By on December 14, 2016


Nick writes:

Hi Bark,

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*

If you want to be neat, too, then email your questions to Bark at [email protected] and follow him on the Twitters and look at pictures of his children on Instagram

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122 Comments on “Ask Bark Brief: #screwthemanuals...”

  • avatar
    heavy handle

    The most fun and best automatic-only compact-ish car is the Volvo V-60 Polestar. Also very safe for your future babies.
    The C300 is tepid in comparison.

  • avatar

    Fun fact: They were still giving away manuals on “The Price is Right” as late as 2015:

  • avatar

    Yeah, technically all those cars are available with a stick, but often they are only available in the bottom trim-lines, which for some models can be truly poverty-spec.

    Not to mention that while a stick may be theoretically available, actually buying one can end up being MORE expensive than an auto if you can even FIND a dealer that will place the special factory-order necessary to actually get your hands on one. And even if you find a dealer with a manual in-stock, it will frequently be ad-bait that has literally no option boxes checked and will always come in white.

  • avatar

    I just went through this exact situation, but a little further into the future.

    My wife and I have a 11 month old daughter. The wife drives a 2008 Fusion. I drive a 2015 Mustang GT. The rear-facing seat fits in both. The difference being you can still fit an adult in the front passenger seat of the Fusion with the carseat in the back (it’s a bit snug), but not so in the Mustang.

    I just decided the other day to trade the Mustang in for a 2017 Fusion Sport, which the wife will drive most of the time. I will take over her 2008 Fusion.

    We thought about a Focus ST or something smaller than the Fusion, front passenger seat room with the rear facing seat in the back becomes very tight.

    Got the Fusion Sport because it’s AWD, reasonably fun/quick, safe, and has surprisingly more room than the 2008 Fusion.

    Not to knock on your idea of getting a compact-ish family hauler, but in our experience front and rear passenger seat room was the deciding factor.

    Hope this helps a bit.

    EDIT: Another relevant thought…. Once your baby is old enough for a front-facing car seat, my front passenger seat room argument will be less valid. Front facing seats allow you to move the front passenger seat back much more.

    • 0 avatar

      true but …… if a second munchkin comes along you are back to a rear facing car seat and the same issue.

      if you live in the great white north, and you schlep kids around, then even once you get past the rear facing car seat you are in for a treat. see the kid faces forward with their winter boots on and that can take up quite a bit of room. try telling your kid to watch out for the back of the seat with their wet/muddy/snowy boots.

      if your kids are larger than average and have larger than average feet/boots this problem gets worse as booster seats are highly recommended until a given size and no kid is supposed to ride up front until 12 years of age!!!. safety to protect soft physiology. i know most parents are done with boosters and allow kids to ride shotgun long before recommended but if you are in the know (wife a health care professional) then you act accordingly.

      my point is that rear facing car seats are only the beginning not the end of needing room in the rear seats for small people.

      2 boys over 6’2″, size 13+ feet, great white north. ask me how i know.

      • 0 avatar
        Arthur Dailey

        @1998: Well played sir. Your reasoning is impeccable and irrefutable. Just another example of why Dodge Caravans and Dodge Journeys are still so popular in Canada. And why we can still buy the Kia Rondo (available with a stick), Mazda 5 (available with a stick) and could get the Chev Orlando.

        For ‘S2kChris’ below, true until you need to haul family and the regular family hauler is down, in the shop or your spousal half has it somewhere.

        • 0 avatar
          S2k Chris

          I refuse to buy cars from carmakers that don’t give loaner cars for repairs and maintenance. So my cars are never “down” for repairs without a backup. And if my spousal unit has the other car….she doesn’t need to sit in the front seat of my hypothetical Mustang.

          Also, I’d sign up for a lifetime of scrubbing boot muck off of the back of the front pax seat in exchange for not having to drive a Caravan, Rondo, or god forbid, a freakin’ Mazda 5. You guys have strange priorities. -Guy who has cleaned boot muck off the pax-side dash of an S2000

          • 0 avatar
            Arthur Dailey

            @SkkChris: What Ford dealers give loaner cars? None in my area that is for sure. Nor any of the local Honda dealers.

