If you’re like me, your first car or pickup truck was bare bones, and most likely equipped with a manual transmission. Back when Honda was introduced to America in the 1960s, a manual transmission was the norm. Yes, there were automatic transmissions available back in the day. But, were mostly found in behemoth 2 ton Detroit iron wonders, lending themselves more towards the V8 of the day, and less to what driver’s considered to be underpowered 4-cylinder import cars.
Fast forward to today: It’s estimated that less than 8% of U.S. drivers can manually shift
This week Honda took a proactive approach to introducing the joy of manual shifting to a generation of mostly young drivers that know little to nothing about the synchronized operation of a foot engaged clutch, and the thoughtful, time sensitive, directive pull and subsequent gear engagement of a shift lever. Today, the automatic or CVT transmission is the auto-shift of choice, with the M.T. mostly left to sports car enthusiast and truck drivers.
I can hear the missed gear shift crunching, and engine stalling, all the way from Los Angeles, as I write this article from my desk in Eugene, Oregon -- a painful sound for a car guy that knows a thing or two about the inner workings of a manual transmission. Yet after 5 minutes or so, you two can master a manual transmission. But why bother? We spend some quality seat time on the road to the Redwoods behind the wheel of Civic Type-R.
American Honda offers a wide variety of manually shifted cars. Civic Type-R is just one of them
While you won’t find a manual transmission option for Odyssey minivan, Pilot SUV, or Ridgeline Pickup, all other Honda cars and light trucks, including the well received 2018 HR-V compact crossover, are available with an entry-level manual transmission trim package. The mind blowingly fun to drive Civic Si, and Type-R is only available with a manual transmission.
For Honda, a logical path to greater sales is consumer education. Honda’s “Shifting Gears” experience was held in Los Angeles earlier in the week in the effort to spread the joys of shifting to young millennial drivers and beyond through social media. We’ll see how that goes. Why shift manually? One reason for me is Honda’s exceptional V6 powered, manually shifted Accord Coupe.
Our friend Sage Marrie, race car driver, and master of the quick shift says it well: "There's something special, something intimate and pure about being in complete control of your car," said Sage Marie, Assistant Vice President of Honda communications. "In a fast-coming world of autonomy, we mustn't forget some of the simple joys that have been part of driving since the very beginning." I agree wholeheartedly.
Check out the following video as Honda shares the joy of manual shifting. It’s easier than you may think.