Another Model Loses Its Manual Transmission

Steph Willems
by Steph Willems
another model loses its manual transmission

There’s probably no shortage of eyeball rolling over this headline, as manual transmissions wouldn’t be fading out of the marketplace if buyers actually desired one.

Once upon a time, a stick-shift guaranteed better fuel economy, but those days are pretty much gone. It was also a great way to reduce the entry price of a particular model, but automakers’ thirst for larger margins and fewer configurations means what few base, stick-shift models roll off the line are often hidden from consumer view in the real world. This only serves to sink popularity even further.

The ongoing trend has apparently reached the Honda HR-V, which undergoes a mild refresh for the 2019 model year. As part of this update, say goodbye to the six-speed manual in Honda’s smallest ‘ute.

Honda spokesperson Chris Martin confirmed to CarsDirect that the three-pedal setup disappears from the HR-V stable for 2019. The tranny served as the go-to for front-wheel-drive LX and EX trims in the United States. An extra $800 swapped the stick for a continuously variable unit that just happened to return better gas mileage — a whole three miles per gallon more on the combined cycle (31 mpg for the FWD CVT, 28 mpg for the FWD manual).

Having once driven a base FWD, manual HR-V, I found the experience obviously more engaging than coasting around in a CVT-equipped model. Honda’s traditionally low gearing and the base model’s skinny tires made the HR-V’s presence known during jackrabbit red light launches. Not boredom-inducing, at any rate.

But customers seem to prefer the seamless spool-up of a CVT, and that’s the way it is. The stick-shift HR-V’s take rate remains a mystery, though it couldn’t have been very high. (“High” meaning any figure approaching 5 percent).

With the manual bowing out of the HR-V, the smallest utility segment grows ever more devoid of sticks. Besides this year’s HR-V, buyers can choose from just the Kia Soul, which may or may not qualify as a crossover, the Jeep Renegade Sport, and the Subaru Crosstrek to satisfy their row-your-own lifestyle.

(A query sent to Honda Canada as to whether the Great White North model sees a similar powertrain change didn’t yield an answer by publication time. We’ll update this post when we hear back.)

[Image: Honda]

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  • Lorenzo Lorenzo on Jul 01, 2018

    Not htey're, they're

  • Carroll Prescott Carroll Prescott on Jul 02, 2018

    What is awful is that manufacturers so often prevent you from getting a manual in the upper trim levels; by defacto they are creating the environment that kills manuals. I'd love a manual transmission in an upper trim level vehicle. I cling to my 20 year car because it is a manual.

  • Denis Jeep have other cars?!?
  • Darren Mertz In 2000, after reading the glowing reviews from c/d in 1998, I decided that was the car for me (yep, it took me 2 years to make up my mind). I found a 1999 with 24k on the clock at a local Volvo dealership. I think the salesman was more impressed with it than I was. It was everything I had hoped for. Comfortable, stylish, roomy, refined, efficient, flexible, ... I can't think of more superlatives right now but there are likely more. I had that car until just last year at this time. A red light runner t-boned me and my partner who was in the passenger seat. The cops estimate the other driver hit us at about 50 mph - on a city street. My partner wasn't visibly injured (when the seat air bag went off it shoved him out of the way of the intruding car) but his hip was rather tweaked. My car, though, was gone. I cried like a baby when they towed it away. I ruminated for months trying to decide how to replace it. Luckily, we had my 1998 SAAB 9000 as a spare car to use. I decided early on that there would be no new car considered. I loathe touch screens. I'm also not a fan of climate control. Months went by. I decided to keep looking for another B5 Passat. As the author wrote, the B5.5 just looked 'over done'. October this past year I found my Cinderella slipper - an early 2001. Same silver color. Same black leather interior. Same 1.8T engine. Same 5 speed manual transmission. I was happier than a pig in sh!t. But a little sad also. I had replaced my baby. But life goes on. I drive it every day to work which takes me over some rather twisty freeway ramps. I love the light snarel as I charge up some steep hills on my way home. So, I'm a dyed-in-the-wool Passat guy.
  • Paul Mezhir As awful as the styling was on these cars, they were beautifully assembled and extremely well finished for the day. The doors closed solidly, the ride was extremely quiet and the absence of squeaks and rattles was commendable. As for styling? Everything's beautiful in it's own way.....except for the VI's proportions were just odd: the passenger compartment and wheelbase seemed to be way too short, especially compared to the VI sedan. Even the short-lived Town Coupe had much better proportions. None of the fox-body Lincolns could compare to the beautiful proportions of the Mark was the epitome of long, low, sleek and elegant. The proportions were just about perfect from every angle.
  • ToolGuy Silhouetting yourself on a ridge like that is an excellent way to get yourself shot ( Skylining)."Don't you know there's a special military operation on?"
  • ToolGuy When Farley says “like the Millennium Falcon” he means "fully updatable" and "constantly improving" -- it's right there in the Car and Driver article (and makes perfect sense).