Save the Manuals

Cars.com survey reveals surprising facts about manual transmissions

The Volkswagen Jetta is one of the models still sold with a manual transmission.

Photo courtesy of Volkswagen AG

It's National Stick Shift Day and while that has little consequence for a large swath of the population, there are still a fair amount of passionate manual transmission advocates out there.

According to Edmunds, in 2020 just 41 of the 327 new car models 13 percent) sold in the U.S. is offered with a manual transmission. A decade ago, 37 percent were sold with that style transmission. Why? Simply put, the demand isn't there so automakers have stopped selling them. Also, automatic transmissions have gotten better generally offering better fuel economy than manuals.

2020 Mazda MX-5 Miata The Mazda MX-5 Miata is famously sold with a six-speed manual transmission.Photo courtesy of Mazda North American Operations

Cars.com recently surveyed 500 adults to find out more about their history with the manual transmission and current driving habits.

Sixty percent of women and 84 percent of men surveyed said that they know how to drive a manual transmission. Most learned to drive it when they were young. Twelve percent learned before they were 15, 36 percent when they were high school aged, and 18 percent when they were college aged. Thirteen percent learned when they were over 40.

Moms are generally not the ones teaching manual transmission driving lessons. Thirty-seven percent were taught by their dad and 21 percent responded that a friend taught them or they were self-taught. Seventeen percent were taught by a driving instructor.

Most of the models offered with a manual transmission come from companies that produce products designed to be sold in Europe as well as the U.S. Five- and six-speeds are more popular across the pond. However, the influx of hybrid, plug-in hybrid, and battery electric vehicles as a result of government regulation may be having the percentage of manual transmission drivers decreasing.

In the U.S., 23 percent of those surveyed that said they drive a manual transmission car own a BMW. Eleven percent drive a manual Toyota while nine percent were with Honda. Six percent of the audience drove a Ford or an Audi.

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Nuts & Bolts

 
 

The new RM20e Racing Midship Sports Car showcases the future of the Hyundai brand.

Photo courtesy of Hyundai Motor Group

Hyundai debuted the RM20e Racing Midship Sports Car this week, showcasing what isn't the beginning but what is very much the future of what the Hyundai brand will offer. The electric-based high-performance race car, like those designed by other manufacturers is a proving ground for technologies that may be employed in Hyundai passenger vehicles in the future.

Hyundai has been quite open about this calling the platform the RM20e is based on, the RM development platform, will be used for future N brand products that are inspired by the car. This follows as part of the progressive evolution of the car with previous iterations bearing the names RM14, RM15, RM16 and RM19.

RM20e Racing Midship Sports Car

Photo courtesy of Hyundai Motor Group

Hyundai's first electric race car was developed for the eTCR electric touring car series in 2019 - the Veloster N eTCR.

"Our new electrified RM20e pushes the proven RM platform forcefully into a new, environmentally-focused decade of the 21st century, stretching the performance envelope of electrification on normal road environments," said Albert Biermann, President and Head of Research and Development Division at Hyundai Motor Group. "RM20e represents a revolutionary new chapter of electrified performance for the Racing Midship series, and our N engineers continue to garner valuable insights in the arena of zero-emission performance dynamics."

The mid-engined, rear-wheel drive RM20e features a powertrain that achieves 810 horsepower and 708 pound-feet of torque thanks to its electric motor. It can get from zero to 62 mph in less than three seconds and to 124 mph from a standstill in 9.88 seconds.

Hyundai says that the RM20e combines "race car-like levels of performance, balance, braking, and grip while retaining daily-driver quietness, responsiveness and road-going capability".

The propulsion system driving the car, as well as the equipment that helps it achieve the "race car-like levels of performance, balance, braking, and grip" are part of Hyundai's larger plant to develop hybrid, plug-in hybrid, battery, and fuel cell electric vehicles.

Hyundai isn't working alone. The company has formed a strategic partnership with Rimac Automobili to co-develop battery and fuel cell electric vehicle prototypes.

Additionally, Hyundai Motor Group, the parent company of the Hyundai, Genesis, Kia, and new Ioniq brand, has committed to addinng 44 "eco-friendly" models by 2025.

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The 2020 Toyota Yaris punches above its weight.

Photo courtesy of Toyota Motor Sales U.S.A. Inc.

