By on April 6, 2018

Image: General Motors

There’s two bits of bad news in the lineup of refreshed Chevrolet small cars announced today. Three, if you’re a fan of the Sonic. You see, the automaker doesn’t mention either the Sonic or the Impala in all of this 2019 model madness — lending credence to a report claiming GM plans to ditch both of those models. It’s rare for an automaker to invest in an 11th hour refresh of a model it plans to kill.

Sure, the Sonic’s last refresh came for the 2017 model year, one year later than the introduction of the current-generation Malibu, Cruze, and Spark. So maybe it’s just not due yet. But the Impala bowed for the 2014 model year and there’s still no word on any refresh or redesign.

The other bad thing will be felt only by lovers of the three-pedal, row-your-own lifestyle. What we reported in December is now confirmed: the Chevrolet Cruze goes fully automatic for 2019. It’s time to cross another affordable, manual-transmission car off a shrinking list.

For the 2019 model year, the Cruze sees appearance changes up front and, for some, in the rear. A slightly larger — and certainly wider — grille graces its face, flanked by simplified faux intakes. It’s a less creased and pinched look, and an arguable improvement over the 2018 model. LED running lights surround the headlamps. For top-flight Premier models, LED accent lighting adorns the taillamps.

Apparently, GM felt not much work was needed out back, and this critic is inclined to agree.

Image: General Motors

While there seems to be no change in the available powerplants — GM’s turbocharged 1.4-liter gas four-cylinder and 1.6-liter turbo diesel return for 2019 — the transmission lineup sees one terribly sad deletion. I say this as a manual Cruze owner who enjoys the liveliness a stick can bring to an otherwise yawn-inducing small car.

Chevrolet spokesman Nick Morgan confirmed the stick shift Cruze’s death to TTAC this morning. “Manual transmissions composed 2 percent of all Cruze sales,” he wrote in an email. Morgan’s figure applies to models sold in the United States.

This is going to come as a shock to cheapskates driving enthusiasts in this neck of the woods. A GM dealer I spoke with recently was shocked to hear of the possible elimination of the manual Cruze, telling your author that between 10 and 15 percent of Cruze models sold at his store leave the lot with three pedals. In Montreal, he said, the take rate tops 20 percent. (I may have to go shopping soon.)

In the transmission’s absence, the existing six-speed automatic carries on, as does the nine-speed auto mated to the diesel mill. (Losing the manual means the diesel’s maximum highway fuel economy drops from 52 mpg to 47 mpg.)

Chevrolet apparently wants to capitalize on the market share gained from the addition of hatchback and diesel models last year. Those vehicles lured more buyers away from other brands. Steve Majoros, marketing director for Chevrolet cars and crossovers, said in a statement that 53 percent of Cruze buyers in 2017 were new to the brand.

Image: GM

Given that 20 percent of the Cruze’s 2017 volume came from the hatch model, GM’s taking down a rung, offering an LS-trim five-door for 2019. All models see a 7-inch touchscreen with Chevy’s latest infotainment system, plus new wheel designs, a new interior color (Umber), and standard automatic climate control and remote start on LT and Premier trims. Available safety features now include pedestrian braking and low-speed forward automatic braking.

The RS package returns, offering buyers blacked-out moldings and badge, plus 17- and 18-inch wheels.

While the Cruze increased its compact car market share last year, it did so in a declining segment. GM sold 184,751 Cruze sedans and hatches in 2017, down from the model’s high water mark of 273,060 vehicles in 2014. In March, the Cruze posted a 13.4 percent year-over-year sales loss, with volume over the first three months of 2018 down 26.1 percent compared to the same period last year.

(Update: Good news for Canucks – due to greater popularity, the six-speed manual transmission is retained in 2019 Cruze models sold north of the border. As for the transmission’s take rate, we’re attempting to find that out and will update this post when we hear.)

[Images: General Motors]

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25 Comments on “Get a Stick Shift Chevrolet Cruze While You Can, Because the 2019s Won’t Have ‘Em...”

  • avatar
    cimarron typeR

    iirc you can build a brown 6mt Cruze diesel with brown leather on Chevy’s website, an ideal commuter car for me. Maybe Mazda will include a manual with their diesel.

  • avatar

    Since it looks like Nick Morgan is out of the US side of GM, is he qualified to speak for GM Canada planning? If all the parts are still compatible, and it’s not a huge cost to pass certification, I assume Canada’s not the only market where there’s reasonable demand for a manual Cruze.

  • avatar

    If GM drops the Cruze stick in the U.S, they’ll drop it here. GM Canada has little. or no autonomy. GM Canada does what GM tells them to do.

  • avatar
    Menar Fromarz

    You speak of a list of remaining vehicles with a MT. What is that list currently?

  • avatar
    bumpy ii

    A manual diesel hatch Cruze is going to be a Saab 9-4x level unicorn.

  • avatar

    I saw a manual diesel hatch Cruze at the Detroit Auto Show. $27k. Nice car, but too much.

    I’m glad Steph likes her manual. I drove a 2012 Cruze 1.4 Turbo Manual and liked it (while my Malibu was getting an oil change).

    Then in 2016, I rented an Astra Diesel in Greece for a week–great car! I would’ve bought it (for say the low $20s) if it was available in the US.

    So, based on that, I test drove a Cruze hatch in December with a manual trans. I really want a Manual Trans.

    But I guess I don’t want one badly enough. I thought the Cruze’s WIDE-ratio was TOO WIDE.

