Do Families Shun Manual Transmissions?

Manual transmission
I'm test-driving a base model 2013 Mazda CX-5 this week, which comes standard with a six-speed manual transmission. This helps Mazda keep its $20,695 base price below many of its competitors, making it attractive to small families like my own. Laboring through a week in this manual-transmission car with my family in tow makes me wonder, do any parents actually opt for driving a manual and if so, why?

Car manufacturers have the engineering ability to build machines that shift smoother than even the most highly trained drivers. As a driver, I understand the allure of the manual. Having total control over your vehicle is rewarding, entertaining and engaging.

That fun factor decreases exponentially, however, when you've loaded the car with a couple of whiny kids who are overly tired from last night's sleepover and you need to run out to the store to pick up a gallon of milk. That's when you inadvertently hit a road construction project along the way. Suddenly, your quick errand turns into more than an hour of stop-and-go traffic with hungry kids in the backseat and a tired calf muscle from so much clutch work, regardless of the CX5's light clutch. By now, you're wishing you'd just taken your husband's automatic tranny so you could be resting in traffic, peacefully grooving to some soothing tunes.

Manual-transmission cars are making a slight comeback but are a very small percentage of all cars sold. While the total number of those sold to families is unknown, it must be an even smaller number. Are there any families out there with manual-transmission cars as their daily family hauler? If so, did you choose a manual and why? Tell us in the comment section below.

Comments 

Bruce D Ranger

My wife purchased a 2013 Mazda CX-5 Touring FWD at the end of February 2012.

It was supposed to be mine, but it had an automatic, so my wife purchased it instead.

Unfortunately, the current CX-5 with manual transmission is a stripper with NO significant optional equipment available.

Originally all the I wanted was the Bluetooth Audio Package (includes HD Radio) which is an option on the Sport trim level, but you cannot get it with the manual, you have to get the automatic.

After driving my wife's vehicle with all of the included options, what I really want is her vehicle with the manual transmission.

At the current time, Mazda does not offer the manual on anything other than the Sport trim level.

It is a damn shame, because I test drove a CX-5 Sport with the manual and that is the transmission that I want, BUT I also want all of the good stuff that comes standard on the Touring trim level.

If Mazda (MNAO) would just make the manual available on all the trim levels (Sport, Touring, and Grand Touring), then they would make lots of potential buyers into customers.

shappy

I am back in a manual transmission vehicle after a 9-year hiatus (Golf R). I also have a 6 year old and she loves my little [rising] blue car.

Chrono

Honda Accords with manuals have been our "family car" since the start of our family. Aside from enjoying manuals more, we'd never get a 4 cylinder car with an auto. With small, underpowered engines you'd better row your own gears if you want the most out of them. More people would buy manuals if they actually offered them on the fun engines, too, instead of just the entry level ones.

JM

My parents got manuals until we got burned trading in one of our cars simply because it was in fact a manual. And that was in 2006...even less people drive manuals now. aside from all of the unpleasantness that can cause from carsick children, small/growing families can't afford to lose so much on a car just because it has a stick shift transmission when they go to resell the car.

Chris K

My last four cars were manual, but I just grimaced and bought an automatic. My wife doesn't drive stick, and on long road trips that can be a pain. The final nail in the coffin was our baby daughter. It's much better having two drivers on road trips.

And no, I don't find "sport shifting" a good substitute. Without an H-gate you don't know what gear the car is in, and when it shifts for itself I often end up in a different gear than I expected. Partially a programming issue, I know.

BH

The only automatic car I've owned was my very first one (an '87 Honda Prelude). It would've been much more fun if it had a manual trans. Since then, I've gone through a number of Honda and Subaru vehicles ALL with manual transmissions. I currently drive a 2011 Subaru Impreza while my wife drives a 2002 Mini Cooper with a manual trans. We've thrown around the idea of maybe getting a Prius someday, but I still cannot get my head around driving like that. Every time I drive an automatic car, my left foot is stomping the floor and my right hand tries to shift the gears. I just feel lazy and disengaged from the whole driving experience. Maybe if we lived in an area that had a lot of stop and go traffic, I'd change my mind but we don't so for now and the foreseeable future, I'm sticking with the manual trans. I also agree with one of the above comments about getting much more out of a small motor with a manual trans. Couldn't be more true. It's not even close; night and day difference between identical cars w/ the only variable being the transmission. Just my 2 cents...

Kenneth Sloan

Automatic is for wusses. Real men do stick!

Bridgehook

I've got 10-year-old twins, and I've been hauling them in a manual tranny car since they were new. If we were to get a new "family car" this year, it would definitely be a CX-5 sport (since the Jetta TDI wagon w/manual is too costly).

Janet Vandenabeele

I had a manual as a single, working parent. I don't get the connection: Cranky, bratty kids are going to always be annoying, regardless. I'm having trouble trying to not judge your parenting ...

Russ Wollman

I found a lonesome 6-speed Saab 9-3 conv at the Volvo store. Six people considered her. None of them could shift for themselves. I gave her a home. Together we're really driving. My Subaru Forester is automatic with a manual selection gate. I don't get those sorts of trannies at all. Either the thing is automatic, or it's a real manual with a clutch that's meant to be used. Ferrari and Alfa can keep their paddle shifters, too. Not for me. I'd rather have my '73 124 Spider back than anything new and automated.

navsto

My wife drives manual Honda accord. I enjoy driving it too and match or beat sticker MPG with that car (34MPG highway). My daily drive is Subaru automatic. It is AWD station wagon. Bought it used and was out of luck looking for manual transmission. Weekend drive for me is M3 6-sp in competition package. My wife hates it (too stiff) so I get it all for my self.
We are looking to buy new car for her since my Subaru is hitting 200k miles. She wants manual AWD with decent MPG (30+ highway). Audi A4 and Subaru Impreza are only two options for us which is sad.

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Quality Used Transmissions Company

No Whining

Seriously, your calf muscle was cramping up from a light clutch? Sounds like someone who is either wildly out of shape, or doesn't operate a clutch often enough. Both are sadly ailments of America. Both our cars are manuals, and we have no issues toting the kids around. Whining kids make driving a pain regardless of transmission, it hasn't caused us any extra nuisance that we have a clutch.

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Quality Used Transmissions

Charles

Why is it that LAZY Americans find driving a manual distracting but texting and watching DVDs whilst underway is perfectly acceptable?

Tom

The 3 cars currently owned by our family, two adults and three driving young adults, are all manual transmission sedans. We drive our cars until approximately 300,000 miles without any major problems. Our two hondas accord, one sold with 285,00 miles for $1,500 and currently owned 07 with 160,000 miles never saw a dealership. We changed oil/filter, occasional sensor. I love manual transmission for its simplicity and fun to drive. What worries me it is a current trend that limits manual option to base models with limited options

Wow.

If you find driving a stick more difficult than an auto, you need more practice driving a stick.

My kids are getting close to driving age and, much like riding a bike, learning to drive a stick is a skill that will stick with them for the rest of their lives.

They may never need to drive a manual again but it's nice to know they can.

J

A light clutch gets you a tired calf muscle is what concerns me the most...
Try again in the same situation with a car that has no hill start assist and a bumper to bumper traffic on an incline.

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