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Best Manual Transmission Cars in 2019

Jokingly referred to as a millennial theft deterrent, manual transmission cars are increasingly unpopular and sales have been dropping as a result. Still, some drivers who crave nostalgia — and greater control — prefer stick-shift cars over automatic transmission.

Those who shift toward manual transmission can enjoy a number of advantages, including potentially better gas mileage. Depending on how and where you drive, a manual transmission car can burn through 5% to 15% less gas than its automatic transmission counterpart, saving money at the gas pump. Keep in mind, though, that not all stick-shift versions of a car offer better fuel efficiency than the automatic transmission versions do.

Although some manufacturers are dropping manual transmission models altogether and many no longer require buyers to pay extra for automatic drive, several carmakers still offer manual drive cars as part of the standard base package. If you’re driven to get behind the wheel of a stick-shift car, we’ve assembled 10 options that you might want to look at, based on reviews from consumers on Edmunds and Kelley Blue Book (KBB) automotive experts, as well as safety ratings. (All ratings are up to date at time of publication.)

Best budget manual transmission cars

  • 2019 Hyundai Accent
  • 2019 Kia Soul
  • 2019 Hyundai Elantra
  • 2019 Kia Forte

Best mid-priced manual transmission cars

  • 2019 Toyota Corolla
  • 2019 Subaru Crosstrek
  • 2019 Honda Accord

Sportiest manual transmission cars

  • 2019 Subaru Impreza
  • 2019 Subaru WRX

Best budget manual transmission cars

The cars that follow all having starting MSRPs below $20,000.

2019 Hyundai Accent

MSRP: $14,995
Not yet reviewed by KBB experts or consumers on Edmunds
IIHS Top Safety Pick

Standout features of this sedan include its great value and 100,000-mile/10-year powertrain warranty. Only the base SE trim package comes with manual transmission, a transmission which boasts a combined city/highway mpg of 32.05. Critics have praised the Accent’s solid ride, relatively noise-free cabin and roomy interior, and it’s also hailed for its sportiness and nimbleness. However, reviewers knock the Accent for deficiencies such as less-than-desirable cloth seats, a lack of certain safety features, except with the top trim package, and an absence of onboard navigation. While there’s no onboard navigation, available features as Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are incorporated into the Accent’s infotainment system. In short, if you’re a budget-conscious driver in search of a manual transmission car, the Accent may be what you’ll want in your garage or driveway.

2019 Kia Soul

MSRP: $16,490
4.3 out of 5 by KBB experts; 4.5 out of 5 by consumers on Edmunds (19 reviews)
IIHS Top Safety Pick; 5 stars NHTSA

The base version of the 2019 Kia Soul is the only trim level that comes with six-speed manual transmission. But even the base model is loaded with some nifty features, such as a 1.6-liter, four-cylinder engine, 16-inch alloy wheels, rear privacy glass, Bluetooth, a 5-inch touchscreen, a USB port, and a six-speaker sound system with a media player interface, an auxiliary audio jack and satellite radio. The plus sides for the Kia Soul include solid safety ratings, a nice-looking cabin — assuming you’re a fan of its boxy shape — and passenger space that rivals that of some of its SUV counterparts. Subtracting from those positives are the weak fuel economy (combined city/highway mpg of 26.7) and the lack of all-wheel drive.

2019 Hyundai Elantra

MSRP: $17,100
4.5 out of 5 by KBB experts; 4.5 out of 5 by consumers on Edmunds (2 reviews)
IIHS Top Safety Pick+

This sedan offers not one, but two options for manual transmission: the base SE trim and the Sport trim ($22,600 MSRP). Critics commend the 2019 Elantra for its spiffy exterior, new infotainment system, nice ride and quiet cabin, as well as the 10-year/100,000-mile warranty. Yet one of the drawbacks of the Elantra is the lack of pep from the SE’s 2.0-liter engine. Among the basics for the SE trim are a Bluetooth-enabled phone system, USB and auxiliary input jacks and a six-speaker sound system. Move up to the Sport model, and you gain standard features such as leather seating, SiriusXM satellite radio, a 7-inch touchscreen (versus the the SE’s 5-inch touchscreen), and Android Auto and Apple CarPlay capabilities. With city/highway fuel economy clocking in a 29 mpg, the Elantra might not be the best gas-sipping car on the road, but the 2019 version is hardly disappointing, thanks to a substantial makeover and a suite of safety features that you might not even find with some luxury cars.

