By on June 29, 2018

Image: Honda

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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41 Comments on “Another Model Loses Its Manual Transmission...”

  • avatar

    Sad, but not surprising. When they first came out, I inquired into test-driving one. The dealer here didn’t have a single manual trans variant, and would only do so with a commitment to buy it if they brought one in.

    • 0 avatar

      That’s funny, the Honda dealer I went to had 2 manual HR-Vs. Others on here have reported the same.

    • 0 avatar

      I’ve only ever bought two new cars in my 35 year life. Both manuals, and both without ever driving a comparable version. Both great decisions. I’ve always been baffled by folks who seem taken aback about dealers who won’t bring in a car without commitment to buy. They literally are buying the car from another dealer, and if it’s not a popular model they’re stuck. Even if it is a popular model they now own it for more than the cars they order direct from the manufacturer (no holdback and transportation cost… not to mention the miles).

  • avatar

    My unique dyslexia read this as: “Honda loses another model, adds manual transmission to others”.

  • avatar

    HR-V is an appliance. The loss of a manual transmission option is hardly surprising.

    Subaru killing the manual for the Forester was bad news. Foresters still have some utility and offroadiness built in. If Jeep ever drops the manual from the Wrangler, I’ll be on suicide watch.

    CVT’s are great for efficiency, but the manual is dying out because the fuel economy tests do not accurately capture its capabilities. There is not an experienced manual driver who cannot beat the combine fuel economy rating with a little effort. Manuals should receive CAFE credits for their off-cycle benefits, specifically the ease with which the driver can transition from performance oriented driving to efficiency oriented driving.

    • 0 avatar

      Well if we’re going to give CAFE credits for the folly that is “flexfuel” we might as well give credits for a manual transmission.

    • 0 avatar

      Depends on the car. Part of the problem I’ve seen over the last decade or so is that many manufacturers that still offer manual transmission models in the USA spec them with a really short top gear/final drive. Go test drive a Subaru Crosstrek, Honda Civic, Honda Fit, various Toyota products to include my 2nd gen Scion Xb, etc. You get out on the highway and do 70-75 mph and the rpm is ridiculous.

      Just about the only new car with a manual transmission I’ve driven any time in recent memory that had a nice, tall top gear is a Jetta/Golf and Chevy Cruze Eco. My ’09 Elantra was a stick and wasn’t geared too bad, but had the worst steering feel ever, so it was ruined by that but another topic.

      The Japanese nameplates have a weird habit of under gearing their manual transmission offerings. Not sure why. Maybe in other markets, prevailing highway speeds are lower, and they don’t want to go to the expense to redesign the transmission more appropriately for the USA. I don’t know. They didn’t always do this. I had several manual Toyota, Hondas, and Nissans 20 or 30 years ago that were geared more appropriately than they are today. Something went wrong somewhere along the line.

      I drove a manual HR-V a year or two ago. The gearing wasn’t the worst I’ve experienced, but it wasn’t good. Could have used another gear, or a taller top gear. Now, it wasn’t the abomination that is the Fit’s manual transmission…that’s probably the worst current offender.

      The Cruze diesel probably has a decent manual as far as highway cruising goes, but they sell about a dozen of those a month, so it probably doesn’t really count.

      Anyway, getting stellar MPG isn’t a given with a manual anymore due to this poor gearing situation. Some cars you can beat the window, some not. Manual Foresters get in the low to mid 20’s from what I can tell, real world, on the Sub forums. Probably in line with the window. There aren’t guys getting 30+ with stick shift Foresters.

      • 0 avatar


        I’m not sure any driver can beat the EPA numbers for highway fuel economy, but most can beat the combined number. But you’re right about the rpm thresholds at highway speed. The old Crosstrek was awful in that regard, and it’s part of the reason I never bought one.

        Highway rpm is the one area where CVT’s hold a distinct advantage, if done right. Nissan paired their CVT with a two-speed automatic in many of their 4-cylinder compact cars. It’s sublime. Highway rpm is 2,000-2,200. Very luxurious for a compact car with a 1.8L four cylinder engine.

        • 0 avatar

          @ TW5, highway fuel economy numbers are pretty east to attain or beat. Even my car with its 3.73 final drive and .63 overdrive can knock down 25-27 mpg at around 1600-1700 rpm if you mope along in the right lane and hit cruise compared to the EPA’s 21 mpg rating for my car.

        • 0 avatar

          My combined fuel economy beats the EPA highway rating on both manuals I’ve owned.

