Sad as it may be, an automaker isn’t all that smart these days if it offers a car in the U.S. with no automatic transmission option. In 2014, automatics are so good that a car exclusively offering a row-your-own gearbox probably can’t match the fuel economy or performance of its slushbox equivalent, not to mention the smaller potential for sales. But there are still five automakers holding out on the trend, and what follows is a list of the six manual-only cars left on the U.S. new car market. If you see one of these cars on the road, rest assured that whoever is behind the wheel knows how to operate a clutch pedal.
Interestingly, if we had made this list last year, it would have been a lot longer. In the past few months, many cars that were previously shift-yourself exclusives have either gone off the market (Mazdaspeed 3, Ford Shelby GT500), or have since gained automatic transmission options (Fiat 500 Abarth, Nissan 370Z Nismo, Chevrolet Corvette Z06). We included manual-only performance variants where applicable, but excluded trim levels that come only with a manual, like the Acura ILX 2.4 and some base model compact cars.
2014 SRT Viper
We were pretty shocked that the only car on this list resembling a traditional supercar is the V-10-powered, all-American SRT Viper. This 640-hp beast has a six-speed manual as standard, and bucks the trend of high-fallutin’ dual-clutch and paddle-shift gearboxes that are all the rage in all other modern supercars. For next year, the Viper will again become part of the Dodge brand as the SRT designation goes back to being a sub-brand under the dodge umbrella.
Honda has always been known for its sweet manual gearboxes, and the Civic Si sport compact of today is still a prime example of the trend. Wringing out the high-revving 2.4-liter four-cylinder is a joy thanks to the slick action of the six-speed shifter and light clutch, and the Si is available in both sedan and coupe forms that don’t give up any practicality to their mainstream Civic counterparts.
As Ford’s first hot hatch in the U.S. since the Focus SVT departed in 2004, the Focus ST took many by surprise upon its debut in 2012 with its powerful turbocharged engine and sharp handling. It’s a legitimate rival to the Volkswagen GTI, but produces way more power—252 hp, to be specific—through a one-choice-only six-speed manual transmission. It was the winner of an Automobile All-Star award in 2013.
The Focus ST’s little brother, the subcompact Fiesta ST, packs even more fun into a smaller package. We awarded this tiny hot hatch an All-Star award this year, calling it a “high-technology hot rod that dares you to drive harder and faster.” It mates a 1.6-liter turbocharged engine with a standard six-speed manual, and, thanks to its lively chassis, is guaranteed to put a grin on your face through the twisties.
This one’s a no-brainer: of course the track-oriented, hardcore, stripped-out Camaro Z/28 has a manual…it doesn’t even have a radio! This six-speed gearbox pairs with a naturally-aspirated 7.0-liter V-8 pumping out 505 hp. Everything about the Z/28 is optimized for peak performance, from its carbon-ceramic brakes to its aerodynamic body kit, to its many carbon fiber components that reduce weight by around 300 lbs compared with a Camaro ZL1.
2015 Subaru WRX STI
It’s somewhat odd that this rally-bred turbocharged Subaru is offered only as a manual, because actual rally cars of today don’t have clutch pedals at all. But while the Subaru WRX STI rally car may have a sequential, paddle-shifted gearbox, and the standard 2015 Subaru WRX now offers an optional CVT, the production Subaru WRX STI continues on with a six-speed manual that pairs with the turbocharged 2.5-liter boxer four-cylinder putting its 305 hp to all four wheels.