Ask TFL: Best Manual Transmission Family Sedan

Best manual transmission family sedan
[Photo: Honda]
We get emails all the time asking us about the right car in a given price range. However, our question today resonated strongly among the TFL staff, as it had to do with manual transmission vehicles. As we all know by now, the manual transmission is a dying breed, becoming harder and harder to find in a new vehicle. However, finding a manual transmission family sedan is notoriously difficult these days. TFL community member Satya Immani wants to know if there are any family sedans with a manual transmission that are available in the price range of $22,000-$25,000. Satya pointed out that the 2018 Honda Accord and Mazda 6 are two such vehicles. Both of these are great options, and are probably the two best options out there in terms of size and value.

Best manual transmission family sedan
[Photo: Mazda]
There are a number of other options. But they are all only available if you want to step down to a compact. As far as mid-size goes, the Honda Accord and Mazda 6 are your only (new) options. However, some small families could probably get away with compacts, and that expands the field a bit:

Small Family Sedans with a Manual Transmission (Base MSRP):

2018 Chevy Cruz (gasoline/diesel) – $17,850/$24,670

2018 Hyundai Elantra Sport – $21,800

2018 VW Jetta – $18,645

2018 Ford Focus Sedan – $17,525

2017 Mitsubishi Lancer – $17,795

Although it is a little out of the given price range, the 2018 Subaru WRX starts at $26,995 and offers by far the most horsepower of all these options, and all-wheel drive.

However, I still feel that Satya had originally picked out the best two contenders for a manual transmission family sedan. Let’s go a little more in-depth on these options to help you determine which would be the better option for you.

2018 Honda Accord Sport – $25,780

2018 Honda Accord Sport 1.5L Turbo 6-speed manual

In order to get the manual transmission in this price range, you won’t be able to get the 2.0-liter turbocharged engine, unfortunately. However, you still get access to the 1.5-liter, turbocharged four-cylinder. This little engine makes an impressive 192 horsepower and 192 lb-ft of torque. Power is sent to the front wheels through that 6-speed manual that we are after. Fuel economy is pretty good, with 26 City/35 Highway/30 Combined MPG ratings.

Being a Honda, this Accord will certainly stay the course, and comes with plenty of standard equipment. The sport trim comes with an 8-inch touchscreen infotainment system (with Apple Car Play and Android Auto), a leather wrapped steering wheel and a power adjustable driver’s seat. Not bad for a shade over $25,000.

2018 Mazda 6 – Price Unknown (2017 Price – $21,945)

[Photo: Mazda]
The 2018 Mazda 6 came out at the LA auto show promoting a brand-new turbocharged 2.5L four-cylinder motor. However, to get the manual, you will have to stick with the naturally aspirated 2.5L four-cylinder. This engine makes 184 horsepower and 185 lb-ft of torque. That’s decent power, but the 6 is no rocket ship. Power is sent to the front wheels through a delightfully precise 6-speed manual transmission. New for 2018 is a cylinder deactivation system that should improve fuel economy. As it stands, fuel economy isn’t bad anyway. It’s a bit lower than the Honda, at 24 City/34 Highway/28 Combined MPG.

Standard equipment on the Mazda 6 Sport is pretty close to the Accord. You get a 7″ MazdaConnect touchscreen display, but it doesn’t (yet) support Android Auto/Apple CarPlay. However, you do also get a leather wrapped steering wheel, backup camera, and otherwise one of the nicest interiors in the class. If you spend $24,195 for the Touring model, you also get heated seats, navigation and keyless entry.

Best Manual Transmission Family Sedan – Recommendation:

Which car is best is certainly a matter of opinion. Each car is better in certain aspects. Looks are always subjective, but the Mazda takes the edge in the styling department for me. The Accord looks a bit too much like…well, an Accord. It’s not bad, but it may not feel particularly special for you each time you look at it. On the other hand, the Mazda has great lines and styling.

Satya mentioned that he was looking for some more engagement compared to his 2016 Hyundai Sonata. In this department, the Mazda wins once again. Mazda is one of only a handful of companies that still hold driving enjoyment very close to their heart. As such, most of their cars are quite fun to drive, and much more engaging than an Accord. The Accord is a great all-rounder, but its more or less one-size-fits-all approach means its not particularly masterful in any one area.

That, plus the significantly cheaper price tag has me leaning towards the Mazda as my choice, as well. However, if you are looking for comfort above other considerations, the Accord would be a better bet. Furthermore, the Accord’s turbocharged engine will give it a slight speed advantage over the Mazda 6.

I encourage you to go out and drive both to see which manual transmission family sedan you like best.

Hope this helps! Thanks for the great question. For more manual goodness, check out our comprehensive list of 2018 cars with a manual transmission.

If you have any questions for us here at TFL, please send an email to and we will do our best to provide some helpful advice!