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5 Underrated Japanese Cars You Can Get With A Manual

These models from Toyota, Mazda, and Honda are some of the last that combine manual transmission and a practical package, while being engaging and affordable.

As a car enthusiast and journalist, it's easy for me to lose hours, searching for the best possible deals. As a driving enthusiast, I am particularly fond of models that were offered with a manual transmission when new.

Sadly, these are getting harder to find due to tiny demand. In 2023, just 1.7 percent of new cars were equipped with a manual transmission. Ironically, this is almost a 100-percent increase compared to 2021, so there is still hope for the manual. 

But when it comes to mainstream models that aren't necessarily aimed at enthusiast drivers, things are still looking bleak for the stick. Below, I've gathered five Japanese models that are still relatively new.

Some of them are still in production although the manual transmission has been phased out for most trims. I think it is important to look at these models since they are affordable, reliable, and still offered with a manual transmission for a very reasonable price.  

2016-2019 Honda Civic Si 

2020 Honda Civic Si Coupe

The tenth-generation Honda Civic was the last generation of the Japanese best-seller to offer the mildly-sporty, Si model in coupe body style. Despite the model's controversial and more youthful looks, the Civic Si coupe is still a solid choice for those seeking a compact, two-door coupe with solid underpinnings that are easy on the wallet.  

Uncharacteristically, the 2016 Honda Civic Si scored only slightly above average in terms of reliability. J.D. Power gave a score of 3.5 out of 5 while scored the Civic Si reliability 4.6 out of 5.

The reliability issues have mostly to do with the 1.5-liter turbocharged inline-four engine, which was known to suffer from failing fuel injectors and head-gasket failure. A rather uncommon issue is oil dilution.  

My pick would be the base K20C engine, which is normally-aspirated, and of proven design.  The six-speed manual transmission was available on both engine options. Average prices on the used car market for the 2016-2019 Honda Civic Si coupe start from around $19,500.  

2016-2019 Honda Civic Si Coupe Specifications 

  • Engine: 2.0-liter, DOHC, naturally-aspirated, inline-four K20C 
  • Output: 158 horsepower at 6,500 RPM, 138 pound-feet at 4,200 RPM 
  • 0-60 MPH: 7.8 seconds 
  • Average fuel economy (EPA): 30 MPG – 26 MPG city, 37 MPG highway 
  • Reliability score: 4.6/ 5 ( 

2018-2022 Toyota Corolla SE Apex 

2024 Toyota Corolla Hatchback Nightshade

When enthusiasts hear Corolla and fun, they immediately think of the rally-bred GR Corolla hot hatchback. While that one makes great use of the GR Yaris’ potent, inline-three engine, there is another Corolla that is a bit more under the radar, but no less deserving of attention.

While you can still buy the current Toyota Corolla in SE Apex trim, 2022 was the last year you could opt for the six-speed manual. Blame the almost non-existent demand.  

While Corolla SE Apex models after 2022 are stuck with the boring CVT, all SE Apex Corollas came with an M20 engine, which shares much of its architecture with the GR Supra base engine. Despite that, the Corolla SE Apex is one of the more underappreciated Toyota models.

Despite some complaints about the paint quality, the Corolla is as reliable as always. Examples of the Corolla SE Apex with the six-speed manual are difficult to find, but if you do, the average price on the used market is $24,760.

2018-2022 Toyota Corolla SE Apex Specifications  

  • Engine: 2.0-liter, DOHC, naturally-aspirated inline-four 
  • Output: 168 horsepower at 6,600 RPM, 155 pound-feet at 4,800 RPM 
  • 0-60 MPH: 7.3 seconds 
  • Average fuel economy (EPA): 31 MPG – 28 MPG city, 37 MPG highway 
  • Reliability score: 85/ 100 (J.D. Power), 4.3/ 5 ( 


2022- Acura Integra A-Spec 

2023 Acura Integra A-Spec

The Acura Integra officially made a comeback in 2022 and while it wasn't what die-hard JDM fans wanted, it still has plenty of great features to offer. Last year, Acura came out with the new, high-performance Integra Type-S, which upgrades on the foundations of what is considered to be the best, front-wheel-drive car – the Honda Civic Type-R.  

