By on March 10, 2017

2017 Mazda CX-5 – Image: Mazda USA

Mazda, heretofore an avid provider of manual transmissions, is killing off the manual transmission in the brand’s most popular product, the CX-5.

CarsDirect’s pricing analysts informed TTAC of the CX-5’s exclusively two-pedal future, having received confirmation from Mazda.

Few consumers were taking Mazda up on the company’s offer of an entry-level CX-5 with a manual transmission, so while the CX-5’s advertised base price shoots up by $2,290 with the loss of the standard shift, the typical transaction price for the typical CX-5 buyer won’t change.

CarsDirect says the CX-5’s manual transmission will continue to be offered north and south of the border. But for American consumers in search of a manual shift crossover, where are they to turn?

Even with all-wheel drive, the Jeep Renegade, Compass, Wrangler, and discontinued Patriot; Mini Countryman; and Subaru’s Crosstrek and Forester can all be equipped with manual transmissions.

Front-wheel drive versions of the Fiat 500X, Honda HR-V, Mitsubishi Outlander Sport, and Nissan Juke are available with manual shifters, as well.

But at Mazda? The CX-3, CX-5, and CX-9 are now automatic-only utility vehicles.

MAZDA MANUALS
Manual transmission availability continues across Mazda USA’s passenger car range, although the death of the Mazda 5 took the manual minivan with it.

The MX-5 Miata, naturally, can be had with a manual transmission in any trim level.

The Mazda 6 allows manual selection in Sport and Touring trims, albeit not the top Grand Touring variant.

Manual shifters are standard in all three Mazda 3 sedan trims and in three of four Mazda 3 5-door trims.

And you can actually get your hands on such cars. 10 percent of the Mazda 3s in stock are manuals, as are 5 percent of the Mazda 6s and nearly two-thirds of all MX-5s.

2017 Mazda CX-5 interior – Image: Mazda USA

AUTOMATIC SUCCESS
The CX-5 won’t require a manual transmission to succeed, however. Fewer than 1 in 20 CX-5s sold in America to date were fitted with manuals.

A huge success for Mazda around the world, the CX-5 currently accounts for more than one-third of Mazda’s U.S. volume. Growth has been steady, with CX-5 volume expanding annually in four consecutive years, surging 41 percent between 2013 and 2016.

On a monthly basis, the CX-5’s rate of improvement has been remarkably consistent. In 40 of 49 months, year-over-year CX-5 volume has increased. The 31st-best-selling SUV/crossover in America in 2012, the CX-5 moved up nine positions in 2013 and ranked 19th overall in the last three years, holding steady in old age.

MANUAL DIESELS?
Up until now, the CX-5 could only be linked to a manual transmission with front-wheel drive. Refreshed for the 2017 model year, the CX-5 will be also be available later this year with a diesel powerplant. Mazda has not confirmed one way or the other, but the automaker has no plans to offer the diesel with a manual transmission.

Meanwhile, Cars.com shows that CX-5 buyers who want a manual transmission still have a chance. There are 130 new manual-shift CX-5s on dealer lots, all priced between $20,600-24,500. Get’em while you can.

Timothy Cain is the founder of GoodCarBadCar.net, which obsesses over the free and frequent publication of U.S. and Canadian auto sales figures. Follow on Twitter @goodcarbadcar and on Facebook.

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47 Comments on “Another Manual Transmission Bites The Dust, Mazda Kills Popular CX-5’s Unpopular DIY Shifter...”


  • avatar
    threeer

    For better or worse, the market continues to speak. We are a rather shiftless society now!

  • avatar
    Ihateusernames

    It is simple, people don’t want manual transmission because they are cheap. The people who want them and will pay for them do so because they are fun.

    They need to be optioned with the packages people want. People want a crossover with awd, if you say if you want awd no manual, then people wont buy a manual.

    I was ready to get upset that Ford discontinued the manual in the Focus, but it turns out you can still get it in an ST, and of course and RS, the only trim levels I would look at.

    My wife bought a mini 6 years ago because it was a small car with a turbo and a manual that wasn’t a penalty box. My wife will consider any car that matches that description.

    • 0 avatar
      slavuta

      The reason people didn’t buy manual CX5 is because those just base models with weak 2L engines. Place manual into loaded car and there will be some buyers.

      • 0 avatar
        TTCat

        Anecdotal as it is, this is exactly the reason my brother bought his CX-5 with the automatic – he wanted the stick, but here in Colorado, the engine penalty was too much…

        • 0 avatar
          rpn453

          He didn’t really want a manual!

