In the more innocent National Stick Shift Days of yore, celebrating the joys of a manual transmission meant emphasizing the sensile pleasures and rewards of three-pedal operation. Though that remains as true as ever in 2020, the lingering effects of the COVID-19 pandemic mean that there’s another, more practical way to view manuals: In addition to being a theft deterrent, manual transmissions are often the cheapest available option in a car’s transmission lineup. Knowing how to drive one may feel like a luxury, but paying for one doesn’t have to be.
Related: How to Drive a Manual Transmission
Sure, there are plenty of ways to readily unload cash that may be burning a hole in your pocket on a manual — have you considered an Aston Martin Vantage or BMW M4 lately? — but if money is the only object, the good news is that there are still several cars that offer manuals at bargain-basement prices.
We ran some reports to determine which vehicles offer manual transmissions (that require a clutch full time, none of this semi-automatic balderdash) for the 2020 model year, then whittled the list down further by price. Interested in a manual but don’t want to break the bank? Here are the most affordable options as you shop:
1. Chevrolet Spark
Price and trim (all prices include a destination charge): $14,395, LS
Available on the LS, 1LT and 2LT trim levels with a five-speed gearbox, Chevrolet’s Spark subcompact hatchback is as easy on the wallet as you’ll find for the 2020 model year. The 98-horsepower, 1.4-liter four-cylinder engine leaves a whole lot to be desired power-wise, but if it’s a simple runabout and the thrill of absolute control over engine revs that you seek (or if it’s standard Apple CarPlay or Android Auto that you require), none comes more economically easy on the bank account than the LS trim.
2. Mitsubishi Mirage, Mirage G4
Prices and trims: $15,135 (Mirage ES), $16,135 (Mirage G4 ES)
Though they’re technically listed as separate vehicles, the Mirage and Mirage G4 are akin to the Toyota Corolla and Corolla Hatchback in the sense that the difference is strictly down to body style: The Mirage is a hatch, the Mirage G4 its sedan equivalent. Unlike the Corollas, however, it’s the hatchback that’s cheaper here — and by a full grand, too (though it’s worth noting that even if we’d listed the Mirage G4 separately, it still would have come in fourth on this list). The Mirage is a direct competitor to the Spark and comes with a 78-hp, 1.2-liter three-cylinder affixed to a five-speed. A true bargain buy.
3. Nissan Versa
Price and trim: $15,655, 1.6 S
For a few hundred dollars more than the Mirage, you can get yourself a value-minded Nissan Versa, which was redesigned for the 2020 model year. Its value-mindedness remained top of mind throughout our news coverage. Take a look at some of what you get even with the entry-level 1.6 S: a 122-hp, 1.6-liter four-cylinder engine; front and rear automatic braking; lane departure warning; high-beam assist; and remote keyless entry with push-button start. If the prospect of a trendier (not to mention more expensive) SUV body style doesn’t redirect you to Nissan’s Kicks, the Versa is well worth a look.
4. Hyundai Accent
Price and trim: $16,270, SE
The Accent SE is unique on this list in that it offers a six-speed manual instead of the seemingly ubiquitous five-speed of its rivals, so if you’re looking to keep your hands busy and away from your phone with shorter, more frequent shifts, step right up to the South Korean automaker’s subcompact sedan. Powered by a 120-hp, 1.6-liter four-cylinder engine and with an EPA-estimated 2-mpg improvement in combined fuel economy for 2020, the manual-equipped Accent is another choice in a cluttered class of cut-rate hopefuls.
5. Toyota Yaris
Price and trim: $16,605, L sedan
Much like its rivals listed above, the Yaris subcompact comes in both hatchback and sedan body styles, but Toyota saw fit to equip only the sedan in L and LE trims with a six-speed manual for 2020. Formerly known as the Yaris iA and Scion Yaris iA (as well as being based on the Mazda2, also no longer with us), the 2020 Yaris is bare-bones amenities-wise — but it does come with standard automatic emergency braking and feels refined enough to have merited a recommendation in our cars for riding out the pandemic.
More From Cars.com:
- Wanna Learn How to Drive a Manual Transmission Car? It’s Not Too Late … Yet
- Not Your Father’s Stick Shift: 7 High-Tech Features of the Modern Manual
- National Stick Shift Day: 6 Cars We Wish Had Manuals (and 3 We’re OK Without)
- It’s National Stick Shift Day! Here Are Our 7 Fave Clutch Performers
- National Stick Shift Day: Learning on the Fly (and Failing)
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