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10 Fabulous-Feeling Manual Cars to Buy in 2015

Motor Trend logo Motor Trend 3/2/2015 Benson Kong

The sky is falling! The manuals are dying! Whether it's Chicken Little or your local auto prognosticator, they're both wrong. At least for now. Fans of shifting your own gears have plenty of good models to choose from. We'll focus on the transmissions that people who love driving would appreciate.

Research

Honda Accord

2013 Honda Accord EX© Provided by MotorTrend 2013 Honda Accord EX Quite simply, the headlines are bigger if Honda puts out a manual transmission that doesn't feel fabulous to row. The four-door Accord LX, Sport, and EX trims are available with a six-speed manual (four-cylinder only), and the Accord Coupe pairs the stick with the I-4 or optional V-6.

First Test: 2013 Honda Accord EX Coupe

"It gets off the line quickly and without drama, and the only trace of torque steer comes at wide open throttle. The six-speed manual is one of the best in the business, with crisp, light throws and easy clutch pick-up that makes being stuck in traffic less of a chore."

Chevrolet Camaro Z/28

2014 Chevrolet Camaro Z28© Provided by MotorTrend 2014 Chevrolet Camaro Z28 Motor Trend 's reigning Best Driver's Car is a $75,000 tribute to everything car enthusiasts love: a Trans-Am Series throwback with 427 naturally aspirated cubic inches, a six-speed manual transmission, and no air-conditioning (a $1,150 option). Why yes, the $1,700 gas-guzzler tax is included.

2014 Motor Trend Best Driver's Car

"You can feel it in the monstrous, fadeless carbon-ceramic brakes that always returned a firm pedal and usable feel. You can feel it in the light, crisp shifter that easily outclassed any other manual present with short, precise throws."

Ford Focus ST

2015 Ford Focus ST© Provided by MotorTrend 2015 Ford Focus ST The first-generation SVT Focus had a pretty nice Getrag six-speed shifter. The current Focus ST also has a good six-speed, ideal for helping manage the 252-horsepower, turbocharged hatchback with reaction times that will make many a BMW blush on a back road.

First Drive: 2015 Ford Focus ST

"There's a meaty weight to the wheel, too, and without a plethora of driving modes to adjust the steering and throttle response, it's delightfully simple to just jump in and drive. The same could be said of the manual gearbox that snaps beautifully between the six ratios, adding another layer of interaction between the driver and machine."

Mazda MX-5 Miata

2013 Mazda MX 5 Miata© Provided by MotorTrend 2013 Mazda MX 5 Miata To quote Mazda itself on the development of its new Skyactiv manual transmission deployed in the CX-5, Mazda6, and Mazda3: "The goal was to achieve an MX-5-like sporty and brisk shift feel." There's still time to pick up a new "old" Miata before the truly new, Skyactiv-ated ND series arrives.

Comparison: 2013 Mazda MX-5 Miata Club vs. 2013 Scion FR-S

"The new-for-2013 go-fast bits on the Miata Club make the roadster that much more of a delight out on the streets. The Miata wants nothing more than to please its driver. Its shifter is phenomenal, offering short, crisp, mechanical snicks, and its four-banger is just such a sweetheart when allowed to really sing."

Scion FR-S

2013 scion FR S© Provided by MotorTrend 2013 scion FR S All right, the FR-S hasn't been lighting the sales chart up (as expected), but driving one delivers the visceral thrill of a vintage sports car (as expected). This coupe was never about making front-page numbers; fully satisfying the driver, a la the Miata, is the core mission.

First Test: 2013 Scion FR-S

"The shifter feels solid, lacking the rubbery sensation we've come to expect from the manual transmission in, say, the WRX. The gear change is short and precise, requiring good effort but without feeling notchy, as it can feel in the STI."

Subaru BRZ

2013 subaru BRZ© Provided by MotorTrend 2013 subaru BRZ Motor Trend had a long-term BRZ. That BRZ had its manual transmission's lever and linkage assembly replaced free of charge under a service bulletin claim, and that subsequently enhanced the already-approved-of shift action. We miss this long-term car.

2013 Subaru BRZ Limited Verdict

"With some help from Tire Rack in the form of Enkei RPF1 wheels and BF Goodrich R1-S R-compound tires, Burrzz and I ran three autocrosses together, even securing a couple Novice class podium finishes. With an excellent driving position, firm brake pedal, slick gear change, and easily controllable oversteer, the car is a delight to push hard."

Volkswagen Golf R

2015 Volkswagen Golf R Front Three Quarter In Motion 04© Provided by MotorTrend 2015 Volkswagen Golf R Front Three Quarter In Motion 04 The U.S. won't get the manual Golf R until later -- the DSG-equipped version launched first -- but our first encounter with a European-spec model was pretty positive. The six-speed twin-clutch automatic will be the obvious choice for customers desiring maximum performance and commute relief, but the manual is plain fun.

2015 Volkswagen Golf R Euro-Spec First Test

"The manual transmission model's brake and gas pedals are too far apart to easily employ heel-toe downshifting, and that's half the fun of driving a manual. Thankfully, the manual shifter itself is a peach. Throws are short and spacing is tight, allowing you to hit the right gear every time with a pleasant click as the cog engages."

Porsche Cayman

2014 Porsche Cayman 2 7© Provided by MotorTrend 2014 Porsche Cayman 2 7 We've gone on the record as not being the biggest fans of the Porsche 911's seven-speed manual, but the same cannot be said of the six-speed manuals residing in the Boxster and Cayman. A chance meeting with a basic Cayman wowed our testing director — his first-hand experience with sports cars dates back to long before MGs and Triumphs were considered collectibles.

2014 Porsche Cayman 2.7 First Test

"However, the instant the Cayman's 275-hp, 2.7-liter flat-six blats to life, and you toggle its liquid-shifting six-speed manual transmission into first and sharply begin move away, the car is no longer a glove. It's an extension of your nervous system."

Jeep Wrangler

2015 Jeep Wrangler Willys Wheeler Edition© Provided by MotorTrend 2015 Jeep Wrangler Willys Wheeler Edition The Wrangler has even more old-school feels than the track rat Camaro Z/28, yet it remains an ever-endearing icon with its live axles, recirculating-ball steering, and manual transmission on the floor. The shift throws are long, and reverse can be tricky to finger, but all's well when driving the Jeep-iest Jeep of them all.

2012 Motor Trend SUV of the Year Contenders

"And, yes, Jeep fans, the Wrangler continues to be true to itself. As Markus states, 'Naturally, it's a star off-road. I stopped on the steepest slope in low range and just released the clutch, no gas, and it motored up.'"

Cadillac ATS

2015 Cadillac ATS Coupe© Provided by MotorTrend 2015 Cadillac ATS Coupe For certain Cadillac fans, the idea of a manual Caddy is preposterous. But as we've seen over the past couple years, GM's luxury marque is committed to making sportier products standard. Our first run with the ATS turbo-four/six-speed manual combo wasn't great, but it looks like improvements arrived in time for our test of the ATS Coupe.

First Test: 2015 Cadillac ATS Coupe 2.0T Manual

"Unlike our previous long-term front-drive 2013 Buick Verano T's turbo 2.0-liter and manual combo, the 2015 Cadillac ATS Coupe's turbo 2.0-liter and manual combo has a much better transmission gear spread, shifter, and pedal placement, though it isn't fair to compare a front-drive, transverse-mounted transaxle to a rear-drive, longitudinally-mounted transmission setup."

Manual Transmission Cars You Can Buy in 2015© Provided by MotorTrend Manual Transmission Cars You Can Buy in 2015
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