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The Best Manual Transmission Cars You Can Still Buy In 2023

Best Manual Transmission Cars 0 Hero
Photo: Aston Martin Vantage

At the end of the day, you buy a car with a stick-shift for the enjoyment that ensues. Sure, it used to be the case that automatics were sluggish units that cost more than their manual counterparts despite having less power and worse gas mileage. However, these days, advancements like launch control and dual-clutch operation put them on par with — if not ahead of — row-your-own transmissions. What’s more, buying a stick-shift will now often run you a premium rather than save you money (not to mention the considerably smaller pool of buyers available come time to sell). And as far as power and fuel economy are concerned? Today’s autos rely more on additional gears and less on their torque converters in order to be incredibly efficient pieces of engineering. You might experience a slight dip in output or see your consumption suffer in bumper-to-bumper traffic, but they’re largely moot points.

That being said, automotive enthusiasts love to wax romantic about the connection they share with their car when shifting through its gears, and it’s for good reason. Taking control of the transmission, hearing the engine respond to your input — it’s a feeling that you have to experience to understand. Even in the most mundane of manual-equipped vehicles, heel-toeing it to a stoplight or throwing it into third makes an otherwise boring commute feel like a spirited getaway drive. You don’t want to believe it when manual drivers claim that you’ll feel closer to your car, but trust us — you will.

All that is to say, you shouldn’t convince yourself to buy a manual car for responsibility’s sake. They’re not practical vehicles — at least not by today’s standards. But that’s the beauty of them. In a world in which everything is becoming increasingly automated for the purposes of efficiency, the reality is that the user’s end experience is often dulled as a result. Stick shifts are a stalwart reminder of the glory days and, for that reason, they should live on. Without further adieu, here are the best cars that still offer manual transmissions.

The Best Manual Transmission Cars Breakdown

Manual Gearbox Greatness

What To Consider When Buying A Car With A Stickshift

The only real difference between automatic and manual cars is the transmission, however, models with stick shifts tend to be more performance-focused in nature. As such, it helps to be conscious of a few key areas when shopping — the most pivotal of which we’ll be highlighting directly below. 

Vehicle Class: Whether you want a small two-door roadster or a full-sized SUV, you can find vehicles of pretty much any class that are currently offered with a manual transmission option. 

Engine: No matter what type of transmission comes mated to it, a car’s engine will always be of monumental importance when looking at any model, as this one element largely determines the vehicle’s performance as well as its overall spirit. When looking at a car’s engine, you’ll want to consider its displacement, layout, number of cylinders, and whether it is naturally aspirated or uses a forced induction setup. 

Power: Another crucial area to consider when buying a car is its power output. In a bid to give an objective sense of a car’s oomph, manufacturers list horsepower and torque figures. 

Performance Capabilities: When coupled with a car’s weight, its horsepower and torque figures will directly determine its performance capabilities in the form of a car’s off-the-line acceleration (i.e. 0-60mph time) and maximum velocity (i.e. top speed). 

Running Gear: A vehicle’s handling, ability to change direction, and come to a stop are all primarily owed to the running gear — or componentry — being used, such as the brakes and suspension. On more performance-focused models, these items tend to be more high-end. 

Gearbox: Though every model on this list is offered with an available stick shift, the type of gearbox that’s used can still vary pretty wildly. When reviewing this particular area there is a slew of elements one can factor in, though above all else, you’ll want to look at the gearbox type, clutch, and number of speeds. 

Amenities & Creature Comforts: Just like cars with automatic transmission, manual transmission cars can massively vary in terms of how well appointed they are, and the level of luxury that they offer. As one would anticipate, the most premium high-end models in this space tend to be outfitted with the most tech creature comforts, and bells and whistles. 

Volkswagen Jetta

Volkswagen Jetta
Photo: Volkswagen
Why It Made The Cut
  • A no-frill German-built commuter car that’s available with a manual transmission option.

Best Affordable Pick: The Golf’s sedan sibling is one of the few on the market to still offer a stick-shift. That being said, your choices are a bit limited compared to the above Veloster. A six-speed manual is available as an option on the 147hp turbocharged 1.4L inline-four base model S, and it comes standard with any version of the Jetta GLI models. With a turbocharged 2.0L four putting out 228hp and 258lb-ft of torque, the GLI makes for a spirited daily driver made only better by the addition of stick.