          My buddy in the Canadian Rockies has a manual FWD CX-5 as their family vehicle. Ironically, it was the 2.5L automatic AWD combo that felt sluggish to them. Not that it was outright slow, just that it liked getting into taller gears and was apprehensive about leaving them. They were almost going to buy a turbo Santa Fe and had even made an offer on a leftover one from the previous year when I realized how cheap the manual CX-5s are and suggested a test drive.

          It’s a vehicle I had previously dismissed as being underpowered, and something that should have AWD. But it gets up to speed just fine, and handles great while brushing off the many defects of our terrible roads in a way that no car can. AWD has no practical purpose for them. The ground clearance and factory-studded Gislaved Nord Frost 100s give them all the capability they need. He has his Frontier on 31″ rubber for the mountain trails that the CX-5 isn’t suited to in any configuration.

          The only missing option that they might have been willing to pay extra for is heated seats. But cloth seats never feel cold enough for that to be considered a necessity, especially in what is a relatively warm climate to a Saskatchewan-born couple.

          • 0 avatar
            Caboose

            “Gislaved Nord Frost 100s”.

            Sounds like a menthol cigarette.

          • 0 avatar
            TTCat

            “Horses for courses”, but I test drove it as well, and was also of the opinion that it was a complete non-starter for driving at altitude…

          • 0 avatar
            rpn453

            “Sounds like a menthol cigarette.”

            If I were a smoker, I’d prefer a cigarette with the scent of brand new Swedish tires!

          • 0 avatar
            rpn453

            ““Horses for courses”, but I test drove it as well, and was also of the opinion that it was a complete non-starter for driving at altitude…”

            I suppose we have different tastes. I’d rather make prodigious use of the upper third of the rev range than put up with a transmission shifting autonomously. That vehicle has no problem accelerating uphill when you keep it above 4000 rpm. I enjoy spending most of the time in third and fourth gear going up and down the mountain pass to his place.

            Good vehicle choice either way. I have two other buddies that went with the 2.5L automatic AWD versions for their wife/family vehicles.

      • 0 avatar
        golden2husky

        Bingo. All too often the manual was only available in the lowest priced trim levels. Add some features that most want and the manual “option” disappears.

      • 0 avatar
        Ol Shel

        “Some” is the operative term. A handful, yes, but it’s time to admit that there just aren’t enough people who still care about shifting to justify the option.

        The economy advantage that modern autos provide is yet more incentive for manufacturers to simplify,reduce costs, and improve their CAFE.

        If you want a manual, get a Miata, or move to a country where the ‘free market’ hasn’t stripped them away from you. Anywhere in Europe would work (;

  • avatar
    kefkafloyd

    Maybe if they offered the manual on higher trims with AWD it would have had a higher take rate.

    • 0 avatar
      PrincipalDan

      I was about to say that. I honestly think Mazda’s customer base would be more likely to go for a manual transmission AWD variant with at least the mid level trim package.

      If you are purposely singling out Mazda for a test drive you likely don’t view a manual transmission as solely a way to get the cheapest possible MSRP.

      • 0 avatar
        FormerFF

        There was a time when a manual transmission was available on every model and trim line in the Mazda lineup. I suspect there’s a good reason that Mazda has started reducing the availability of manual transmission cars, and that reason is market demand.

        • 0 avatar
          kefkafloyd

          Some of that, but also regulatory compliance likely plays more of a factor, as every combo of AWD/transmission/engine requires different cert.

          TBH these family hauler crossovers are the least likely to get picked for an MT even if they are available, but I bet the take rate on the Mazda 3 for MT is much higher on trims than the CX-5. I don’t even think the CX-9 lets you row your own, let alone the CX-3. They’re just following the lowly minivans, which lost their manuals in their platform upgrades ages ago.

          • 0 avatar
            Drzhivago138

            CX-9, never. CX-3, yes, but not in NA.

            Except for smaller offerings like the departed Mazda5 or the SWB Turbo Caravan, a manual never made sense in a minivan.

    • 0 avatar
      john66ny

      @kefkafloyd: My feelings exactly!

  • avatar
    FreedMike

    Pour one out…

  • avatar
    Zackman

    Who in their right mind wants a manual tranny in this type of vehicle anyway?

    Sorry, But I only have whatever love is left for a row-your-own in a sports car or other high-performance car.

    I don’t blame Mazda one bit for dropping the manual.

    • 0 avatar
      Drzhivago138

      I kinda wanted to, but I was put off by its availability in only the Sport (base) trim. The smaller engine and FWD-only I could probably live with, especially if it meant better MPG, but once you become accustomed to creature comforts in a top-trim Mazda from 2002, it’s hard to give them up.