If you want more pep, another option in the Elantra family is the GT — the Elantra GT N Line, not yet available on Hyundai’s website, replaces the 2018 GT Sport, according to KBB. The N Line has been successful for Hyundai’s sporty Veloster, but it means a pricier ride than either the 2019 Elantra sedan or regular 2019 Elantra GT hatchback. The GT N line has a standard six-speed manual transmission as well as a turbocharged 1.6-liter, four-cylinder engine.

2019 Kia Forte

MSRP: $17,790
not yet reviewed by KBB experts; 4.5 out of 5 by consumers on Edmunds (2 reviews)
IIHS Top Safety Pick+

Thanks to a combined city/highway mpg of 31 and a 10-year, 100,000-mile drivetrain warranty, this sedan warrants a look; keep in mind, however, that the manual transmission is available only with the FE trim. Some of the bells and whistles of the FE include lane-departure warning; emergency braking assistance; a remote anti-theft alarm system; USB functionality; heated mirrors; a cargo net, tray and mat; mud guards; all-season tires; and a paint protection package. Overall, the completely redesigned 2019 Forte wins accolades for offering a slew of features at a reasonable price, as well as providing wallet-friendly fuel economy. However, critics complain about the lacking ride quality — Edmunds’ expert review calls it “stiff,” though “not harsh” — and the not-so-spacious back seat. Its sister hatchback — available only in 2018 models, at time of publication — offers a manual transmission, too, but as an upgrade on its highest trim level for a total starting price of $26,100.

Best mid-priced manual transmission cars

The cars that follow all having starting MSRPs above $20,000, topping out $26,000.

2019 Toyota Corolla

MSRP: $21,865
4.6 out of 5 by KBB experts; 4.2 out of 5 by consumers on Edmunds experts (10 reviews)
5 stars NHTSA; IIHS Top Safety Pick

Though its 6.5 out of 10 rating by Edmunds experts diverges from the 4.6 out of 5 from KBB experts, consumers on both sites seem to like it — therefore, we feel comfortable recommending the SE 4-door sedan with manual transmission. It’s the Corolla’s sole sedan with stick-shift options; however, new hatchback versions with manual drive are available, starting at $19,990 for the SE. Highlights of the SE sedan include lane-departure warning, front and rear head airbags, emergency braking assistance, a remote anti-theft alarm system and a pre-collision safety system. In addition, there’s three months of satellite radio service, USB functionality, keyless ignition, an all-weather floor liner package and alloy wheel locks. However, air conditioning doesn’t come standard, and the SE lacks Apple Play and Android Auto features. Overall, though, the Corolla rises above some of its competitors because of its wealth of safety features, and its solid value, quality and fuel economy. Its combined 30 mpg puts it around — or slightly above — competitors on this list.

2019 Subaru Crosstrek

MSRP: $21,895
Expert review unavailable on KBB; 4.2 out of 5 by consumers on Edmunds (29 reviews)
5 stars NHTSA; IIHS Top Safety Pick+

The base 2.0i and 2.0i Premium (which costs $1,000 more than the basic trim level) are the only manual transmission options among the six versions of this crossover SUV. No matter which Crosstrek you pick, though, you’ll find a roomy interior, robust safety features and a solid ride. On the flip side, though, handling lags behind some of its crossover competitors and highway acceleration is sluggish. In addition, the mpg of 23 city and 29 highway for the manual transmission model falls short of some of its rivals. Despite the relatively low gas mileage, the standard features aren’t shabby at all, such as Apple CarPlay and Android Auto integration, 8.7 inches of ground clearance, available EyeSight driver-assist technology and 17-inch alloy wheels.

