More than a year ago, I wrote an article for another website sharing why I’d prefer a car with a manual transmission (MT) despite the traffic in the city. For sure you’ve seen it in your Facebook feed because it gets a lot of engagement every time it’s reposted. The gist is, I like the control it gives me and the pleasure I get once the traffic lightens up. Well times have changed and now I have a different opinion on the matter.
I wrote that at a time when there were still window hours in traffic inside the city that allowed me to tolerate the hassle of the clutch. All I had to do was get to work earlier and come home later to avoid the snail’s pace of cars on the road. However, once that article was over and I moved to an automatic again, I realized I was fooling myself.
Going for a car with MT usually means accepting that you’ll lose out on toys the upper variants have. It can be a better head unit, aircon control, additional safety features like speed-sensing door locks, or even exterior touches that add beauty to the car like nicer alloy wheels. Some might say the said features are plain vanity and you can live without them, which is true. However, you can’t deny that having them adds a lot of functionality in your daily drive, and the additional expense is negligible once you break it down into monthly payments.
Exceptions to this are cars like the Swift and Vios. They have mid-variants with MT that have the same features as their automatic counterpart in that level. But even if you get one of these, it still won’t erase the fact that most of the time, you’ll be stuck in traffic and your leg will be sore from all the clutchwork necessary. Choosing MT over a ‘matic borders on masochism, just so you can claim to be a real driver.
But what does driving with an MT really mean? Well, it’s just like what I’ve said before – it’s all about control and pleasure. It’s just that, it’s not attainable anymore here in Metro Manila or in other major cities. Shifting manually while your engine is roaring above 5,000 RPM can only happen for a few hundred meters or seconds before you encounter another build up. The rest of the time, you’ll be struggling with your clutch in bumper to bumper traffic. It brings the question, why would you choose an MT when you can only really appreciate it on Sunday, if you drive on roads not connected to malls.
The only time I see myself going for an MT is if it’s a driver’s car, like the Honda Civic Type-R or the Mazda Miata. Apart from the control they give you, they have other factors like handling, better engines, and a precise manual transmission, that all adds up to a superior driving experience in a class of its own. Otherwise, going for a plain MT is not worth it.
Besides, the downsides of the automatic have been debunked for years now. It’s already as fuel efficient as the manual, it has become as reliable if you keep up with your PMS, and they’re not sluggish anymore. Combine that with having better features most of the time, and you’ll really run out of reasons why you should choose an MT.