Three subcompact SUVs available with standard transmissions
The Honda HR-V is available with a five-speed stick shift.
In the auto world, a movement has brewing in recent years known simply as “save the manuals.” In an increasingly CVT, dual-clutch and plain old automatic transmission dominated North American landscape, some manufacturers are still choosing to produce vehicles equipped with standard gearboxes, albeit only on certain models and in limited quantities (hey, we’ll take what we can get.) Surprisingly, it’s not just sports cars that are benefiting from this effort, but even small crossovers like these ones we’ve highlighted below.
For people who don’t need a full-blown crossover yet want more room than a car and all-wheel drive, it doesn’t get much better than the Clubman ALL4. Under the hood, a zippy turbocharged 2.0-litre motor serves up 189 horsepower and 207 lb-ft of torque, and towards the back there is a load of cargo space behind the second row and of course the signature dual split rear doors.
A six-speed manual is regular equipment, implementing a little electronic wizardry not immediately obvious. A special internal sensor has been outfitted enabling “active engine speed adaptation,” which in plain English means downshifts are automatically rev-matched so transitions to a lower gear are quick and smooth.
Mazda’s answer to the subcompact SUV craze is the award-winning CX-3, a vehicle built for urban adventurers. The base trim starting at $19,995 packs in a lot of features for the price including push button start, air conditioning, seven-inch touchscreen display, backup camera and most importantly, a slick shifting six-speed standard gearbox.
Any gearhead will tell you Honda has a reputation for building excellent manual transmissions, which rings true whether we’re talking about the one found in the classic S2000 or the new Civic Type-R.
The technology is proven to trickle down throughout the lineup, because while the HR-V has a CVT option, a six-speed standard tranny belonging to the same lineage is otherwise the norm front-wheel drive grades. The lever clicks into each gear with such precision and tactile feeling — and the fact that it’s mated to a peppy 141-horsepower i-VTEC engine — you almost forget you’re in a subcompact crossover.