            You would have to only be driving/owning a Lexus, Mercedes or similar in order to guarantee receiving a loaner from the dealer while your’s was in for maintenance.

            As for priorities, you cannot legally drive with a young child in a 2 seater in many jurisdictions so an S2000 is probably totally unsuitable for a young(er) family, unless it is as a 3rd car.

          • 0 avatar
            S2k Chris

            My Acura dealer gives loaners. My next car will probably be a Lexus, likely/probably CPO. Service loaners are a game changer for me, and a must for a DD.

            And I’m not seriously suggesting an S2000 as an only car, I’m simply saying the “avoiding wiping off boot marks” ranks really really far down my list of considerations for a car I choose to drive, and I’ve happily wiped off boot prints from my kid in my fun car because it means I got to take her for a (short) ride in it and that’s something we both love, her making a small mess doesn’t affect that.

          • 0 avatar

            Both of my local Chevy and Buick/GMC dealers give loaner cars for overnight repairs. I think the CDJR dealer closest to me still does too, but I haven’t owned a Mopar in several years now.

            It depends upon where you live and how the local competition stacks up. I’ve lived in other areas of the US and the dealers there didn’t routinely give you loaner cars for overnight repairs. They had you by the short hairs and wanted to make sure you knew it.

          • 0 avatar

            I just remove my kid’s shoes when he is in the car. He has two choices–the schadenfreude of kicking my seatback or the convenience of leaving the shoes on.

            Depending on his mood, he likes the choice.

            Disclaimer: I don’t have experience with real winter gear like snow boots.

          • 0 avatar

            The local Chrysler, Dodge, Ram , Jeep dealer gives loaners here.

    • 0 avatar
      S2k Chris

      Never really understood the mentality that both cars have to be really GOOD at hauling kids. In my opinion, one car should be really good (primary family car) and the other should be “yeah, that sorta works good enough.” So in the Mustang/Fusion case, the Fusion works all the time, and the Mustang works well enough for occasional, or really every day, daycare dropoff and pickup, but not well for, say, the whole family is driving to Disney World. I mean, who cares if the whole family doesn’t fit in the Mustang, if the whole family is together go in the Fusion. If it’s just you and the kid, who cares the front seat is unusable?

      • 0 avatar

        That was my thinking this first 11 months. My Mustang was acceptable for occasionally transporting the baby, and that was fine.

        Part of my decision was based on the fact that I travel for work and rarely drive the Mustang, except to and from the airport where it sits outside :-(.

        Another part is because my wife’s 2008 Fusion doesn’t have traction/stability control. She is a good winter driver but I still wanted to get her into something a little safer and better for winters here in Missouri.

        So, yes, the Mustang would have probably stayed if I got to drive it, it didn’t sit outside all the time, and my wife’s car had traction control.

      • 0 avatar

        It really depends I often drop two kids off in the morning at school, and pick any where from 1-3 about half the evenings from various activities family etc. My wife of course is shuttling them around to those various place during the afternoon. Really to make that work you need two decent size cars. (currently I have one kid rear facing one in a booster and one ten year old. )

        • 0 avatar
          S2k Chris

          Literally 25% of my reason for insisting to my wife that we can have max 2 kids is because I have a vision/dream/goal of DDing a 911 and 2 kids is all you can cram into the back of one. My dad drove my sister and I around in the back of an Integra hatch for years and years and it worked just fine.

          The other 75% is financial if I ever hope to afford any 911.

          • 0 avatar
            Arthur Dailey

            My last ‘fun’ car (unless you count the V8 very early 70’s Generation 3 Nova Coupe) was a Mazda MX3 (Precidia in Canada). A very fun, very small car with a V6, a back seat and decent numbers.

            Really a nice little car that the market has largely forgotten.

            However the pending arrival of child #3 meant a return to 2 mini-vans in the driveway. Flipped the Mazda to a co-worker. A decision that I don’t regret (mostly).

