It’s hard to deny that the sales trend over the past few years has seen the manual transmission on its way out, with the majority of motorists choosing to drive an automatic. Let’s face it, they are much easier to drive, especially for novice drivers and don’t require constant gear changes in bumper-to-bumper rush hour traffic.

Manufacturers are now offering a vast array of automatic transmissions with “manual-like experiences” like direct shift transmissions (DSG), which uses a dual clutch and a physical gear selection. But for the manual transmission enthusiasts it will never be quite the same.

For those of us who still want to learn to drive a manual transmission, AA Driving School provide driving lessons in a mix of both manual and automatic transmission depending on location. Click here from more information.

In a topsy-turvy world if you are someone who knows their way around a clutch, and enjoys that empowering sense of control, there are still some fantastic sporty models on the market, here are some of our favourites in the market this year.

Abarth 595 Competizione (Series 5) $41,990 + ORC

Fiat Abarth 595 Competizione

This feisty little number is bound to have you grinning. Powered by a 1.4-litre T-Jet engine which produces 132kW with a maximum torque of 250Nm, it also has a fuel economy rating of just 6.0L/100km. The new Abarth features a glorious Garret Turbo and a quad tailpipe with a dual exhaust mode for a more rambunctious note. Although the power specifications don’t seem all that brawny it can dash from 0 - 100 km/h in 6.7 seconds because it’s as light as a feather.

While there is a Duralogic Auto option it’s not the best choice in our opinion. The five speed manual allows you to make the most of the power available by mixing the stick. There is also a sport drive mode which is accessed via the new appropriately depicted Scorpion Button on the dashboard, this enhances the performance to new heights.

The rear shock absorbers are fashioned by Koni and enhance the driving experience in terms of handling and stability, and Brembo Brakes complete this sporty little Italian car exquisitely. It’s probably one of the most fun and quirky rides you could ever experience in a performance car of this size.

Subaru WRX Manual $48,990 + ORC

Subaru WRX Blog

In 1992 the WRX was first launched in New Zealand and gained a lot of fans as it took three consecutive manufactures titles in the WRC from 1995.

Today the entry level WRX is powered by a 2.0-litre DOHC Turbocharged classic boxer engine, which has a fuel economy rating of 9.2L/100km. This WRX variant features an innovative Dual active valve control system, to improve the power and torque delivery. It produces a generous 197kW of power at 5,600rpm and 350Nm of torque.

The entry level model features a brilliant six-speed manual transmission and power delivery is enhanced by Subaru’s Symmetrical All-Wheel Drive, along with the Vehicle Dynamics Control system with Active Torque Vectoring. These key features make it a favourable companion on twisty roads or should you choose to perhaps a day at the race track.

The latest WRX also features new 18" alloy wheels, a spruced up front grille and front bumper, being a four door saloon adds a degree of practicality too.

Toyota GR Yaris $54,990 + ORC 


The Toyota GR Yaris was the AA DRIVEN New Zealand Car of the Year for 2021!

The Toyota GR Yaris brings back nostalgic memories of the Starlet GT Turbo of the 90s. It’s funny how a new model can feel so familiar…

It was the first everyday production car to be reverse engineered by Toyota from a pure motorsport car. The GR Yaris follows in the footsteps of the GR Supra as Toyota’s second global GR model The Toyota GR Yaris uses a newly-developed inline three-cylinder 1.6-litre turbocharged engine that uses knowledge attained from motorsport technology. Its displacement is modest at just 1,618cc, but it produces 200kW and 370Nm of torque, which is very impressive.

The engine features a single-scroll ball-bearing turbo and is matched to a six-speed intelligent manual transmission, engineered to accommodate high torque levels. As a result of using carbon fibre for the roof and aluminium for the bonnet, door and tailgate body panels, the GR Yaris has a ratio of 6.4kg per kilowatt, this helps the GR Yaris hit 100km/h in just 5.2 seconds.

Hyundai i30 N Series II Hatch $58,990 + ORC

Hyundai i30 N Blog

The new Hyundai i30 N has been enhanced even further with the revised 2.0-litre turbocharged engine, now delivering 206kW with a fuel consumption of 8.oL/100km (Manual), the maximum torque has also increased to 392Nm.

New 19-inch forged alloy wheels allow a weight reduction of 14.4kg, which results in more agile handling, and as with its predecessor the new i30 N features electronically controlled suspension. Drivers also benefit from the N corner carving differential and an electronically controlled limited slip differential (eLSD). This combination of enhancements delivers a very meaningful driving experience, especially with the control of the rev matched six-speed manual transmission.

The safety suite also now includes Lane Follow Assistant, and the interior gets a mini makeover too with a larger infotainment system and our favourite - Wireless charging for your mobile, this model only went on sale last month so it would be a good idea to get in quick.

Honda Civic Type R $63,000 + ORC

CivicTypeR Blog3

The new Civic Type R offers a great selection of driving modes: Comfort, Sport and Track Focused +R. These modes fiddle with all number of things like throttle response, the adaptive dampers and even the steering force.

Underneath the hood beats a 2.0-litre, four cylinder VTEC turbo engine with a fuel economy rating of 8.8L/100km. The engine develops a maximum power output of 228kW at 6500 RPM- this lets the Type R sprint from 0-100km/h in just 5.8 seconds.

The suspension is designed to reduce torque steer and improve handling, while the Adaptive Damper System and limited-slip differential all work harmoniously and result in a pleasurable stable driving experience.

It’s not all about a need for speed with a host of safety technologies including the latest Honda SENSING suite that includes Collision Mitigation Braking, Lane Keeping Assist and Adaptive Cruise Control, making this model a sensible choice especially if you factor in Honda’s notoriously sound build quality.

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