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Last of a Dying Breed - The Only 2021 Model Year Cars Available with Manual Transmissions

The walls are closing in as stick shift-equipped new car offerings are nearing extinction.

Duncan Brady
Jul 29, 2020

Super Street Staff: Our friends at Motortrend recently put together a comprehensive list of the 2021 vehicles currently available at your local dealership that offer buyers the option for a manual transmission. With the number of new cars equipped with a good 'ol stick shift dwindling, we imagine that in another few years this list will be made up of just a few models, if any.

The truth is that new car buyers across the entire marketplace have been choosing automatic models far more than their manual counterparts and, as a result, the pickings are slim.

Motortrend: This list was a good bit longer last time we assembled it back in 2011. There was a time, though, when choosing a manual transmission meant performance and efficiency advantages over the optional slushbox. Those days are over. Modern automatics and continuously variable transmissions consistently return better fuel economy ratings than their clutch pedal-equipped counterparts—and they shift quicker, too. It's part of the reason why a manual-equipped Porsche 911 is slower to 60 mph than an identical car sporting Porsche's PDK dual-clutch automatic gearbox. There's a case to be made for the automatic.

And yet there is still demand for the manual transmission, though it's dwindling. There is something tactile and analog and supremely satisfying about changing gears yourself that cannot be replaced with improved fuel economy or launch control and quick shifts. The responsibility of driving any vehicle is shared between human and machine. Rather than diminishing the role of the driver, a car with a manual transmission celebrates the human aspect of driving. That's crucial, especially as automakers continue to push for autonomous cars. For those who'd prefer to pilot their own vehicles, this is our list of every car you can buy right now with a manual transmission.

Subaru Impreza & Crosstrek

2021 Manual Transmission Cars Subaru Crosstrek Photo 10/10   |   Last of a Dying Breed - The Only 2021 Model Year Cars Available with Manual Transmissions

Subaru's CVT is one of the better-behaved variable transmissions on the market, but if shifting gears is more your speed, then the Japanese automaker will sell you an Impreza sedan or hatchback with a five-speed manual to help you make the most of the 2.0-liter flat-four's limited power.

The multitalented Subaru Crosstrek toes the line between tall hatchback and small SUV rather well; it's no surprise that multiple editors chose the Crosstrek when asked which SUV they would buy. Alas, the Crosstrek's new 182-hp 2.5-liter flat-four engine is not offered with a manual. Still, Subaru offers a six-speed stick with the standard 152-hp 2.0-liter unit. Beggars can't be choosers, right?

Honda Civic

2021 Manual Transmission Cars FK8 Civic Type R Photo 10/10   |   Last of a Dying Breed - The Only 2021 Model Year Cars Available with Manual Transmissions

The Honda Civic family may have lost its coupe body style for 2021, but the compact Honda model's stick shift remains intact. If you have the means, then opt for the Civic Type R, which pairs a 306-hp turbocharged 2.0-liter engine with a six-speed manual transmission.

Closer look at the Civic Type R Limited Edition
FK8 Limited Edition

Mazda 3

2021 Manual Transmission Cars Turbo AWD Mazda3 Hatchback Photo 10/10   |   Last of a Dying Breed - The Only 2021 Model Year Cars Available with Manual Transmissions

Want a 2021 Mazda 3 with a manual transmission? Well, you better like the front-wheel-drive hatchback with the high-end Premium package, or else you're SOL. That's right, Mazda's all but abandoned the stick shift in the 3, and both the sedan body style and new 250-hp 2.5T powertrain forgo the row-it-yourself gearbox. Fortunately, the hatch's 186-hp 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine offers just enough grunt to make its available six-speed manual transmission a worthwhile addition.

Recent News on the Mazda3
AWD Mazda3 Hatchback and Sedan Announced

Toyota Corolla

2021 Manual Transmission Cars Toyota Corolla Photo 10/10   |   Last of a Dying Breed - The Only 2021 Model Year Cars Available with Manual Transmissions

Toyota's latest Corolla is better than ever, and thankfully, Toyota is still looking out for enthusiasts. A six-speed manual is available on various Corolla models, including the new, sporty Corolla Apex Edition, which relies on the sedan's larger 169-hp 2.0-liter four-cylinder for motivation. Toyota appeases stick-shift fans in search of additional practicality, as it offers the row-it-yourself gearbox in the Corolla hatchback, too.

Super Street's long-term Corolla XSE SEMA project
Project Corolla XSE

Mini hardtop and convertible, Clubman

2021 Manual Transmission Cars Mini Cooper Photo 10/10   |   Last of a Dying Breed - The Only 2021 Model Year Cars Available with Manual Transmissions

The Mini—in two-door and four-door Hardtop, as well as drop-top Convertible, forms—is an involving little driver's car, especially with its standard six-speed manual. The gearbox mates with either the Cooper trim's 134-hp turbocharged 1.5-liter three-cylinder engine or the Cooper S model's 189-hp turbocharged 2.0-liter inline-four. Those in search of more oomph can opt for the 228-hp John Cooper Works trim, which offers a stick shift in two-door Hardtop form.

