I’m a #savethemanuals sucker. My daily driver and only car is a damn Miata Club six-speed, but I’m getting married in a couple of months and my fiancée is not so stubborn. I’ve taught her how to drive stick, and she’s pretty good at it, but it’s not her thing. Driving really isn’t her thing, in fact. She doesn’t now have a car. When she used to live in a part of the country where you need a car, she had some plain Kia or whatever. Her only strong preference is for smaller cars over larger ones, as we live in a dense urban area.
Let’s say for argument’s sake I knock her up in the next 12-18 months. We’ll be in the market for another car. I wouldn’t be the primary driver, but I’d drive it often enough. She wouldn’t mind if it’s “fun and nice.”
I would keep buying stick shifts until they stop selling them, and I’d resent any car if I could have in a stick yet passed on the option in favor of a CVT. Still, I understand that’s not how the world works. I think the best compromise, then, is to get a car that isn’t available with a manual transmission.
In that vein, what are a few of the most fun and best automatic-only compact-ish (let’s say smaller than a Camcord) cars to drive? Luxury makes are fine.
Oooh, now this is an interesting question. Everybody always wants to know what the best stickshift cars are — I literally get some variant of that query five times per week. But best small car that you cannot get with a stick? Wow. I’m actually going to have to put some thought into this answer, and I’ll probably get it wrong because website configurators for new cars are often awful. I might be incorrect about one or two of these, despite my best attempts.
It’s surprisingly difficult, too, because despite all the bitching and moaning about saving the manuals, most small cars are available with a stick. Focus and Fiesta? Yup. Fit and Civic? Sure. Mazda 3? Of course. Sonic and Cruze? You know it. Golf? Jetta? Yep and yep. Versa and Sentra? Uh huh. Yaris and Corolla? Oh, wait, you wanted to know about good cars — but you can still get a stick with both of those, too!
Hell, even some of the good smaller CUVs and trucks have manuals. The Mazda CX-5 and Nissan Juke both have stickshift options, as do the Chevrolet Colorado/GMC Canyon and Toyota Tacoma. Luxury options? The BMW 2 Series and 3 Series are both available with manuals, as is the Cadillac ATS.
So what fits your description? Again, surprisingly, it’s only a couple of cars.
My personal favorite among the entry-level sport sedans, the Lexus IS 350 F Sport, is autotragic only. I love this car. Problem is that the back seat is super tiny and might not accommodate your offspring in a rear-facing seat.
Another option (and this one is somewhat surprising, considering the heritage of its maker) is the Mazda CX-3. Nope, no stickshift here. See? I told you it was surprising. However, we’re going to run into the same space issue here. Despite being branded as a crossover, the CX-3 has a backseat that’s best reserved for use by elves.
How about an Audi A3? It used to be available with a stick, but no longer. Same with the Buick Regal.
However, I’m gonna go ahead and say that my choice would be a Mercedes C300 Sport. No stick shift available in the US (and yes, I know you can buy one overseas with a stick). They’re quite fun to drive and drastically underappreciated by the motoring press. I think the new C-Class is as good or better than anything else in class, and the rear seat is actually useable.
If you get one, you’ll have fun driving it, and you won’t regret not opting for the stick, because you can’t have one. It’s a steal at $42,000, or almost exactly how much you’d pay for a goddamned Focus RS that you’d like so, so, so much better. Oops. Sorry. Enjoy marriage! *cough* don’t do it *cough*