While there is much to love about the new Acura Integra Type-S, the base variant can offer a similarly engaging experience for a lot less money. The base variant can only be had with a CVT transmission, so you'll have to go for the A-Spec model if you want the six-speed manual.

Going with the stick will not provide Type-S performance levels, but it will provide a similarly engaging driving experience. The Integra is still a new model and only now we are starting to see them creep below the $30,000 mark. 

2022- Acura Integra A-Spec Specifications 

  • Engine: 1.5-liter, DOHC, turbocharged inline-four 
  • Output: 200 horsepower at 6,000 RPM, 192 pound-feet at 1,800-5,000 RPM 
  • 0-60 MPH: 7.0 seconds 
  • Average fuel economy (EPA): 30 MPG – 26 MPG city, 36 MPG highway 
  • Reliability score: 4.6/ 5 ( 

2019-2024 Mazda 3 2.5 Premium 

2024 Mazda 3 Homura

The Mazda 3 is in its fourth generation, which has been around since 2019. Thanks to Mazda's Kodo design, the hatchback looks like it just made a debut.

Despite not bringing the much-needed MazdaSpeed 3 successor, the Mazda 3 still features a potent powertrain in the 2.5-liter, turbocharged model. If you are looking for a manual transmission, however, the range-topping model will not provide one. 

That's where the Mazda 3 2.5 Premium comes in. It is in this trim you can get Mazda's 2.5-liter Skyactiv engine mated to a six-speed manual. The only catch is you will have to settle for the non-turbocharged version, which isn't as terrible as it sounds.

The Mazda 3 is considered among the most reliable hatchbacks out there. Most issues are minor and concern the infotainment system and lighting. I found very few manual examples of the Mazda 3. The average price on the used market is $26,650. 

2019-2024 Mazda 3 2.5 Premium Specifications 

  • Engine: 2.5-liter, DOHC, naturally-aspirated inline-four 
  • Output: 186 horsepower at 6,000 RPM, 186 pound-feet at 4,000 RPM 
  • 0-60 MPH: 7.2 seconds 
  • Average fuel economy (EPA): 30 MPG – 26 city, 36 highway 
  • Reliability score: 4.0/5 (, 5/ 5 ( 

2018-2023 Honda Accord Sport 2.0 Turbo 

2018 Honda Accord Sport

I would argue that the Honda Accord Sport 2.0 Turbo is the best value-for-money Japanese sedan you can get on the market. I am particularly fond of the tenth generation, over the current one, for a few valid reasons.

The first one concerns the range-topping powertrain. It is the K20 turbocharged engine, found in the Civic Type-R and Integra Type-S, albeit with a smaller turbocharger for improved response. 

The second one is the Honda Accord's average price on the used market, which is $23,100, for the 2.0-liter variant. The third one concerns reliability, which in typical Honda fashion, is very high, and only got better with later model years.

You should still beware of high-mileage, hybrid variants, though. Honda had serious issues when it first started offering hybrid versions of the Accord. 

2018-2022 Honda Accord Sport 2.0 Turbo specifications 

  • Engine: K20C4, 2.0-liter, DOHC, turbocharged inline-four 
  • Output: 252 horsepower at 6,500 RPM, 273 pound-feet at 1,500-4,000 RPM 
  • 0-60 MPH: 5.8 seconds 
  • Average fuel economy (EPA): 26 MPG – 22 MPG city, 32 MPG highway 
  • Reliability score: 4.8/ 5 (, 9/10 (Vehicle History) 

About the author

Dimitar Angelov's automotive interests made him an expert in a wide variety of vehicles. Japanese brands like Toyota are closest to his heart, although performance cars in general are his favorite segment, which is why he is constantly on the lookout for the best deals on the market. Dimitar Angelov's car passion and knack for the written word led him to complete a Master of Arts in Media and Communications, and classic car restoration. Dim is happy to get behind the wheel of any car and share his impressions. You can follow Dimitar on XLinked-inInstagram, and Facebook.