company learned from its mistake; the stick isn’t hugely popular, granted, but the buyers who choose it do so because they love it. The new Jetta GLI released in 2019 comes standard with a six-speed manual and it’s better for it. It finally feels like the three-box GTI it should be.
Porsche would cause riots all around the world if it stopped offering the 911 with a stick. Cars equipped with the seven-speed manual transmission are normally a little bit slower than their automatic counterparts but a sizable percentage of buyers nonetheless opt for three pedals.
The German firm makes an exception for its GT-series cars, which all come with an automatic transmission. ‘I’m sure we could sell a GT3 RS with a manual, no doubt, but not everything that sells makes sense,’ GT division boss Andreas Preuninger told Autocar. The latest 992 generation of 911 (pictured) isn't yet available with a stick in the US, but we're almost certain it will happen soon.
Lotus Evora GT
Lotus updated the Evora with an eye on the American market for the 2020 model year. Now wearing the GT suffix, the mid-engined coupe became the most powerful road-going car Lotus has ever sold in the United States thanks to a 3.5-liter V6 engine supercharged to 416 HP. The standard transmission remains a six-speed manual but an automatic is available at an extra cost.
The new Corvette C8 may have gone to the dark side, but the Camaro is keeping the faith. Every Camaro is available with a stick shift, from those equipped with puny four-cylinder engines all the way up to the fire-breathing dragon that is the 650 HP ZL1 1LE (pictured). Sadly, rumors that the Camaro would receive the Corvette C7’s seven-speed turned out to be false; Chevrolet’s pony car carries on with a six-speed.
For all its talk of delivering unmatched driver engagement, Alfa Romeo does not offer the Giulia with a manual transmission in the US. Every variant of the Giulia ranging from the base model to the bloodthirsty Quadrifoglio uses the same eight-speed automatic transmission.
Mercedes-Benz doesn’t offer a single model with a manual transmission in the US. Acura, Buick, Chrysler, Ferrari, Jaguar, Land Rover, Lexus, Lincoln, Maserati, Ram, Smart and Volvo are also on the list of companies that kicked the stick-shift out of their portfolio.
What about trucks?
Pickup trucks offered a manual transmission for longer than passenger cars due to their utilitarian nature. Truck manufacturers began eliminating the stick as they made increasingly more upscale models buyers used daily, not just to drive from their farm to the town market.
In 2019, bigger models like the Ford F-150, the Ram 1500 and the Chevrolet Silverado have moved to an all-automatic line-up, even in sparsely-equipped, work-oriented trim levels. Smaller trucks like the aforementioned Tacoma, the Nissan Frontier and the Chevrolet Colorado continue to offer a stick in some configurations.