By on May 16, 2019

Image: Hyundai

Exactly a year ago, your suddenly fearful author found himself in the market for a new car. Hating the shopping experience, and with little free time, the choice soon boiled down to two scorching models: a base Chevy Cruze manual, or a similarly sparse Hyundai Elantra, also with a manual.

Twelve months later, neither vehicle exists in the United States. The Cruze is dead, and for the 2020 model year, Hyundai Motor America has decided to ditch the six-speed manual transmission, outfitting the recently updated sedan with a new continuously variable transmission. (Read More…)

By on January 30, 2019

There’s more than just differing levels of enthusiasm for the letter “u” separating Americans from their Canadian neighbors. There’s a powertrain divide, too, and in no vehicle line is this more apparent than in Mazda’s new 3 compact sedan and hatch.

You read the first drive review on Monday, and some of you perhaps recoiled a bit after seeing the starting price for a 2019 3 sedan, inflated due to a greater level of standard content, a singular (formerly uplevel) engine, and the lack of a manual transmission in all but one bodystyle and trim. It’s possible the latter change ruffled a few more feathers.

Well, head across the border and you’ll feel none of these concerns. The 3 offered by Mazda Canada casts a far wider net, inviting all comers, though the company insists it hasn’t left its premium aspirations behind. (Read More…)

By on November 30, 2018

Your author’s first experience with a stick-shift BMW came when he was an impressionable youth, after being offered a ride to a since-forgotten destination by the head of a Christian youth group. Sorry, nothing weird happened. Something great did, however.

The car was a mid-1990s 328i, black over black pleather (a feature that irked the driver), five speed manual. “Look how much pickup it has in fifth,” I recall the man saying, stabbing the throttle as we coasted along at maybe 40-45 mph.

So different from my father’s Oldsmobile was the experience, it opened my eyes to a different type of driving — an engaging, involved form of motoring. While vehicles of a German pedigree didn’t come into my possession in the years following, stick-shift cars did. Seven of the eight cars I’ve owned boasted a clutch pedal. But sticks are dying, and the brand most associated with the three-pedal lifestyle doesn’t field many of them anymore. How long can it last? We have answers. (Read More…)

By on September 19, 2018

For some, dirt cheap wheels are all that’s required. Nothin’ fancy; nothin’ extra. Four tires and a steering wheel are the main requirements of these shoppers. Oh, and a warranty for worry-free driving. Anything further is just gravy. This outlook accurately describes about half of the Quebec market, by the way. Especially the gravy. Poutine is delicious.

Enter the Hyundai Accent. This entry-level Korean sedan has been finding its way into the hands of new drivers and frugal shoppers for 25 years now. As it turns out, even the base model of one of the cheapest new cars in America is laden with standard equipment.

(Read More…)

By on July 31, 2018

The list of new vehicles available with a manual transmission grows shorter each year, and for the vast majority of the driving populace, that’s just fine. But driving enthusiasts bemoan each model lost to the advancing wave of computer-controlled everything, closely keeping tabs on which vehicles can still be had with a three-pedal setup. A few might even buy one.

Even sporting European brands are not immune. In BMW’s stable, the 5 Series jettisoned its last 5 and 6 Series sticks (by then relegated to M models) in 2016. Other models went two pedal-only in recent years, including the 228i, 328i, and 428i. But BMW says there’s still a flame that keeps the transmission option alive in certain models, and it’ll keep building them until buyers give up, or our robot overlords take over. (Read More…)

By on April 6, 2018

2018 Subaru WRX STI, Image: Subaru

For some reason, today is all about manual transmissions. Some going, some staying… but most just going.

That’s the world we live in, where consideration must be given to high-tech safety aids, while multi-cog automatics and infinitely cogged CVTs have stripped the stick shift of its secondary attribute: fuel economy.

For Subaru, the Lineartronic continuously variable automatic will soon become the brand’s only choice of gearbox, with one notable — and likely temporary — exception. (Read More…)

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. (Read More…)

By on March 9, 2018

Genesis G70

The two models share a platform and a pair of engines, but the upcoming Genesis G70 sport sedan gains something its Kia Stinger cousin lacks: a manual transmission.

Given that we’re talking about a rear-drive Korean sedan sold under a fledgling marque in a market that couldn’t love SUVs more if the damn things dispensed free cash from the dash vents, we’re expecting big, big demand for the stick-shift variant. (Read More…)

By on March 9, 2018

2018 Subaru WRX STI Type RA, Image: Subaru of America

Is Subaru, a scrappy-but-approaching-the-mainstream automaker, about to ditch the manual transmission? That’s what some are gleaning from comments made by Subaru UK managing director Chris Graham on the sidelines of the Geneva Motor Show this week.