    Which was too bad. Because I was looking for a new, or newer car. So rather than settle for manual trans that I felt was GM’s way of telling me to get an auto, I got a used Regal Turbo. Yes, it’s automatic, but it is a much nicer car than a Cruze for less money.

    Maybe the Diesel Cruze happier with an auto trans–I know the Opel Astra Diesel manual shifted nicely and the ratios complemented the engine perfectly. Maybe because Europeans STILL buy manual trans in volume, and won’t settle for less than good.

    • 0 avatar
      Jeff Weimer

      The 1st gen Cruze had two different manual transmission ratio sets – one for LS/LT, and the other for the Eco which had very wide ratios.

      I have one of each, and the LT transmission is much better suited to the powerband than the Eco transmission. But the FE, tho….

      The 2nd gen retained the Eco ratio set for *all* trims, which is probably why it didn’t seem right.

      • 0 avatar

        THAT makes sense, thanks Jeff.

        I liked the 2012 Turbo 1.4 drivetrain, but I only drove it two miles, the salesman had one handy as I was waiting for my car to be serviced.

        The 2017 Hatchback I drove about 8-9 miles, more ‘seriously’.

        I wondered if perhaps I just didn’t drive the 2012 as “thoroughly” cuz I wasn’t thinking of buying it.

        But now I see. GM put “Eco” gears in their “low take-rate” Cruze to jack up the mpg figures, and save some money (one less trans to source).

        As to comments about ‘putting your money where your mouth is”, they have a little merit, but here’s the thing: If you are reading this, you like cars. Those of us here ARE a lot more likely to WANT a manual.

        The other 95% is not as enthused. It’s more profitable for manufacturers and dealers to sell auto-equipped cars.

        The Europeans disprove the lame argument from some enthusiasts “well, I love manual, but the traffic is bad, it’s tiring…” Well, Europe has a lot more stop and go, yet among Europeans, Asians, and Americans, the Europeans have the highest percentage of manuals, by far.

        And as a result, their (aka German) cars are responsive.

        Of course, we buy cars to get around. As the manual choices continue to drop off, it will be a self-reinforcing loop of fewer manual. Even the BMW 3, in America at least, sell a lot more autos than manuals.

        • 0 avatar

          I take issue with the assumption that Europe has a lot more stop and go traffic than does the U.S. #1, Europe has a higher prevalence of roundabouts, which are more stick-friendly than a four-way stop or a signal-controlled intersection. #2, Europeans are less likely to commute to work by car, which is when most stop and go exposure occurs.

          I was based in my company’s UK office for two years and used to visit our German office, so I’m not totally blowing smoke here. Certainly, given cities or neighborhoods can have terrible stop and go regardless of the country or continent. Pre-Congestion Charge, the street outside our London office had some brutal stop and go traffic.

    • 0 avatar
      Kyree S. Williams

      Cruzes don’t tend to transact for MSRP.

  • avatar

    Interesting that the percentage of manual Cruzes sold in Montreal is that high – you’d have to think that big-city drivers would be more inclined to buy automatics, which are a bit easier to drive in traffic.

  • avatar

    Two weeks ago, the valet could not drive stick shift. He hopped into the passenger seat and pointed me to the parking lot…

  • avatar

    Further proof that lots of “enthusiasts” on the internet cry and whine about nobody selling manual diesel hatchbacks/wagons, then vanish into thin air as soon as one becomes available. Put your money where your mouth is, not everyone can buy them used….

    • 0 avatar

      Some people, including many commenters here, apparently only want something because it doesn’t exist.

    • 0 avatar

      Interesting thought, Jack, and I’m one of those “save the manuals” enthusiasts who put his money where his mouth is – all of my cars, save one, have been row-your-own. When I bought my current car about a year and a half ago, I couldn’t wait to get my hands on another manual. Of course, that was back in the day, when I worked out of the house. A few months ago, I began commuting daily, and as much as I love rowing my own gears, it’s annoying to do in rush hour traffic. When the lease is up on it, I’m probably going for an automatic.

      Sometimes, even us enthusiasts bow to practicality.

  • avatar

    if 2% is correct you can not fault GM for this , it is not worth it for dealers to stock it and we Americans are not keen on ordering a car, we want it now.

    All you wanting them, go get them.

  • avatar

    hay guise wot shud we do for le Cruz


  • avatar

    Real chicken-or-egg problem here.

    Do fewer people buy manuals because they don’t like driving? Or do they not like driving because they can’t get a stick?

    • 0 avatar

      At least IMO, the best way to solve the tired manual transmission=enthusiast debate would be to look at manual transmission take rates for every model and every year since the Powerglide, Fordomatic, etc. were introduced.

  • avatar

    WHY did they have to completely ruin the Cruze’s design with that ugly and tacky grille? WHY?

  • avatar

    O Canada! We stand on guard for thee manuals!

  • avatar

    Don’t know if the manual has it, but the automatic Cruze rental I had caused me to take it out of consideration for a new car because of the stupid auto engine shutoff that can’t be disabled.

  • avatar

    Just came back from a couple weeks in New Brunswick. Peeking into assorted cars as I do, was surprised at how many were manuals, at least compared to US. It’s a kind of a mental tic I have.

    And yeah the last Cruze rental I had with the auto-stop? Nope. The Ford Escape I rented in Bangor and drove into NB had a button to disable that function unlike the Cruze.

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