TFL’s Top 5 Manual Transmission Cars Currently on Sale – The List:
1. Mazda MX-5 Miata (MSRP: from $24,915)
This honest-to-goodness roadster featured in nearly every TFL contributor’s top 5 list. It’s easy to see why – the MX-5 is a car that everyone should drive at least once in their lives. Mazda is largely responsible for reviving the roadster with the first generation of this car back in 1989, and have only refined it since then. The car has always stuck true to the concept of “jinba ittai” – or “the oneness of horse and rider”. It’s all about balance and harmony between the car and its driver. It may not be the most powerful car or the fastest, but the MX-5 makes the most of its 155 horsepower.
Fortunately for enthusiasts, Mazda has been something of a standard bearer for manual transmissions and internal combustion. So you can bet that as long as Mazda is making gas-powered cars, you’ll be able to experience the wholesome purity that comes with driving a manual. Its balance also makes it a hoot to drive in the snow, as the video below will attest.
2. Volkswagen Golf GTI (MSRP: from $24,995)
The Volkswagen Golf GTI is the hot hatch daddy. I’m not exaggerating when I say that either – the GTI is the longest running car on this list. Introduced in 1976, the GTI is now in its seventh generation. Again, this is a car that featured on nearly every contributor’s list. We at TFLcar are huge fans of hot hatchbacks for their cheeky performance and all-around practicality. The Golf GTI is the best of the bunch, as you would expect, since Volkswagen has had over 40 years to refine its formula.
This car, strangely, is the only front-wheel-drive car on this list. That may be down to the fact that enthusiasts who prefer manuals also tend to enjoy rear-wheel-drive for some tail-out action. Despite that, we all seem to agree that if you should drive any FWD car, it’s this one. There are other great front-drive cars around – I see you, Focus ST and Civic Type R – but you can’t beat the VW for its well-rounded character.
3. BMW M2 (MSRP: from $52,500)
This entry-level M car was at the top of my list. I love that you can get a six-speed and a 365 horsepower straight-6 shoehorned into a tiny package. Starting at just over $50,000, the M2 is also the least expensive way into M ownership. Automotive journalists the world over argue the 2 Series’ halo as the best M car made to date. Making 60 in 4.2 seconds, it’s not the fastest M car, but the willing chassis more than makes up for that. The M2 isn’t the most technology advanced model, but that hardly matters when its so much fun.
4. Toyota 86/Subaru BRZ (MSRP: from $26,255; Subaru starts at $25,495)
Another popular choice is the Toyota 86/Subaru BRZ. These twins prove that you don’t have to spend huge sums to get a fun, rear-drive sports car. It’s racy styling, while potentially controversial, will turn heads on the street. The car’s low weight and great balance paired with a six-speed manual make the car a delight to drive at any speed. While the 2.0-liter boxer engine pushes out a healthy 205 horsepower, the big argument among enthusiasts is that it could use some more oomph. Subaru and Toyota evoke a similar ethos to Mazda’s MX-5: you don’t need big horsepower to have a fun, balanced car. As I see it, they’re right: so whichever side of the argument you find yourself, this car is worth your attention. The 2017 and newer models also bear aesthetic changes from the older Scion FR-S/Subaru BRZ.
5. Dodge Challenger Hellcat (MSRP: from $62,495)
Last, but certainly not least, is the most powerful, savage, and awesome car on this list. Sure, you can have a Challenger R/T with a respectable 485 horsepower. But you don’t want that, do you? You want a muscle car that will push your limits as a driver and the limits of its own drivetrain. Enter the 707 horsepower Challenger Hellcat. For just north of $60,000, there’s no cheaper way to command so much horsepower right off the lot. Having so much horsepower does require your full attention, but the visceral thrill of breaking the rear tires loose makes that concentration well worth it. For about $25,000 more, you could have the Challenger Demon with even more power, but unfortunately your only transmission choice is an automatic. Check out the first in a video series documenting TFL’s time with the Hellcat below.
There you have it – TFL’s top 5 manual cars currently on sale. What’s your take, TFL community? What are your favorite manual cars on sale today. Leave your thoughts in the comments below!
Also, check out our lists of cars (and trucks!) with manual transmissions on sale today:
2018 Comprehensive List of Manual Cars and SUVs
Comprehensive List of 2018 Pickup Trucks with a Manual Transmission