Speaking to Auto Express, Graham mused about the brand’s EyeSight driver-assist technology and Subaru’s desire to include the suite of safety aids on all of its cars. The trouble is, EyeSight isn’t available on Subarus equipped with manual transmissions. If you’re looking for goodies like automatic emergency braking and lane departure warnings, a Lineartronic CVT had best be on your wish list, too.

Graham’s comments point to a Subaru that’s prepared to weaken the bond between driver and car in the name of increased computerized control. (Read More…)

By on December 15, 2017

2017 Chevrolet Cruze Hatchback LT Interior, Image: © 2017 Mark Stevenson/The Truth About Cars

After a year of good news (McDonald’s all-day breakfast came to Canada), it seems only fitting that 2017 will end in tears.

The Chevrolet Cruze, one of a shrinking number of models in which one can easily find a manual transmission, appears set to lose that option after the 2018 model year. As the owner of a manual-shift Cruze, no words can ease the pain. (Read More…)

By on October 13, 2017

2018 volkswagen jetta gli - image: volkswagenFor the 2018 model year, Volkswagen of America is adopting an entirely different approach to its sports sedan transmission lineup than Honda and Subaru.

Unlike the Honda Civic Si, which is available exclusively with a manual transmission, and unlike the Subaru WRX, which is available with a manual transmission or a continuously variable automatic, the 2018 Volkswagen Jetta GLI will drop the manual transmission option.  (Read More…)

By on October 3, 2017

2018 Mazda CX-3 - Image: MazdaEvery Sunday or Monday, a very generous man appears in my driveway with a new car. The same man, in not as generous a fashion, also removes a car from my driveway. The most recent exchange involved the arrival of a fourth-generation 2018 Kia Rio and the departure of the 2018 Mercedes-Benz E400 4Matic Coupe we reviewed last week.

“Chilly one today, eh?” I say.

“I’m preparing myself for some cold days in PEI this winter,” Mr. Sowerby says with a chuckle. We chat for a moment about a recent Chevrolet Traverse event that was slathered across my Twitter feed, and as Garry gets into the Mercedes-Benz to depart he says, “You’re getting a Mazda CX-3 with a six-speed stick next week.”

Huh? It can’t be. Seriously?

For real. (Read More…)

By on October 3, 2017

gearshift stick shift manual transmission

A telling conversation took place last week. A longtime friend, who’s now more gainfully employed than in years past and owns a current-generation Nissan Rogue, texted me about the 2018 Nissan Qashqai — known as the Rogue Sport south of the border.

As he rarely uses his Rogue for cargo or passenger-hauling duties, the reduction in volume isn’t a concern. My friend wants more content for the same price as his larger vehicle. I informed him that, unlike in America, he could choose a Qashqai/Rogue Sport with a manual transmission, provided he’s willing to live with whatever Nissan Canada’s base trim amounts to.

“No way,” he told me. “I like features. I’ll never bother with standard transmissions again.”

This is coming from a guy who for years drove a base Volkswagen Fox, followed by a base GMC Sonoma, each equipped with a three-pedal setup. Granted, no one looked towards the Fox or Sonoma for spirited driving. Still, it seems age and income has done its work — no longer is my friend interested in anything but enjoying a lifestyle of convenience.

Are you the same way? (Read More…)

By on August 14, 2017

gearshift stick shift manual transmission (public domain)

In this day and age, when a “coupe” often means a four-door SUV and automatics, DCTs, and CVTs perform almost all gear-shifting duties, it’s nice to see a patent from a major mainstream automaker concerning a manual transmission.

However, Toyota’s recent patent for an electronic tranny nanny might spark worry that the three-pedal experience, as endangered as it is, could become watered down by technology. A manual transmission that doesn’t let you make mistakes? Who’s in charge here? (Read More…)

By on July 11, 2017

2018 Nissan 370Z Heritage Edition previewed at New York Internat - Image: NissanNissan has revealed that modest improvements to the 2018 Nissan 370Z will not result in any increase to the 370Z’s base price.

In the United States, 370Z pricing will start once again at $30,875, including an $885 destination and handling charge. But Nissan believes the 2018 370Z, while still very much the same sixth-generation car it’s been since the 2010 model year, is better than the 2017 car.

You can’t get a manual transmission in a 2018 Porsche 911 GT2 RS. You can’t get a manual transmission in a Ferrari 488 GTB. Yet for its ninth model year, Nissan saw fit to improve the 370Z’s manual experience.

How ’bout that? (Read More…)

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