10 reasons why automatic cars are all wrong

Leow Ju-Len

 SAM 0766

Automatic cars are lame. Everyone knows that. If you didn’t, read on to find out why driving a manual marks you out as a king among men

SINGAPORE — We’re big fans of the doing the three-pedal hokey pokey here at CarBuyer, a fact we were reminded of after driving the manual version of the new Mazda MX-5. Talk about a sweet car made infinitely sweeter by a proper gearbox.

SAM 0730

Driving it got us thinking (for a change). There is only one benefit of driving an auto — it’s easier — but we could easily think of 10 reasons we’d rather be driving stick all day.

It’s more satisfying
Getting a gearchange just right involves perfect timing and coordination between your left hand and both legs. The reward is a smooth, seamless shift that shows just what a psychomotor god you are.

It saves weight
Carmakers go to extremes to shave kilos off a car — the BMW 7 Series has carbon fibre in its body to save 40kg. A manual MX-5 is 23kg lighter than the auto. That’s a huge chunk.

It sounds way better
With a manual you can dip the clutch and rev the engine anytime you like. And if you know how to blip the throttle for downshifts, just slowing down for a routine corner sounds nice and racy.

It sounds even better on a motorcycle, so watch (and listen) as this rider gooses the accelerator with his right hand when changing down for a corner:

You (usually) go faster
Most cars perform better with manual transmissions. The MX-5, for example, does 0 to 100km/h in 7.3 seconds with a six-speed manual and 8.0 seconds with a six-speed auto. Top speed for the manual is 214km/h. The two-pedal version maxes out at 198km/h.

True, Porsches are quicker with the auto PDK transmission, but guess what? Those twin-clutch transmissions are automated manual gearboxes, not conventional autos.

You use less fuel
Most autos are just thirstier. The automatic Hyundai Accent 1.4 consumes 6.2L/100km, for instance. With a six-speed manual that drops to 5.7L/100km, about 8 percent less.

They’re cheaper to buy
The manual Accent costs $2,000 less. You can save $3,000 on an MX-5 if you choose one with three pedals.

A manual is more reliable
Very little goes wrong with a (properly used) manual gearbox. You have clutch plates that will need replacing at some point, and there are bearings and synchromesh sets that eventually wear, but a COE will expire before a well-treated manual gearbox will. Autoboxes routinely fail before then.

They’re cheaper to fix
Automatic transmissions have thousands of parts. They’re so complicated that some authorised distributors can’t fix them, and quietly farm out transmission work to outside specialists here. Apart from being mechanically robust, the manual tranny is much simpler inside. See for yourself:

You get more exercise
Admittedly we’re grasping at straws with this one, but you’re already in a car, you lazy lump. Put that left leg and left hand to work.

Fewer people will borrow your car
Yep, we’re selfish bastards.

BONUS REASON: Driving a manual car enhances your sex appeal
While we haven’t actually ascertained whether this applies to the boys at CarBuyer HQ, we’re open to studying it in great detail with volunteers. But a quick poll around the office shows that it works for women, at least.

Like being able to ride a motorcycle, play electric guitar, punch like Holly Holm or out-cuss a sailor, driving a manual car immediately boosts a girl’s appeal by a factor of several thousand. That’s just automatic.


GT4 manual mx-5 pdk transmission

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Leow Ju-Len

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