          1998 Pathfinder 4WD: EPA 14/16. My lifetime average was 18.4 mpg. Best tank 23.0 mpg. Worst tank 14.4 mpg.

          2004 Mazda3 2.3L: EPA 22/29. My lifetime average is 29.4 mpg. Best tank 37.9 mpg. Worst tank 21.6 mpg.

          It’s ridiculous how poorly manuals are driven on the EPA cycle.

        • 0 avatar

          @TW5: There’s nothing magical about a CVT that let’s it loaf at 2000 RPM on the highway. OEMs could easily put a tall 6th gear on their manuals to do the same thing, but for some reason they don’t. My guess is they think people who drive manuals want to shift as little as possible, which is ridiculous, but such is the world we live in.

      • 0 avatar
        Kyree S. Williams

        I hear the VW 5MT is very good.

    • 0 avatar
      Pete Zaitcev

      Wait, what. Why would you want a manual transmission on an off-road vehicle? That’s just silly.

      Also, remember that automatics can transfer more torque in the same size and weight package, simply because a planetary gearset does not want to rip the transmission case apart, like a manual gearset does. Surely at torques available now you want a lighter transmission. On the JL it’s starting to get noticeable how big and heavy the manual became. Before, all the miscellanea of an automatic, such as the transmission fluid volume, solenoids, and all that served to mask this for engines of smaller torque.

      If they put a CVT into Wrangler, they indeed it’s suicide watch time.

      • 0 avatar

        I’m worried about controlling torque at the wheels, which is more closely corollated with gear selection than transmission type. I also prefer not to upgrade transmission cooling components, though this isn’t an issue on all vehicles.

        Manual is my preference, even if it means dealing with a dreaded 3rd pedal. Maybe my preference will change someday, but I’ve yet to drive an automatic that does what it’s told. You are always at the mercy of some electronic system, which may or may not be doing what is required.

        • 0 avatar
          Pete Zaitcev

          The problem is computers. On the TJ, people often wheeled with a 3rd hand kit. On JK, it never became available (to the best of my knowledge). Something in the way the electronic throttle is implemented on JK prevents it from working. The PCM code is too complex to hack it, or something.

    • 0 avatar
      Tele Vision

      Manuals use less fuel than most automatics when slowing down whilst a gear is engaged, too. Also, brake pads ( which take energy to make/package/ship/store ) can last much longer in a manual vehicle if engine-braking is used. A downshift and a well-timed blip of the throttle, in conjunction with reading traffic, can result in no brakes – and less fuel – being used in nearly any situation. Ask any over-the-road trucker.

      • 0 avatar

        I use engine braking all the time on auto trans cars and they consume zero fuel since the injectors switch off. All you have to do is shift down. Some cars do it for you but I can manually select any gear with my current ZF 6HP26 anyway.

    • 0 avatar

      My sister has a 2016 Outback with a CVT. While not a really a CVT issue, there’s a problem with the shifter. It screws up when you put it in park and you can’t remove the key. There’s a TSB (#16-112-18R) from March or April on it that I found. She called the dealer and the dealer was “I never heard of that.”

      She personally knows someone there and talked to that person. “Oh yeah, it’s a known issue”. Then she gets the runaround from the dealer again. She started mentioning NHTSA to them and to Subaru of America. She did that and it was fixed the next morning. She thinks they cannibalized a new car on the lot. Who keeps shifters around? She complained around 6 PM and it was fixed by 9 AM.

      Sounds like people last year were paying $200 for the part and 1.5 hours labor.

  • avatar

    “Once upon a time, a stick-shift guaranteed better fuel economy, but *those days are pretty much gone.*”

    No, they’re not.

    Automatics are far more efficient than they used to be (CVT’s, automated manuals, etc.), but a slightly motivated manual driver can beat the EPA ratings by a healthy margin every time.

    Why? Because manual MPG ratings are seriously handicapped by the EPA test methodology, which dictates precisely when the transmission is shifted up and down during the test (for repeatability). And they are *not* fuel-efficient shift points. ( More info, see: )

    No wierd hypermiling tricks are required to beat the rating. If you do nothing other than shift to the highest practical gear after accelerating, you’ll consistently beat the EPA by a healthy margin.

    (And there are more ecodriving techniques that you can use to improve a manual’s MPG even more, if that’s your cup of tea. But they’re not required.)

    Long story short: if you care about MPG, you should still pick the manual – even if the equivalent automatic car has an equal or slightly better rating.

    Automatics are closing the gap, but DIY is still better in the real world.

    • 0 avatar

      Good link. Thanks.

    • 0 avatar

      Spot on. I was just about to make the same point.