2019 Honda Accord

MSRP: $26,180
4.7 out of 5 from KBB experts; 4.8 out of 5 by consumers on Edmunds (4 reviews)
IIHS Top Safety Pick

The 2019 Honda Accord, a favorite of reviewers, delivers two stick-shift options: the 4-door Sport sedan with a 1.5-liter engine and the 4-door Sport sedan with a 2.0-liter engine (MSRP of $30,710). Critics rave about the Accord’s muscular engine, wide-open interior and fun-to-drive nature, yet they give it low marks for the relative lack of quietness and the uncomfortably low seats. Furthermore, fuel economy isn’t ideal: 26 city/35 highway for the 1.5-liter Sport and 22 city/32 highway for the 2.0-liter Sport. Nonetheless, the Accord stands tall as one of the best-rated manual transmission cars on our list. (By the way, an Accord cousin, the Honda Civic, has two trim packages that come with manual transmission: the LX and the Sport.)

Sportiest manual transmission cars

In describing these two cars as sporty, we primarily considered their on-the-road, race car-like handling versus the other manual transmission cars we reviewed.

2019 Subaru Impreza

MSRP: $18,595
4.3 out of 5 from KBB experts; 5.0 out of 5 by consumers on Edmunds (7 reviews)
IIHS Top Safety Pick+; 5 stars NHTSA

Manual transmission is available with four 2019 Subaru Impreza models: the 2.0i 4-door sedan, the 2.0i hatchback, and the Sport versions of the 2.0i sedan and hatchback (with the highest MSRP sitting at $22,695). As compact cars go, the Subaru Impreza is notable because it supplies standard all-wheel drive, along with a quiet, comfortable, roomy interior. However, the acceleration leans toward the slow side and the interior isn’t as impressive as the interiors of some of its competitors. Among the outstanding high-tech features are standard Apple CarPlay and Android Auto capabilities, and the optional EyeSight driver-assist system.

2019 Subaru WRX

MSRP: $27,195
Expert review unavailable on KBB; 5.0 out of 5 consumers on Edmunds (5 reviews)
IIHS Top Safety Pick+

The sporty 2019 Subaru WRX is a virtual playground for lovers of the stick shift. Six of the eight WRX trim packages come equipped with six-speed manual transmission, from the lowest-end 4-door, all-wheel-drive sedan to the highest-end 4-door, all-wheel-drive STI Limited with low-profile trunk spoiler. Performance reigns as one of the hallmarks of the WRX and WRX STI, thanks to a turbocharged 2.0-liter or 2.5-liter engine, speedy acceleration, top-notch handing and full-time all-wheel drive. However, that performance comes at the expense of substantial wind and road noise and a subpar interior. And if you’re looking for fuel economy, you might want to look elsewhere — the combined city/highway mpg is just 23.

Methodology

For this list, we considered only those 2019 cars with at least a 4 out of 5 from consumers on Edmunds consumers and/or a 4 out of 5 from KBB experts, as well as a 5-star safety rating from NHTSA and/or top-pick status from IIHS. In many cases, Edmunds, KBB, NHTSA and IIHS ratings were not available for every 2019 model on our list. The MSRP is for base models unless otherwise noted. MSRP’s listed in this article are accurate as of the date of publishing.

Financing a manual transmission car

Though many of the cars on this list are relatively inexpensive, you’ll probably need an auto loan in order to finance one. Potential lenders include a credit union, bank or online lender. Apply to a few in order to compare offers and see which one is best for you before heading to the car lot. Dealers are often able to raise your APR and make a profit off your loan, not just your car. The best way to avoid this is to go in with a preapproved auto loan in hand, so you know what APR you deserve and ask the dealer to beat it. On LendingTree, you could fill out an online form and receive up to five potential auto loan offers from lenders at once, instead of filling out five different lender applications.

 

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