      • 0 avatar

        “Never really understood the mentality that both cars have to be really GOOD at hauling kids.”

        My ultra-practical brain (I like to call myself the “practical enthusiast”) totally understands that, but my more-artistic wife explained to me that we don’t, in fact, need two kid/dog/stuff haulers. We have the family rig, and now we can have a fun car.

        Her words, not mine.

        *deletes Autotrader search of beater minivans to replace the late ’96 Aerostar XLT as a single tear rolls down my cheek*

      • 0 avatar

        “Never really understood the mentality that both cars have to be really GOOD at hauling kids.”

        You don’t always have easy access to the designated kiddie hauler.

        • 0 avatar

          We plan our kid’s activities around with access to the designated hauler.

          If mom’s out with the big car, we’re staying home or taking the small car.

          • 0 avatar

            Now that my son’s are both around 5’8″ there is no such thing as a kiddie hauler and they don’t like be crammed into anything small.

  • avatar

    At the risk of starting a flame war over what qualifies as fun – isn’t this exactly what hybrids are for?

    A Prius or C-max would fit the bill perfectly – excellent city mpg, room to tote small ones, inexpensive to own, and they’re actually pretty spacious, nice cars. Fun to drive? Debatable. But they have a joy all their own – figuring out how to play to the powertrain and maximize mpgs.

    The C class and IS350 are great, excellent cars. But a Prius and/or C-max should be more reliable than the Lexus, and C-maxs and 2010-2015 Priuses are insanely good deals right now, you can get cars with back up cameras and all sorts of tech goodies with ~50k miles for less than 15k easy in most parts of the country. Sure, the C class is nice, but if you’re thinking about kids, wouldn’t you like to have an extra 30k available?

    Personally, I think the C-max is a criminally underrated car. It drives very, very nice and that’s coming from a guy who dailys a Lexus LS. But they’re kinda rare and I’ve heard that some people have had trouble getting them serviced. The Prius is much more common and most independent shops that work on hybrids know the Prius cars inside and out.

    there’s even a Prius wagon (Prius V) that gives you SUV storage / utility but it’s a bigger car and it’s not a joy to drive like the C-max.

    • 0 avatar

      Well, he *did* want sporty…and I doubt he’s thinking of hyper-miling as sport.

      (It is kinda fun, though.)

      • 0 avatar
        Nicholas Weaver

        Then test drive a Volt. Not kidding.

        Yeah, the suspension gets a bit out of sort when bombing the backroads, but it drives out of low speed corners like nobody’s business. Basically the “go pedal” is linear and instant. Stick your foot down, it goes. No lag, no hesitation, even in “gas” mode. And what is lost in being FWD compact is made up for by really nice weight balance for a FWD car and a VERY low center of gravity.

        Plus it is a reasonably sized hatchback with a decent back seat for a sprogling or two. And not really all that expensive, when you consider the $7.5k back from the feds and however much your state kicks in.

    • 0 avatar

      “But they have a joy all their own – figuring out how to play to the powertrain and maximize mpgs.”

      Sounds like a barrel of monkeys! Where do I sign up?

    • 0 avatar

      The C-Max does seem to be terribly underrated. Ford never mentions them in ads, probably because they cost more than they make on them and only exist to satisfy CAFE requirements.

      I thought it was a very useful, very spacious car when I test drove one. I’m holding out for a used 2017 Titanium in another 1 to 1.5 years as they’re such a great value used.

  • avatar

    VW GTI. Tons of performance, excellent refinement, five-door practicality (which will come in mighty handy if the theoretical knock-up happens), and surprisingly comfortable ride. Option it up as much or as little as you’d like. Manual or DSG available.

    Or how ’bout a Honda Accord Touring?

    • 0 avatar

      Specifically said he wants a car that’s not available with a stick. I don’t think you read the post.

      • 0 avatar

        Yeah, I read it. But I think his real “hot button,” if you will, is to not regret having an automatic in whatever he buys. He won’t regret a GTI with the DSG. I sure wouldn’t.