Folks are always fascinated about what I do for a living. "Oh, you drive a different car every week? That's so exciting!"

What follows is a fairly predictable set of questions. "What's your favorite car?" (Rolls-Royce Wraith). "Have you ever driven on a race track?" (Numerous times.) "What's the fastest you've driven?" (180 MPH in a Porsche Panamera on the Autobahn in Germany.)

But then I'll start asking them questions, trying to learn about what they drive and why. What car do you have and why did you buy it? What other cars did you consider? What do you look for in an automobile?

2020 Toyota Yaris The Yaris has Toyota looks up front.Photo courtesy of Toyota Motor Sales U.S.A. Inc.

It's my own form of market research. I can't review a car if I don't understand who my reader is and how to best guide them. It's part of why I don't dive too deep into horsepower and performance figures — I've found that, performance cars excepted, most vehicles perform adequately for the everyday tasks that people buy them for.

That brings us to this week's car, which is perhaps one of the least-interesting cars I've tested — but in a very good way. The sub-$20,000 2020 Toyota Yaris Hatchback is aimed solidly at folks who want an affordable, entry-level vehicle that's safe, practical, and with just a touch of luxury-ishness.

My tester was the (slightly) fancier XLE trim, pricing out at $19,680. It's equipped with an adequate if unexciting 1.5-liter four-cylinder engine churning out a whopping 106-horsepower. The engine might be tiny, but it comes with the added bonus of 32/40/35 mpg (city/highway/combined) fuel economy. It's paired to a six-speed automatic transmission (and a real transmission too, not a continuously variable unit that some folks love to hate).

2020 Toyota Yaris The hatchback is convenient but the car also comes in a sedan variant.Photo courtesy of Toyota Motor Sales U.S.A. Inc.

It has 16-inch wheels, a bunch of airbags, LED headlights, rain-sensing windshield wipers, and a seven-inch color touch screen complete with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. It has push-button start, keyless entry, and power windows, locks and mirrors. Oh, and there's automatic climate control too, which I've seen missing on cars that cost way more than this.

Here's where things get a bit confusing. Toyota sells the Yaris in other markets around the world, and it's their own in-house vehicle. But the Yaris sold in America is a rebadged Mazda2 that's assembled at Mazda's facility in Salamanca, Mexico. It's related to the Toyota Yaris sedan which used to be called the Scion iA, which is also built by Mazda, but also has the Toyota brand on it.

Whatever.

2020 Toyota Yaris The Yaris rides okay, about what you’d expect for a sub-$20,000 vehicle.Photo courtesy of Toyota Motor Sales U.S.A. Inc.

I've driven a lot of Mazdas and a lot of Toyotas, and it's obvious to me that this is a Mazda. That's not a bad thing. Mazdas vehicles have punched above their weight for a long time (I had a 2011 Mazda3 for years, and I've praised them frequently in these pages), bringing both upscale materials and design to lower-priced segments. That's true here too. The Mazda2 — I mean, Toyota Yaris Hatchback — doesn't feel like a stripped down econobox. It's small and maneuverable and the engine, though a little noisy, gets you through traffic nicely.

It's a great new car for a teenager or for someone looking to spend as little money on a new car as possible. New cars, after all, come with new car warranties and can appeal to folks who don't want to imagine what came before when buying something used.

The Yaris competes with the Honda Fit, which is a perennial favorite in this class, and it seems a little nicer and a little more polished, though with less rear-seat legroom if you anticipate carrying adults back there.

2020 Toyota Yaris Even low-cost models have an infotainment screen these days.Photo courtesy of Toyota Motor Sales U.S.A. Inc.

The front is comfortable and attractive enough, with solid buttons and knobs and dials that are all pleasing to touch and fiddle with (which isn't as common as you'd think). It seems to be a better car than it's bargain-basement price would indicate, with a solid ride, comfortable seats and two reliable names behind it.

I took it to Costco (as I have with all my COVID-era test drives) and, with the 60/40 seats folded down, was able to fill it with ease. It swallowed up toilet paper and paper towels and a case of Diet Dr. Pepper and all manner of other things. It's no Rolls-Royce Wraith, but I'd be happy to recommend the little Yaris to someone looking for a new car that won't break the bank.

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