Another Model Loses Its Manual Transmission – Editors Guides

Another Model Loses Its Manual Transmission

By Jane Davis

There’s probably no shortage of eyeball rolling over this headline, as manual transmissions wouldn’t be fading out of the marketplace if buyers actually desired one.

Once upon a time, a stick-shift guaranteed better fuel economy, but those days are pretty much gone. It was also a great way to reduce the entry price of a particular model, but automakers’ thirst for larger margins and fewer configurations means what few base, stick-shift models roll off the line are often hidden from consumer view in the real world. This only serves to sink popularity even further.

The ongoing trend has apparently reached the Honda HR-V, which undergoes a mild refresh for the 2019 model year. As part of this update, say goodbye to the six-speed manual in Honda’s smallest ‘ute.

Honda spokesperson Chris Martin confirmed to CarsDirect that the three-pedal setup disappears from the HR-V stable for 2019. The tranny served as the go-to for front-wheel-drive LX and EX trims in the United States. An extra $800 swapped the stick for a continuously variable unit that just happened to return better gas mileage — a whole three miles per gallon more on the combined cycle (31 mpg for the FWD CVT, 28 mpg for the FWD manual).

Having once driven a base FWD, manual HR-V, I found the experience obviously more engaging than coasting around in a CVT-equipped model. Honda’s traditionally low gearing and the base model’s skinny tires made the HR-V’s presence known during jackrabbit red light launches. Not boredom-inducing, at any rate.

But customers seem to prefer the seamless spool-up of a CVT, and that’s the way it is. The stick-shift HR-V’s take rate remains a mystery, though it couldn’t have been very high. (“High” meaning any figure approaching 5 percent).

With the manual bowing out of the HR-V, the smallest utility segment grows ever more devoid of sticks. Besides this year’s HR-V, buyers can choose from just the Kia Soul, which may or may not qualify as a crossover, the Jeep Renegade Sport, and the Subaru Crosstrek to satisfy their row-your-own lifestyle.

(A query sent to Honda Canada as to whether the Great White North model sees a similar powertrain change didn’t yield an answer by publication time. We’ll update this post when we hear back.)