    • 0 avatar

      That’s what I was going to suggest- buy any VW that has the DSG. (Or, a Porsche would do.)

      I was a lifelong manual shifter, but when my daughter reached driving age, I relented. The DSG allowed her to learn the basics of driving without additional stress. She’s off to college now, and I have no desire to go back to a manual. Especially since my sixty-something left knee starting acting up.

      My Mk V DSG rarely gets caught in the wrong gear, and when I want to take charge, the flappy paddle is just an inch away from my left hand on the wheel. As far as reliability goes, my independent mechanic who works on nothing but VWAG products says he’s only done one repair on a DSG since they came out. And he’s never had to replace a clutch in one. Yes, DSG fluid changes are costly, but at 40K miles, they shouldn’t add up to more than a typical clutch replacement by 120,000 miles or so.

      The DSG transmission is quite an achievement. Look at Ford’s struggles to build something similar.

      • 0 avatar

        I would have advised him to go with a Dodge Charger AWD Hemi. Faster (0-60 in 5.2), fun, and easily seats 4. Not to mention, it is not available with a stick.

        I do like the VW DSG transmission, but one has to worry about the rest of the car falling apart around it, especially at the 120k mile mark mentioned. I recently drove a CC that is already making popping and banging noises upon acceleration and braking – and it is at 7k miles…

  • avatar
    Kyree S. Williams

    Why is it necessary that you buy a car that’s literally not available with a stick? Why can’t you buy a car that is available with a stick…but opt for the automatic? Is it because you’ll then resent not having bought the stick version?

    • 0 avatar

      Kyree, I think that was his point. If he knew the car was available with a stick, he’d kick himself for not buying it, so getting one that is only offered in autobox would save him from the temptation. I don’t get it, either as it severely limits his options.

  • avatar

    Not sure a women who does not likes cars and drove a Kia something when she needed a car would go from that to a C class, since no budget is given we have no idea, but I would suggest going the other way, have him trade up on the mazda he has and get the stick of his dreams and get her a plain something does a Sol come in a stick or a maybe for size a volvo c 30 ? and the truck on a c300 is not great for new baby duty.

    • 0 avatar
      Kyree S. Williams

      At least when my grandmother bought her Soul (2014, or first year for the current version), the very base model could be had with a stick. I don’t know if that’s the case now.

  • avatar
    Nick 2012

    An IS back seat just can’t cut the mustard, particularly if you have a second kid.

    I looked at one when one of my two kids still rear-faced. I abandoned even trying to fit the rear-facing seat in the car, and it was one I bought specifically because of its smaller size. The forward facing kid (not huge for age) legs were in full contact with the seatback when I adjusted the driver’s seat to my 5’11” frame. Also keep in mind that rear facing until at least 2 years of age – hopefully longer – is the new normal.

    You may be able to cram a rear-facing seat or infant seat in the rear passenger side if your wife (or you) want to ride in the back, but it wouldn’t be comfortable and would not be conducive to creating another baby.

  • avatar
    Land Ark

    As I mentioned a few posts ago, I am considering an IS350 (F Sports are so much easier to find than the non-F Sports) and I have to disagree with you here Bark. I am 5′ 10″ and I purposefully checked to see how bad the backseat is because I went into it remembering trying to fit into the back of a 2007 IS.
    While ingress and egress is awkward for the backseat passengers when parked close to another car (somewhat better when not) the legroom itself totally surprised me. I can comfortably sit behind myself without my knees touching the front seat.
    This seems completely different than my previous experience with the older models. I’m not sure how drastically they changed it, but what was once the main concern for me is now no longer an issue.

    • 0 avatar

      Agree with Bark that the IS350 F-Sport is a fantastic vehicle; agree with Land Ark that the backseat is fine (and thus disagree with Bark on that score). While obviously not super-spacious, it’s more than bearable and a huge improvement over the last gen IS, which was indeed unfit for human occupancy.

  • avatar

    Since its for her, mostly, and she isn’t in to cars, see if she can live with a Ford C-Max. Its tallish but actually not that big overall. No manual since its a Hybrid/Plug-in.