    • 0 avatar
      FreedMike

      I would buy one of these with a manual…but then again, I may not be in my right mind.

    • 0 avatar
      stuki

      This kind of vehicle are exactly where manuals shine the most, as you get to actually use them. In 1000+hp LaFerraris, they are just an annoyance slowing you down and crimping your pimp pose.

      They should offer kit with the awd, though. Which may have meant with the 2.5.

      Of course, what they (we) really should do, is break the franchise law rackets, so dealers operating in an unconstrained nation wide market could specialize in “niche” trims. 5% of all CX-5s sold, is a pretty good sized market, if you can serve it. Or more like, were allowed to serve it, instead of having to abandon it to those more concerned about lobbying local politicians for the legally ingrained “right to profits,” than about efficiently providing car buyers with the car they really want.

  • avatar
    stevelovescars

    Not surprising, but sad to see it go. Mazda is a small player and reducing the build options reduces cost. I agree, though that this isn’t really a question of consumer demand for manuals but a lack of availability as Mazda only made it available in a very basic model.

    I would be interested in seeing a direct comparison of the manual take-rate for the Jeep Renegade and the Fiat 500X. Like Mazda, Fiat only offers the manual in the base 500X with no options or AWD but one can get it in the mid-level Renegade with AWD.

    I would think that the few people out there (like me, I suppose) who would go out of their way to pursue the Fiat brand would skew more heavily toward manual transmissions. That certainly proved to be the case when they first started selling the little 500 hatchback. They brought in supply heavily skewed toward loaded automatics but quickly sold out of manuals creating a real inventory problem.

    • 0 avatar
      bill h.

      I too would be interested in the “take rate,” though an inventory search of the Jeep dealer where we currently take our Renegade for service shows about half a dozen manuals available among nearly 100 vehicles in stock. Of course, unlike the other Jeep models the choice of transmission is also tied to the choice of engine–the manuals only come with the 1.4 liter turbo. Even the new Compass, which will have manual availability, apparently will have the 2.4 liter as the standard engine. I chose the manual for our Rennie 4×4 Latitude model not only for the fun factor, but to avoid the complexity of the 9 speed auto and the thirstier 2.4–in my mixed everyday commute it’s pretty difficult to get LESS than 30 mpg, so far with 24k miles on the clock.

  • avatar
    Drzhivago138

    If Mazda had wanted to offer the larger engine(s) with a manual, they would’ve had to have tested it for MPG/emissions/etc., right? Is the same also true if they had wanted to add an AWD option?

    Restricting it to the base trim was also silly, but it makes sense that they didn’t want to add another category on the factory line and in the assembly system for a model that would sell a few thousand at most.

    • 0 avatar
      FormerFF

      It was there as a price leader. Mazda didn’t expect to sell many MT CX-5s.

    • 0 avatar
      kcflyer

      I get the reluctance to offer the manual on models with different engines and models with AWD. Doing so is expensive because the government requires each configuration to be tested for MPG and even crashworthiness. What drives me crazy is Mazda tells us if we want the manual transmission CX-5 we can only choose from black or silver exterior colors. When this model first launched both me and the wife really liked it. The launch color was a shade of blue we both wanted. But for reasons I will never understand we could only choose the boring colors. Same story as the two door accord. If you want a manual transmission you don’t get but two color choices. Crazy.

      • 0 avatar
        Drzhivago138

        That was also my big hangup about the CX-5 manual being Sport trim only: black and two shades of gray. Black is a no-go when you live on gravel roads. My Tribute is gray, and I wouldn’t like getting the same “color” consecutively. I also think gray vehicles with black or gray interiors contribute to depression.

        With that said, the Meteor Gray Mica color has a little bit of blue in it, so it’s not awful. If I had to get a CX-5 Sport, that’s the color I’d choose.

  • avatar
    FormerFF

    Out of the list of MT crossovers Timothy mentioned, which one do you think will be the next one to lose its manual transmission, and which do you think will be the last?

    I predict the HR-V will be the first, and the Wrangler, which I don’t consider to be a crossover, will be the last.

    • 0 avatar
      Timothy Cain

      That sentence was poorly worded: I gave the sense that the Wrangler is a crossover, which, if we’re going to distinguish between SUVs and crossovers, it most definitely isn’t. CVT-only HR-Vs make sense, but at this price point, the low advertised base price the manual provides is useful.

      Forester?

      • 0 avatar
        FormerFF

        The Forester makes the most logical sense since Subaru has the Crosstrek as a lower priced option, and few of the Forester’s competitors are available with a stick. I’m just guessing that Subaru may keep the MT version around to satisfy their fanbase.