      The other myth that needs to be debunked is when a journalist or publication labels a particular model’s engine(s) as anemic ninety-nine times out of a hundred they’re testing an automatic. Case in point the former Jeep Patriot (and last gen Compass). No matter what the source that particular word was used to describe both the 2.0 and 2.4. I have a 2.4 4×2 Patriot with the 5-speed and believe me it is anything but underpowered.

      Then again if you drive a standard you already know that in the time it takes an automatic to hunt for a gear you’re already in it and gone.

  • avatar

    Rare Rides in 2030: HR-V 6MT.

  • avatar

    Honda formerly made you pay extra for an auto. Seems when they start to phase manuals out they price manuals the same as autos, like they did w/ the Acura TSX.

    The current Accord has the manuals priced the same as w/ the autos and in only select models.

    It also doesn’t help that the EPA testing makes manuals look much less efficient than they are – just as EPA testing makes stop/start look far better than it really is in the real world.

  • avatar

    I once wanted to buy a Honda Fit with a stick. The Fit always gets glowing reviews. Then I test drove one. 4000RPM at 80mph.

    No thanks.

  • avatar

    I recently rode in the back of an HRV EX AWD that a friend bought, really nice shade of dark green. Good back seat space, interior quality about on par for a cheap compact car, not great but not offensively bad. Entirely ambivalent on these things, I guess in traditional Honda fashion interior and cargo space is near the top of the class that’s one thing it has going for it. I do see a decent amount of them around, a neighbor has had one for a few years now, on the street, etc.

  • avatar

    Regardless of the declining take rate for manuals, the HR-V’s is awful. Drove two back-to-back in Phoenix thinking the first unit had come off the assembly line in Mexico with a defect. The clutch engagement is vague and the throws… like shifting through honey.
    It’s bad enough they’re hard to find, and then throw crappy on top?
    Recipe for deprecation.

  • avatar
    Kyree S. Williams

    I helped a friend of mine find a new HR-V EX 6MT over 400 miles away, which I believe he is picking up today. I’m sure he’ll be disappointed when it’s time to shop again.

    • 0 avatar

      I could see my dad as a potential HRV 6MT shopper to replace his well used ‘07 Fit. HRV retains usable rough road clearance but gives him a bit more interior room and power. The Fit’s fwd has surprisingly worked quite well in terms of traction on wet grass on their hobby farm on a slope, and he loves the stick shift and mpg (35 in mixed driving in the summer, always over 30 in the winter on snow tires no matter what). That or some sort of mini fwd/AWD trucklet that Vulpine is dreaming of as well.

  • avatar
    Trucky McTruckface

    Who cares? Another manual that had no appeal to actual consumers.

    I like manuals as much as anybody. So much so that I’ve bought four brand new vehicles equipped with one within the ls last decade.

    But unless there’s a meaningful price advantage over an automatic, or unless it’s a sports car or something, I’m going to go with the automatic every time. Especially now with automatic being required for the increasingly-common remote starter and various driving assists that are honestly really nice to have.

    I had an Accord Sport with the 6MT. The last gen model that was about a grand cheaper than the CVT. Grew to absolutely hate the featherlite clutch and vague shift linkage. Honda manuals are the most overrated thing ever. I’ve thought about getting one of the new 2.0T Sports at some point if I ever downsize my fleet back down to one car…and I’m absolutely going with the no-cost 10-speed auto at that point.

    • 0 avatar
      Everyday Products

      Sorry, but I can’t stand driver assist on cars. Makes people even less safe. If you are a good driver you don’t need any driver assist. If you need a lane keep assist to drive you shouldn’t be on the road driving What about side mirrors? People who need-blind side monitor shouldn’t be driving. Brake assist, you should keep enough distance between cars so if they do a sudden stop you have no problem stopping.

      I rather have a manual in a boring car than dealing with a dreaded automatic in traffic

  • avatar

    So, you’re listing the “only remaining compact CUVs still available with a manual transmission”, and you’re allegedly an enthusiasts’ site, yet you fail completely to mention the MINI Countryman, which probably has the highest take-rate of them all, and is selling robustly (for a MINI)!? Pathetic!

  • avatar

    Manuals are dying because htey’re old tech. I used to have am manual Mercedes that had a manual choke. My dad explained to me the use of the steering wheel spark adjustment on a model-T he drove when he was a kid. Automatics just do it better. It’s like an engineer I knew who hated hand calculators because kids no longer knew how to use a slide rule.

  • avatar

    Not htey’re, they’re

  • avatar
    Carroll Prescott

    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.

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