    Other contenders:
    Chevy Volt. Same deal as above (no manual due to electrification), only a car than rather an MPV.

    Ford Escape. Not a Hybrid, but I don’t think they offer a manual anymore. You get a CUV that’s reasonably small but roomy, and fun to drive as these things go. If you want something with more luxury trappings, go with the barely larger Lincoln MKC.

    A Buick Encore is smaller than the Escape/MKC, reasonably well loved by those who have it, and its more upscale without stepping into the Lincoln.

    This vehicle is mostly for her, remember, so most of the time you drive it, your attention will be focused more on her and the hypothetical (for now) baby rather than cornering dynamics or 0-60 times.

    A C-Max is very practical and easy to drive, and it will save an enormous amount of fuel and maintenance over something much sportier like the Mercedes others mentioned. Even if your budget could handle a Suburban’s fuel bill, no sense in wasting money on fuel and performance when she is going to be putting around town at 45 mph max with it a healthy portion of its life.

    If the Hybrid/CUV ends up being too boring for you, you can later upgrade yourself to a performance sedan/hatch (FoRS? Lol, maybe a Chevy SS) with a manual and when its up to you to drive the family, you have the option to take something that gets your heart beating.

    • 0 avatar

      I think the C-max or perhaps Prius wagon (v?) would fit the bill, I wouldn’t touch the rest of those.

      • 0 avatar

        Prius V? I’d be forced to follow her in my Miata if I were him. The rest are not sports cars but would far more enjoyable and pleasant to look at/drive than an uglier, heavy Prius. He’s not giving up on life. Yet.

        But if this was Ask Jack, you’d be spot on. :P :)

        • 0 avatar
          30-mile fetch

          “He’s not giving up on life. Yet.”

          And yet you recommend a C-Max, Buick freaking Encore, and a Ford (of course) CUV in lieu of the recommended Mercedes or Lexus F-Sport.

          That’s incredible.

    • 0 avatar

      I think he was looking for something that he’d enjoy driving too.

      • 0 avatar

        Very little if any of John’s list fits the prerequisite.

        • 0 avatar

          Yeah, but my point was, its hers mostly, so get something sedate and decent for her. If he ends up driving them all around, get himself a practical manual sporty car.

          But, yeah, if he wanted sporty the first go-around, Fusion Sport. I was just trying to think smaller than Fusion for the simple fact that he figured the Camcord would be too big.

          There aren’t any terribly sporty, smaller than Fusion practical automatic only cars, might as well get something smart.

          Later, get himself a larger (than Miata lol), sportier car with a manual if he is required to drive the “smart” car more often than he can stand. When she drives, take her boring safe car she cares little about driving.

          Its probably like an appliance to her, and therefore a sporty car would be a total waste. I know her type, and this explains that while she has mastered the manual trans, she found it unappealing. You’re not supposed to do anything but go places in it. Why add hassle to a chore?

      • 0 avatar


        Embrace the SUV.

  • avatar
    Car Guy

    I was in the market for a manual and bought a 2016 Focus ST for just a hair over $20K. It was a screaming deal with all the incentives. I could not be happier. Very well equipped for the base ST1 trim. Of course I couldn’t leave well enough alone and added a cold air intake, Magnaflow exhaust, and Cobb Tuner. The thing really moves out! Plus decent storage when the 2nd row seats are folded. For a small family, its the best performance bargain out there…

  • avatar

    Nice shtick on this one…

  • avatar

    Accord V6 Coupe? The paddles on that one were actually pretty fun. If I was looking for FWD, it would be a contender.

  • avatar

    As someone who also has a Miata, I enjoy having a second car that is things that the Miata isn’t: roomy, comfortable, easy to drive in unfun conditions.

    Considering this car is going to be for a woman who wants easy-to-drive and uninvolving, embrace these traits. Civic, Mazda3, and Golf all fit these criteria even in automatic form, are pleasant, safe, and affordable to own. Use the money saved for things that will make both of you happy. Or order some stuff from Flyin’ Miata.

