Cars Direct has a great piece on a trend we all new was eventually coming. Automakers are beginning to position the manual transmission as a premium option or worse, limiting it to higher-end configurations or models.
The all new Mazda 3 is a great example of this. While it starts at $21,895, the only way to get the manual is move up to the $28,395 Premium hatchback — a $6,500 step up in price. The previous generation Mazda 3 Sport offered a manual for as little as $20,240. That’s a $8,100 premium for someone looking to upgrade.
The Hyundai Elantra and Honda Civic hatch also are following this trend of recasting manuals as premium, sport oriented options. Then there’s the entire BMW brand which has committed to the manual but for only the M brand. The standard “Series” cars have sadly (and systematically) eliminated all manuals from their line-up with the exception of the 2 Series and the 4 Series coupe. And the latter will go all automatic when the new generation drops late this year. That means if you want a manual 3 or 4 series you’ll need to step up to an 70k M3 or M4.
The State of the Manual Transmission in MINIs in the US
Luckily MINI USA is bucking this trend. In every the lowest price “Classic” configuration of every MINI mode you can get a no-cost manual transmission (with the exception of the hybrid). In talking with MINI USA recently they reinforced their commitment to the manual transmission and are in fact leaning in to it as a differentiator they have with the rest of the marketplace.
That said there will be some bad news later this year when the upgraded 302 hp JCW Countryman and Clubman arrive as automatic only. And are sources are will resolute that the 2020 GP will indeed be automatic only.
Still we have to appreciate what we have with these cars. For 22,600 you can get the excellent F56 Cooper with a manual and plenty of standard equipment. There are plenty that will say other cars offer more for the money but in our minds it’s the best small hatch on sale in the US at that price. And being able to get a manual makes it even more sweet.