Why Honda Civic, Subaru BRZ Are Keeping Manual Transmissions Alive

  • Honda and Subaru both unveiled vehicles this week that offer manual transmissions: the 2022 Civic prototype and the 2022 BRZ.
  • While sales numbers and availability of manual transmissions are shrinking, there remains an enthusiast market that is still hungry for three pedals.
  • Young drivers are also still buying vehicles with manual transmissions.

    This week both the 11th-generation Honda Civic and 2022 Subaru BRZ were unveiled to the public. Both vehicles have a history of appealing to an enthusiast market that skews toward a younger age bracket. That’s likely why Honda decided to use Twitch, a live-streaming platform for video gamers, to host a debut featuring well-known Twitch personalities. But more important than where and how these two cars are unveiled is that they both come with manual transmissions—and Honda and Subaru have no plans to change that.

    “For us, it’s basically an enthusiast thing, and it has become such a big part of our DNA as a company over time. I think it’s fair to say that we have a reputation for having one of the best manuals out there,” Gary Robinson, Honda assistant vice president of automobile product planning, told Car and Driver about the decision to offer a manual transmission in the upcoming Civic.

    Automakers can show us graphs with hard numbers that prove that automatic transmissions are quicker, more efficient, and less of a headache in gridlock. None of that changes the fact that many people enjoy the control and full-driving experience only allowed by depressing a clutch and shifting gears. It’s a tangible connection between the driver, the vehicle, and the road. But that hasn’t stopped the manual transmission from disappearing from both entry-level and high-end markets. The erosion is coming from both sides of the price spectrum. But vehicles like the BRZ and Civic come to the rescue.

    Outside of Porsche and the Aston Martin Vantage, finding a high-end vehicle with power coupled with a stick is nearly impossible. But if you come down in price, the options grow. Honda and Subaru’s offerings join a few others that are generally in the same price range, but also clearly marketed towars enthusiasts without have the cash to splurge on something like a Porsche 718 Cayman. Right now on the list of cars with stick-shift choices are such vehicles as the Ford Mustang, BMW 2-series, Subaru WRX, Chevy Camaro, Dodge Challenger, Fiat 124 Spider, Hyundai Veloster N, and Mazda 3. That’s a pretty great lineup of cars.

    None of these cars will have the selling power of a Honda CR-V or Toyota RAV4, but they do have their fans.

    2022 honda civic prototype

    2022 Honda Civic prototype.


    Vehicles like the BRZ and Civic appeal to a wide age range of enthusiast buyers, including age brackets that’s been derided for not knowing how to drive a manual: millennials and Gen Z. “It may be true that a lot fewer younger buyers like manual transmissions than maybe in the past, [but] there is no lack of young buyers who [do] like manual transmissions,” Robinson told C/D.

    (If you’d care to geek out over the statistics and trends, we’ve got you covered.)

    2022 subaru brz

    2022 Subaru BRZ.


    So, for stick-shift fans, this has been a good week: Two automakers solidified their dedication to manual transmissions by unveiling cars that celebrate three pedals. For the average car buyer, going automatic is a no-brainer, but if you’re not the average car buyer, you still have choices of vehicles that are more about the act of driving than getting from A to B—and are actually affordable. #SavetheManuals is alive and well, and in most cases, it’s a good value combined with fun.

    Staff editor Connor Hoffman contributed to this report.

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