        I looked up Jeep Patriots on Cars.com, there are 414 in stock in my area, only two have a manual transmission. No new Compasses on the ground yet, but of the 124 old ones, none have a stick, and only 10 of the 99 Wranglers in inventory are manuals. Surprisingly, 46 of the 534 Wrangler Unlimiteds are MT equipped, I would have thought they’d almost all be automatics.

  • avatar
    tylanner

    Do not go gentle into that good night. Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

    *zooms away sheepishly clicking paddles pulling a few feet ahead of a similarly equipped manual version

  • avatar
    slavuta

    Damn it. If they had manual in with 2.5L I wouldn’t even think what my next car would be.

  • avatar
    blaster668

    The new CX-5 was on my very short list of vehicles for my next purchase, but only with a manual. I was even willing to give up my preference for AWD to consider the Mazda. I’m also reading unconfirmed reports that the 2018 Crosstrek will be dropping the manual transmission availability. If that is the case, only 2 vehicles will be left on my list: the new Jeep Compass and the Forester. I would most likely go with the Forester if it wasn’t so ugly in my opinion. I want a vehicle that sits up a bit higher for easier ingress / egress and I am forcing it to be a manual transmission, as this purchase will likely be the last one where any are available on this type of vehicle.

    • 0 avatar
      tom m

      I have a ’15 Forester and part of the reason we bought it is because of the easy ingress/egress, especially for the 90 year old in-laws we used to shuffle around. But I also had a ’13 CX-5 manual and I loved it until a fateful accident. No, not powerful but fun for what it was. I love the looks of the ’17 re-do , if only a manual/2.5 was available. Sigh. Guess I’ll have to borrow my son’s Mazda2 for a fun-factor fix, as I mistakenly bought a Mazda3 automatic.

  • avatar
    sportyaccordy

    Mixed emotions. Would a stickshift really make this thing that much more fun? Probably not if Mazda configures the automatic properly. Everything is really relative… this thing, even with the 2.5, is not particularly quick nor razor sharp in response.

    • 0 avatar
      mike978

      Agreed it isn’t a canyon carver, except compared to everything else in its class. All those saying they would have sold more if the manual had been paired with mid or high trim. The Mazda 3, which is sportier, had it a 10% take-up rate. Most manufacturers like Honda and Toyota haven’t offered a manual for a long time and many in the B&B say those companies should be emulated.

  • avatar
    zoomzoomfan

    We have had our ’13 CX-5 Sport FWD since December 2012 and it’s been a great vehicle. Even with the all-season tires it came with (Yokohomas, I believe), it performed wonderfully in the 9-10 inch snowfalls we got here in Kentucky in 2015.

    The 2.0 is a bit low on power, but it does fine with daily driving and can get out of its own way and keep up with traffic well. Ours is of course an automatic, as is every other one I’ve seen.

    The dealership where I bought my Mazda6 in October of ’15 had one new CX-5 manual and it had already sat on their lot for over a year without anyone really even looking at it.

  • avatar
    30-mile fetch

    I forgot this was offered with a manual. Looks like the Forester is your best bet now.

    The front fascia and interior of this post-refresh CX-5 are dynamite for the segment. Very good looking vehicle. If I were locked into compact CUV ownership, this rig with that red paint and that two-tone interior with the 2.5 and manual would be what I want. However, it was never offered with that engine and the 2.0 sounds gutless for this size vehicle regardless of the transmission. And the only reason I would daily drive a CUV is for practical family reasons, which negates the manual anyway because my wife doesn’t jive with them. So I was never in the market for this anyway.

  • avatar
    Kato

    As several others have mentioned, the low take rate on the manual is the direct result of only offering it in the 2wd stripper with the inferior engine.

    • 0 avatar
      mike978

      No, the take up rate of the 2.5 in the Mazda 3 is also very low.

      • 0 avatar
        Kato

        Did you mean the take rate of the MT in the Mazda 3? Regardless, the only way I’d consider this vehicle is with the 2.5L, MT and AWD, so their lame-a$$ product planning choices certainly dropped my take rate. I’d still rather have a Sube to avoid the transverse mounted engine layout and inferior Haldex AWD system though.

  • avatar
    SCE to AUX

    With Mazda’s US sales stagnating and market share dropping, they’re likely trying to trim waste anywhere they can.

    Selling 5000 manual CX-5s a year becomes an inventory and service headache. Dropping the stick option is probably a wash for the bottom line.

  • avatar
    mikedt

    I bought a CX5 and would have gladly bought it with the manual transmission if they had offered it any anything but the base model. I would have had to give up too many things I did want to get the manual.


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