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Build It and They’ll Come, Manual Transmission Cars You Can Buy Today

by | April 8, 2024

Manual transmission-equipped vehicles are becoming hard to find but while their numbers are continuing to decrease, buyers still have a diverse array of choices to choose from if they focus on certain segments and vehicle models. 

BMW M2 is one of the vehicles you can buy with a manual transmission.

Manual transmissions were once a universal standard in the automotive world, with this method of shifting gears being present when the first automobiles were invented in the nineteenth century. But changing consumer tastes and technological progress have caused manuals to play second fiddle to automatic transmissions in recent years with the presence of manual transmissions being greatly reduced in the modern vehicle market.

However, automakers are still rolling out models equipped with manuals and if buyers are willing to explore certain vehicle segments there are still plenty of good choices to be found especially in an era where automakers are taking a more calculated approach in catering to customer needs while still making the manual transmission a solid business venture.

Performance models dominate the list 

The list of vehicles that are currently available with a manual transmission cover a wide range of segments and price points and we have added a list of them below. 

  • Acura Integra Type S 
  • BMW M2 
  • BMW M3 
  • BMW M4 
  • Cadillac CT4-V Blackwing 
  • Cadillac CT5-V Blackwing 
  • Chevrolet Camaro 
  • Dodge Challenger R/T 
  • Ford Bronco 
  • Ford Mustang 
  • Honda Civic 
  • Hyundai Elantra N 
  • Jeep Gladiator 
  • Jeep Wrangler 
  • Kia Forte GT 
  • Lotus Emira 
  • Mazda 3 
  • Mazda Miata 
  • Mini Cooper 
  • Mini Clubman 
  • Nissan Versa 
  • Nissan Z 
  • Porsche 718 
  • Porsche 911 
  • Porsche Spyder 
  • Subaru BRZ 
  • Subaru Crosstrek 
  • Subaru Impreza 
  • Subaru WRX 
  • Toyota Corolla GR 
  • Toyota GR86 
  • Toyota Supra 
  • Toyota Tacoma 
  • Volkswagen Jetta 
  • Volkswagen GTI/Golf R 

Many of the models on this list are performance models with icons like the Volkswagen GTI, Nissan Z, and the Mazda MX-5 Miata continuing to offer a manual alternative to automatics. This is due to the niche nature of the performance vehicle segment as a whole with many automakers understanding that there will always be customers that want the unique levels of involvement that come with a manual transmission despite it being slower than a comparable automatic transmission. 

In addition to delivering more involvement for drivers, models equipped with a manual transmission are also lighter than their automatic counterparts. For example, a 2024 Volkswagen GTI with a manual transmission has a curb weight of 3137 lbs with the automatic variant weighing in at 3188 lbs. While the weight difference between the two is a mere 51 lbs, it makes an impact in high-speed handling with the manual version of a performance vehicle having less weight to contend with at higher speeds than its automatic-equipped counterpart which has to lug the automatic and some of the heavier components it needs to function properly. 

Off-road buyers like manuals too 

LaFontaine Ford Broncos

The Ford Bronco’s manual transmission helps it bring the fight to the Jeep Wrangler

Along with performance models, buyers looking for a manual transmission will also find them in rugged off-road models like the Jeep Wrangler, Jeep Gladiator, Toyota Tacoma, and the Ford Bronco. Unlike a performance car, going fast is not the goal here, and the manual in these offerings instead focuses on providing drivers more control when they are out on the trail for a day of fun off the beaten path. 

That’s especially true when rock crawling or navigating certain obstacles with drivers needing the ability to access the right gear quickly to successfully navigate these challenges. While automatic transmissions have been eating away at sales in this slice of the auto market, there’s still a strong pool of off-roaders that prefer to use manuals and automakers know that they should still cater to these customers to ensure strong loyalty and sales.  

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Lone survivor 

Nissan Versa S is the last economy car left with a manual transmission.

One of the original selling points that defined manual transmissions was that they were cheap and this often led them to be used on many small economy cars in the 1970s, 1980s, and the 1990s. Times have changed and while the economy car segment has been heavily affected by the introduction of CUV models, there’s still one budget offering left that allows customers to choose a manual transmission. 

That’s the 2024 Nissan Versa, with the Japanese car giant offering a five-speed manual on the base $17,530 S model. The Versa also saw a small bump in sales with Nissan selling 20,163 units last year. While that’s a commendable feat, it’s a mere drop in the bucket when compared to the CVT-equipped Kicks CUV with the company selling 66,820 units in the same period. Some of these sales come from the Kicks luring away buyers that would have otherwise gone for the Versa and rumors have persisted about the model’s future production plans due to this. 

Manuals will play key role in certain categories

Manual transmissions are expected to shift towards niche portions of the vehicle market for the forseeable future.

The sales disparity we highlighted with the Nissan Versa also highlights some of the challenges that automakers face with manual transmissions as companies find fewer buyers to sell them to and even fewer reasons to offer them as an option in the first place. This has forced many automakers to either eliminate them entirely or focus on putting them in select models to try and maximize their appeal and sales reach.

While the manual’s era of being the dominant transmission choice for buyers is over, look for automakers to instead evolve with changing customer tastes and make the manual a niche offering available for certain segments only. That includes the performance vehicle market where automakers will likely find more customers that want the option versus mainstream models that get nearly all of their sales from buyers looking for an automatic.



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