Vehicle Class: Sedan
Engine: Turbocharged 1.5L Inline-Four
Power: 158HP & 184FT-LBs
MSRP: $20,655

Mazda MX-5 Miata Sport

Mazda MX 5 Miata Sport
Photo: Mazda
Why It Made The Cut
  • A legendary affordable roadster that features spirited driving capabilities & a host of aftermarket & tuning possibilities.

Best Roadster: One of the hallmark qualities of this Japanese classic has always been its short-throw manual transmission. There’s no way Mazda would eighty-six that feature from this little convertible; should such a day ever come, it’ll be to the much to the mourning of the greater automotive community. In keeping with tradition, the fourth-gen MX-5 offers a six-speed row-your-own gearbox in both roadster and retractable fastback forms across all of its trim levels. From the spritely Sport package to the luxurious Grand Touring model, each one comes with a 2.0L four-cylinder engine good for 181hp and 151lb-ft of torque — the most power that any Miata has ever made.

Vehicle Class: Roadster
Engine: 2.0L Inline-Four
Power: 181HP & 151FT-LBs
MSRP: $28,050

Mini Cooper S

Mini Cooper S
Photo: Mini
Why It Made The Cut
  • A pint-sized yet potent urban-focused automobile with handling that’s often compared to a go-kart.

Best Retro-Inspired: With an iconic retro-inspired design and handling that’s often compared to that of a go-kart, the Mini Cooper S is a small but potent hatchback that allows drivers to inject some excitement into their daily commute. Available exclusively with a six-speed manual, the Mini Cooper S is kicked along by a 189-hp turbocharged 2.0L inline-four, though is also offered in the even-higher-specced 228-hp John Cooper Works Edition — which sadly isn’t offered with a manual transmission option. And, while it doesn’t come with a manual gearbox, the Mini Cooper is also offered in a fully-electric variant at the moment. 

Vehicle Class: Hatchback
Engine: Turbocharged 2.0L Inline-Four
Power: 189HP & 206FT-LBs
MSRP: $29,100

Jeep Gladiator

Jeep Gladiator
Photo: Jeep
Why It Made The Cut
  • A utilitarian four-door Jeep model with a 5’ cargo bed and the brand’s classic visual DNA.

Best Pickup: Like the Wrangler, the Jeep Gladiator limits buyers to the choice of a 285hp 3.6L V6 if they’re looking for a six-speed manual. Sure, it makes for slim pickings, but it’s worth noting that apart from the Tacoma, it’s the only mid-size truck on the market to offer a transmission option other than its standard automatic. With a rugged all-steel 5-foot cargo bed offering best in class payload and best in class towing, it’s a worthwhile alternative to Jeep’s classic off-roader for those that need some extra utility.

Vehicle Class: Pickup
Engine: 3.6L V6
Power: 285HP & 260FT-LBs
MSRP: $38,990

Ford Bronco

Ford Bronco
Photo: Ford
Why It Made The Cut
  • A revived, modern take on a 4×4 icon that boasts impressive off-roading abilities straight off the showroom floor.

Best SUV: With the return of the Bronco name comes the return of the manual transmission to Ford’s SUV platform. Although Ford is offering the Bronco with a turbocharged 2.3L four-cylinder, as well as a twin-turbo 2.7L V6, only the former will offer you the choice of a seven-speed; should you spring for the latter engine option, you’ll have to make do with a 10-speed automatic. That being said, it’s available on both the two-door and four-door body styles. With an ultra low-range granny gear positioned to the left of first, it makes for even more capability come time to venture off-road.

Vehicle Class: SUV
Engine: Turbocharged 2.3L i4 or 2.7L V6
Power: 270HP & 310FT-LBs or 330HP & 415FT-LBs
MSRP: $39,130

Honda Civic Type R

Honda Civic Type R
Photo: Honda
Why It Made The Cut
  • A range-topping hot hatch offering the perfect blend of track-ready performance and true daily driving capabilities.

Best Hot Hatch: Although the Accord comes with a row-your-own gearbox in several of its flavors, the options are limited when compared to the Civic. And besides, the smaller platform makes for a better driving experience — especially when you opt for the 315-hp Type R-spec. Capable of a roughly 5-second 0-60mph time, the Honda Civic Type R is powered by a turbocharged 2.0-liter VTEC four-banger that’s been mated to a six-speed manual transmission. Also included are upgraded Brembo brakes, a built-in data logger, Sport seats and pedals, forged wheels, and a special aero kit — all as standard amenities on this factory-built hot hatch

Vehicle Class: Hatchback
Engine: Turbocharged 2.0L Inline-Four
Power: 315HP & 310FT-LBs
MSRP: $43,795


BMW M2 Coupe
Photo: BMW
Why It Made The Cut
  • A pint-sized twin-turbocharged M car with an available manual transmission & the ability to crack the 4-second 0-60 barrier.