If the four-door Mini Hardtop is a tad too small for your tastes, then take a look at the larger Clubman. Sure, there's the similarly sized Countryman, but Mini's crossover lacks a key piece of hardware the Clubman keeps: A manual gearbox. The six-speed unit is exclusive to the front-wheel-drive Cooper S trim that sports a 189-hp turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine under its hood.

Porsche 718 Boxster, Cayman and 911

There are few automatic transmissions better than Porsche's PDK dual-clutch automatic (short for Porsche Doppelkupplungsgetriebe), but we're grateful that the automaker's pair of mid-engine sports cars still offer a manual gearbox. A six-speed manual is available on all 718 Boxster and Cayman models, including the 718 Cayman GT4 and 718 Spyder.

The latest Porsche 911 is not the haven for the manual gearbox that its predecessors were. That said, the rear-engined sports car hasn't dumped the stick shift entirely, and Porsche offers a seven-speed unit as an option on models such as the 2021 911 Targa 4S, which boasts standard all-wheel-drive and 443 horsepower from its twin-turbocharged 3.0-liter flat-six.

Chevy Spark

2021 Manual Transmission Cars Chevrolet Spark Photo 10/10   |   Last of a Dying Breed - The Only 2021 Model Year Cars Available with Manual Transmissions

The manual transmission is very much alive in the Chevrolet Spark, which is great, even if we're confused why the Spark itself remains alive. Not only is the stick shift standard on the entry-level Spark LS, but the row-it-yourself gearbox is also available across the line. That includes the better-equipped 1LT, crossover-like Activ, and top-of-the-line 2LT. You better like swapping cogs, though, as the bow-tie-badged hatchback's 1.4-liter four-cylinder engine needs regular wringing to make the most of its meager 98 horsepower.

Ford Bronco

The Ford Bronco returns for the 2021 model year. The off-road-ready SUV offers two body styles (two-door and four-door) and two engine options: A turbocharged 2.3-liter four-cylinder or a twin-turbo 2.7-liter V-6. While both pair with a 10-speed automatic transmission, the former also offers consumers the option to shift for themselves courtesy of an available seven-speed manual gearbox. Well, for day-to-day driving it's a six-speed manual, however, an extremely low granny gear (positioned down and to the left of the formal "first gear") offers a seventh ratio for additional capability off the beaten path.

Hyundai Veloster, Accent & Genesis G70

2021 Manual Transmission Cars Hyundai Veloster Photo 10/10   |   Last of a Dying Breed - The Only 2021 Model Year Cars Available with Manual Transmissions

If you're looking for a sporty Hyundai in the U.S., the funky Veloster hatchback is the way to go. A six-speed manual is available with both the 147-hp 2.0-liter and available 201-hp turbocharged 1.6-liter four-cylinder engines, and it's standard on the 275-hp Veloster N.

The Hyundai Accent's six-speed manual transmission certainly allows the driver to make the most of the compact sedan's 1.6-liter four-cylinder engine's power, but it sacrifices fuel economy along the way. With EPA ratings of 29 mpg city, 39 mpg highway, and 33 mpg combined, the stick-shift Accent is down 4 mpg in the city, 2 mpg on the highway, and 3 mpg combined to its CVT-equipped counterpart. That said, the base Accent is surprisingly quick for its class, and its shifter is satisfying to use.

Genesis has gotten a lot right with the G70—it's why we named the sports sedan our 2019 Car of the Year. One detail ever-so-right about the G70 is its available manual transmission. Unfortunately, it's only available with the 252-hp turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine—the available 365-hp V-6 pairs exclusively with an automatic gearbox. And, while it seems the transmission is out for 2022, it is allegedly still available on 2021 models.

Kia Forte and Soul

2021 Manual Transmission Cars Kia Forte Photo 10/10   |   Last of a Dying Breed - The Only 2021 Model Year Cars Available with Manual Transmissions

Both the Kia Forte's standard 2.0-liter and available turbocharged 1.6-liter four-cylinder engines offer a six-speed manual transmission option. The gearbox is arguably the perfect complement to the small sedan's sporty exterior styling.

The Kia Soul's six-speed manual is limited to the least expensive LX trim. We wish Kia offered a row-it-yourself gearbox on the 201-hp Soul Turbo, however, the brand limits the most powerful variant of its small crossover SUV to a seven-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission.

Ford Mustang

2021 Manual Transmission Cars Ford Mustang Photo 10/10   |   Last of a Dying Breed - The Only 2021 Model Year Cars Available with Manual Transmissions

Its sedans may be on their way out, but Ford's original pony car won't be going anywhere any time soon. Nor will the Mustang's manual gearbox, as evidenced by the six-speed unit employed by the new-for-2021 Mustang Mach 1. (Don't worry automatic fans, the Mach 1 offers a—shudders—10-speed self-shifting unit as an option.)

By Duncan Brady
1 Articles

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