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VOL. 42 | NO. 8 | Friday, February 23, 2018

Clutch performance: Top picks for those who prefer stick shifts

By Travis Langness | Edmunds

Print | Front Page | Email this story

Driving purists might love the feel of the clutch and shifter, but most U.S. consumers opt for automatic.

-- Shutterstock.Com

It’s true that cars with a manual transmission are a dying breed. In fact, manual-equipped vehicles make up less than 3 percent of current U.S. car sales, Edmunds research finds.

Automakers are making automatic transmissions standard because the latest ones return better fuel economy and shift quicker and smoother than even the best manual transmissions.

For some drivers, though, pushing a clutch pedal and rowing your gears are among the most satisfying parts of the driving experience. For others, nostalgia explains the attraction.

If you’re in either camp, know that some mainstream cars are available with a manual. We’ve rounded up some of our favorites from a variety of vehicle classes.

Honda Accord

One of the most appealing sedans on the market is the redesigned 2018 Honda Accord.

The Accord boasts a high-quality cabin, generous cargo space, high-tech options and engaging performance.

Under the hood is one of two available engines: a 1.5-liter four-cylinder and a 2.0-liter four-cylinder.

Both Accords are turbocharged and available with a six-speed manual transmission as a no-cost option on the Sport trim level.

Manufacturer’s suggested retail price (MSRP) for the 2018 Accord Sport with the 1.5-liter engine: $25,780 plus $890 destination

Mazda 6

With its fair share of style and a likable powertrain, the Mazda 6 is another excellent midsize sedan that offers a manual transmission.

You can only get it on the Mazda 6’s base Sport and midlevel Touring trims, but even those trim levels provide many desirable features.

Other highlights for the Mazda 6 include pleasing power from its four-cylinder engine, a fun-to-drive nature and a classy-looking cabin.

A 2018 Mazda 6 is coming this spring that offers similar qualities with updated styling and technology.

MSRP for the 2017 Mazda 6 Touring: $24,195 plus $890 destination

Jeep Wrangler

The 2018 Jeep Wrangler has been vastly improved with this year’s redesign. For now, you can only get the manual with the 3.6-liter V6, but you can put that powertrain package in either the two- or the four-door Wrangler. You can also choose all sorts of options to go along with it.

Thanks to high ground clearance, big tires and four-wheel drive, the Wrangler is one of the most capable off-road vehicles on the road today. Yet this new model is also more practical and comfortable than ever before.

MSRP for the four-door 2018 Wrangler Unlimited Sport S: $33,695 plus $1,195 destination

Audi A4

For a more luxurious experience, there’s the 2018 Audi A4. A manual transmission is available in all three of the A4’s trim levels: Premium, Premium Plus and Prestige.

And it is paired to a turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine and all-wheel drive.

As we’ve come to expect from Audi in recent years, the interior of the A4 has a user-friendly design, comfortable seats and excellent cabin materials. It’s a no-brainer if you’re looking for an upscale sedan with three pedals.

MSRP for the 2018 A4 Premium: $40,500 plus $975 destination

BMW 3 Series

A direct competitor of the A4 is the perennial luxury sedan powerhouse known as the BMW 3 Series. Unlike the Audi, which comes with only all-wheel drive when you opt for a manual, the BMW offers a choice of rear- or all-wheel drive as well as four-cylinder or six-cylinder power to go with the manual transmission.

From the stylish exterior to the impeccable interior build quality and the modern tech, there’s a lot to like about the 3 Series sedan. MSRP for the 2018 BMW 340i xDrive sedan: $50,950 plus $995 destination

Honorable Mentions

Many budget-oriented vehicles offer a manual transmission. Worth checking out are Honda’s Civic and HR-V crossover SUV, Kia’s Soul hatchback and Toyota’s Corolla iM hatchback.

Of course, there are many high-performance vehicles that you can get today with a stick shift.

In the compact category, check out the Ford Focus ST or RS, the Honda Civic Type R, the Mazda MX-5 Miata, the Mini Cooper Hardtop, the Subaru WRX and the Volkswagen Golf GTI.

Detroit’s muscle cars are keeping up tradition, too. The Chevrolet Camaro, the Dodge Challenger and the Ford Mustang all still have manuals.

Don’t bother with Ferrari, though. Nothing coming from Maranello, Italy, has a clutch pedal anymore.

Edmunds Says

If you’re looking for a car with a manual transmission, you don’t have to look far.

Sedans, SUVs, luxury cars, small hatchbacks and sports cars all have something to offer in the manual-transmission category.

Just try not to stall yours when you pull away from the dealer lot.

Travis Langness is an automotive editor at Edmunds. Twitter: @travislangness

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