    • 0 avatar

      Well, he wanted to avoid the regret of “could’ve had a stick” when driving his CVT Civic. Especially a little Honda, hell I’d put up with the ugly hatch’s rear just to get the manual/turbo. I don’t have to look at its @$$ while driving it lol.

      Maybe one day, someone will make a “body kit” for this Civic hatch that makes it look less like it already has a cheap eBay body kit on it. Call it “Return to Sanity”.

      Honda dealers will be ordering them direct.

      • 0 avatar

        if the hatchback bothers you that much, you can get the coupes and sedans with a turbo and manual for 2017. personally, I’d go with the hatchback. the two and 4 doors proportions bother me the most because they look like they should be hatchbacks. at least the actual hatchback gives me some utility to go with those looks.

  • avatar

    (double facepalm)

  • avatar

    Hey Bark, I’m curious why you’d recommend the C300 over the new A4 which is much better equipped for the price and is otherwise comparable in size and performance. Specifically that A4 Premium Plus looks like a nice sweet spot and I would guess you can get that trim level plus a couple options for 42k easily.

  • avatar

    No mention of the Mazda6.

    • 0 avatar

      doesnt the mazda6 come in a stick? that was one of his criteria – no mt.

      i agree your suggestion makes sense from the standpoint of well if you want a stick buy a stick but his s.o. doesnt care.

  • avatar
    George B

    My girlfriend recently bought a Ford Escape SE with the larger 2.0 Ecoboost engine and 18 inch tire and wheel upgrade. It has lots of interior room, fits in a small parking space, and drives like the tall Focus that it is. The shape isn’t ideal for cruising for hours at 80 mph, but that would be a non-issue in urban areas.

  • avatar
    Sam Hell Jr

    ILX? Fun…ish.

    Escape 2.0T, or whatever the equivalent Lincoln is called?

    If you limit yourself to *trims* that aren’t available with manuals, it would open up a lot more options of course. At that point, I can default to 2.5L CX-5 as per usual.

  • avatar

    Early reviews make it sound more competent than thrilling, but if plain Kia is your wife’s thing anyhow, what about the upcoming Soul Turbo?

  • avatar

    Hmm be careful with the backseat space because rear-facing infant seats are huge! You don’t mention how tall you are, but even if you are average like 5’8″, you may have some major issues with the tilt of the front seats in smaller cars. Not sure why you want to shy away from mid-size cars but they do offer a reasonably sporty ride and enough space if you expand you family. How about the Hyundai Elantra GT or Kia Forte5 twins? High spec models do not have a manual but they are fun to drive and offer enough space for baby items. Also that Cruze Hatch looks pretty nice in person.

  • avatar

    The new BMW M240i xDrive only comes with automatic.
    The Infiniti coupe (forgot the code) red sport only has automatic (or is it a dual clutch?)
    I wouldn’t go for the A3/S3 since it’s basically Golf in sedan and luxurious trim.

  • avatar

    I was DDing a Miata Club until a year ago when I found myself in a similar situation. My now 6-month old daughter easily fits in the backseat of my C300 Sport and what the MB lacks in zoom-zoom, it more than makes up for in comfort, quiet, and power.

    I bought a 1-year-old off-lease CPO for about what I paid for the Club brand new. I got aggressive APR from MB financial and the balance of the warranty plus an additional year w/unlimited miles.

    It turns out that our local MB Dealer is the best dealership I’ve ever dealt with. Everyone from Sales, Finance, and Service I’ve worked with have been great.

    I still fantasize about going back to something lighter with three pedals, but never when I’m actually driving the C300.

    I’m fully endorsing Bark’s recommendation here.

  • avatar

    just avoid anything with a goddamn DCT. I’ve not driven one which hasn’t had poor shift quality. they all seem to like to hesitate to get going, and the 1-2 upshift is always lurchy.

  • avatar

    If he needs a rear facing infant seat he can probably cross off any compact car, and get over the resentment thing. A diesel CX-5 looks like an awesome option.