Best Coupe: If you’re feeling put off by the nearly 90-grand that BMW’s asking for the M2 CS, don’t fret; the Competition spec offers practically all of the same componentry in a slightly less exclusive (and therefore more affordable) package. Under the hood, it comes powered by a twin-turbo 3.0-liter inline-six good for 453hp and 406lb-ft of torque — enough to take the car to 60mph in 3.9 seconds. Riding on a set of 19″ M wheels with 6-piston front and 4-piston rear brakes, the 2-series may be the littlest BMW to get the M treatment over here in the US, but it’s just as performance-focused as its more powerful siblings. And, as you’d expect from a model on this list, it’s offered with an available manual gearbox. 

Vehicle Class: Coupe
Engine: Twin-Turbocharged 3.0L Straight-Six
Power: 453HP & 406FT-LBs
MSRP: $63,200

Chevrolet Camaro ZL1

Chevrolet Camaro ZL1
Photo: Chevrolet
Why It Made The Cut
  • An upgraded, 650-hp pony car that’s just as conducive to commuting as it is to doing laps around your local circuit.

Best Muscle/Pony Car: In a rare (but appreciated) move, Chevy makes a manual transmission available across the entirety of the 2021 Camaro lineup, in both coupe and convertible flavors. This also applies to the range-topping ZL1-spec, which, in addition to a six-speed manual with rev-matching, also packs a supercharged 6.2-liter V8 cranking out 650hp and 650ft-lbs of torque — power figures that ultimately allow for a 3.5-second 0-60mph time and a top speed of 198mph. For its extreme performance capabilities, the ZL1 also has a fairly understated appearance — at least compared to other vehicles capable of 200-mph top speeds. 

Vehicle: Sports Car/Pony Car
Engine: Supercharged 6.2L V8
Power: 650HP & 650FT-Lbs
MSRP: $69,995

Porsche 911

Porsche 911
Photo: Porsche
Why It Made The Cut
  • An eighth-generation automotive icon with true daily driving capabilities and a markedly more understated appearance than your average supercar.

Best Supercar: While Porsche purists far and wide see the 992 as something of a departure from previous generations of the 911, it does stay true to its heritage by offering an optional manual. The German automaker reintroduced a seven-speed stick-shift, giving you a three-pedal Porsche with ample opportunity for gear changes. As a true supercar, even the base model 911 offers some wildly impressive performance capabilities in the form of a 4.0-second 0-60moph time and a top speed exceeding 180mph. 

Vehicle Class: Supercar
Engine: 3.0L Straight-Six
Power: 379HP & 184FT-LBs
MSRP: $114,400

Aston Martin Vantage

Aston Martin Vantage
Photo: Aston Martin
Why It Made The Cut
  • A super-premium six-figure supercar with a 500+ HP bi-turbo V8 allowing for 3.5-second 0-60 runs & a nearly 200-mph top speed.

Best Luxury Pick: In recent years, Aston Martin made the seven-speed manual from the limited-edition AMR a standard option on the Vantage. Mated to a 503hp twin-turbo 4.0-liter V8 that’s good for 503hp, this hard-top supercar features a 0-60mph time of just 3.5s and a top speed of 195mph. To put it another way — even though AM claims that the Vantage is a “sports car” rather than a “supercar,” its performance says otherwise. It’s worth noting that in exchange for your driving pleasure, the stick-shift suffers a loss in torque compared to the automatic car — a mere 460lb-ft compared to the latter’s 505lb-ft figure.

Vehicle: Supercar
Engine: Twin-Turbocharged 4.0L V8
Power: 503hp & 460FT-LBs
MSRP: $143,900

The Best Daily Driver Sports Cars

Best Daily Driver Sports Cars 0 Hero
Photo: Porsche 911 Carrera

If you appreciate vehicles with manual transmission than you’’ almost certainly also enjoy a solid daily-drivable sports car — the latest and greatest of which we’ve highlighted in this curated guide to the best daily driver sports cars for everyday thrills.