We at AutoGuide.com love manual transmissions, but we also think there are a lot of fantastic automatic ones out there as well. Even CVTs…
Manual transmissions aren’t the be-all, end-all to what makes a great car. We know that automatic transmissions are faster and more fuel efficient, but there’s still no better way to feel engaged while driving than by shifting your own gears. No matter how good automatics are, a manual still feels special and can be far more fun and rewarding.
Driving a manual-only car used to get you special admission into an exclusive club of automotive enthusiasts. The number of cars with this special distinction is dwindling.
The last time we did a similar list of manual-only cars, we featured heroes like the Dodge Viper, Mitsubishi Lancer Evo GSR, Porsche Cayman GT4, Porsche Boxster Spyder, Ford Focus RS, Ford Focus ST, Ford Fiesta ST, Porsche 911 R, and Chevy Camaro Z28. All these cars have either been discontinued or aren’t currently sold. At one point in time not too long ago, the Golf R and Fiat 500 Abarth were exclusively manual, but not anymore — both are available with automatics now. Back in 2015 when we counted the last manual-only cars, there were 10. Today, we are down to just eight. Here are the final eight cars in North America that are manual-only.
Hyundai Veloster N
Who would have expected that Hyundai would be one of the final flagbearers of the manual transmission? With the manual-only Veloster N hot hatch, Hyundai is trying to prove that it is serious about performance. The initial reviews on the Veloster N have been really positive — it’s crisp, engaging, animated, and legitimately entertaining.
Hyundai wasn’t chasing lap times with this new car — driving engagement and old-fashioned fun were really important to them, and they knew a manual transmission was a surefire way to achieve that. The Veloster N is powered by a turbocharged 2.0L four-cylinder that outputs 275 hp and 260 lb-ft of torque, which gets to the front wheels via a six-speed manual with automatic rev matching.
ALSO SEE: 2019 Hyundai Veloster N Review
Honda Civic Type R
The Honda Civic Type R is the fastest front-wheel-drive car to ever lap the famed Nurburgring. Say what you will about how ugly it looks, but the Type R performs so well that you can often forget it’s a front-drive car. Only available with a six-speed manual (it also has auto rev-matching), the Type R is immediately intuitive to drive quickly — it’s seriously fun, but also accessible and not intimidating to push to its limits. The Type R is powered by a turbocharged 2.0L four-cylinder that outputs 306 hp and 295 lb-ft of torque.
Honda Civic Si
A more subdued and accessible option than the Type R, the Honda Civic Si (available as a coupe and a sedan) is another entry from Honda that is manual-only. A slick six-speed manual helps get 205 hp and 192 lb-ft of torque to the front wheels. The Civic Si is powered by a 1.5L turbocharged four-cylinder engine. The Civic Si’s buttoned-down driving dynamics and smooth operation make it a popular pick among driving enthusiasts.
Subaru WRX STI
Currently the king of Subaru’s performance offerings, the WRX STI has a devoted following. The WRX STI is extremely rewarding to drive because it’s so communicative and precise. I really enjoy how mechanical and tactile everything feels in the STI. Although its clutch pedal takes some getting used to, once you master how to shift perfectly, it’s so rewarding to drive. The WRX also used to be manual-only but is now available with a CVT. Trust us, though, the manual is much more fun (unless you’re stuck in a traffic jam). The WRX STI is powered by a turbo 2.5L four-cylinder boxer engine that outputs 310 hp and 290 lb-ft of torque. Of course, AWD and a six-speed manual are standard.
ALSO SEE: 2019 Subaru WRX STI Review
Subaru BRZ tS
Since its inception, the lightweight Subaru BRZ has been a favorite among enthusiasts for its engaging, fun driving dynamics and rear-drive architecture. While not the fastest, the BRZ is balanced and responsive and the limited edition tS gives drivers more grip and performance goodies that allow you to carry ridiculous speeds into corners. Not only does it come exclusively with a six-speed manual, but the tS gets a bunch of upgrades including STI-tuned stability control, a big wing, and grippier tires. The engine remains the same: a 2.0L four-cylinder boxer with 205 hp and 156 lb-ft of torque.
Ford Mustang Shelby GT350
With its flat plane crank V8 and long list of performance goodies that give it a handling edge over regular Mustangs, the Shelby GT350 is one of my favorite cars to drive because it’s dramatic, fast, and very, very capable on the track. This thing is a monster and it sounds wild. The big 5.2L V8 outputs 526 hp and 429 lb-ft of torque and gets all that power to the rear wheels via a six-speed manual.
Ford Mustang Bullitt
The Ford Mustang Bullitt is a limited edition vehicle based on the Mustang GT. It’s only available with a six-speed manual, and the shifter is a cool-looking cue ball, just like it was in the Steve McQueen movie that inspired this car. It also gets a power bump over the regular Mustang GT. The Bullitt, which gets a lot of its upgrades from the GT350, is powered by the same 5.0L V8 as the Mustang GT but has 480 hp and 420 lb-ft of torque.
The Camaro 1LE is available with three engines: a 275 hp 2.0-liter, a 335 hp V6 and a 455 hp 6.2-liter. There’s only one transmission option available, though: a six-speed manual. The 1LE is essentially a handling-focused performance package for the Camaro, adding beefier suspension components, lightweight wheels, stickier tires, a lip kit, a subtle rear spoiler and other equipment.
Update: Up until recently, the Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 1LE was also manual-only, but for 2019, it is now available with a 10-speed automatic.