  • avatar

    DSG GTI – they’re giving these things away and the transmissions are fantastic.

    You can pay $10,000 more for the same car as a sedan instead of a hatch in the Audi A3. But hey, that $10,000 gets you . . . . real leather?

  • avatar

    What about cars where the stick isn’t available with desirable options? Think V-6 Accord or Mazda 3/Civic Turbo with all the bells and whistles. Personally if you’re going to stick a gun to my head and force to drive an automatic, I’d probably just go with a hybrid something. If I can’t get what I want and makes me happy to drive, then let me get the next most important thing to me, $. If you don’t want to go the hybrid route, the Ford Fusion probably sticks out as one of the nicest rides thats automatic only.

  • avatar

    Nick – you cannot have Miata fun and simultaneously meet all of your other requirements. My recommendation would be one of the following top sellers:

    #1. Toyota Rav4
    #2. Honda CRV
    #3. Nissan Rogue
    #4. Ford Escape

    For fun you can try gambling & drinking. If you want fun while making use of the new vehicle; camping, fishing, site seeing & “off-roading.”

  • avatar


    Reasons why:

    1) With a first kid, there’s a lot of upfront costs. I’d rather have that money for my kid than a depreciating liability.

    2) Kids tear up cars on the inside. There’s no getting around this.

    3) They can be had for cheap, cheap to run, and the resale is fantastic.

  • avatar

    If you can go oversize, Accord Hybrid. The IS 350 really is smaller inside than it’s exterior would lead you to believe. Smaller than a Camcordima and a rear facing seat = CUV. Those are not sporty. Maybe try the NX since you mentioned no lux aversion. It’s not sporty, but it’s not dead.

  • avatar

    Interesting choice, the C300. I had one in Dallas this past weekend, courtesy of Sixt. I mostly liked it. Like the way they look inside and out. Drives nicely. Efficient, plenty rapid. Quiet. But the ergonomics are an utter hot mess! Their version of iDrive sucks donkey balls. That horrid, unintuitive column shifter, the iPad on the dash infotainment screen. And even though I am a fan of small cars, it was just plain cramped inside. Tighter than my e9x 3-series for sure, never mind the rather larger current version. And for me the kiss of death – we don’t get the C-class wagon!

    So I would say the best car you can get in the US that you can’t get with a stick is the current BMW 3-series wagon.

  • avatar
    Big Al from Oz

    Well Nick I see couple of flaws with your story;

    1. Your partner doesn’t drive for pleasure according to her owning the Kia and “driving is not her thing”.

    2. It appears your wife is not on the pill.

    3. So what she can drive a manual, but is not enthused by it.

    I would go out and buy a base model sh!tter Corolla, Camry, with an auto since you are urbanites. That is if the vehicle is for “her”.

    If its for you, I’d recommend a diesel 4×4 Colorado dual cab. You can take your child (ren) camping, fishing, beer drinking in the woods, etc.

    Short of that and you are planning a family and don’t have access to lots of funds buy a small CUV.

    Sooner or later in life you grow up realising that for a decade or two you will own and drive sh!tters. Having enough to buy beers is a treat let alone a MB.

    Invest your money while you can for your future and your family’s.

  • avatar

    I would agree with the MB choice. I love mine. It’s fast (it’s a C450, though, not a 300, with a 362HP biturbo V6), handles great, looks great, and is super fun to drive. The ‘horrid, unintuitive’ column shifter took me exactly one trip to get used to. And the ergonomics are just fine if you ask me. The interior is very well laid out and looks great. Overall, I couldn’t be happier with it.

  • avatar

    I can’t believe nobody else has mentioned the Jaguar XE and F-Pace!These are both fantastic looking and driving vehicles.

  • avatar
    Andrew Justus

    A Ford C-Max checks the boxes of a small hauler without a manual option. It has a generous roof line to aid in loading the child seat and can be had at a discount since they don’t sell very well at the moment.

  • avatar

    A dual-clutch or automated single-clutch is the way to go.
    Skip CVTs and torque converter autos.

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