The new Miata has 160 hp, wider and longer dimensions and a six-speed manual gearbox.Enlarge Photo
Oh, for heaven's sakes.
We're all for saving fuel by buying fuel-efficient cars, driving economically, cutting out unnecessary trips, planning ahead, carpooling, and all the other sensible, practical steps anyone can take to cut gas costs, lower their personal carbon footprint, and otherwise economize.
But this is ridiculous.
A Salon article entitled, Is it ethical to drive stick?, suggests that opting for a manual transmission vehicle is "shortsighted" at best.
Author David Sirota bewails the rising percentage of manuals sold, which is now at a still-not-very-substantive 6.5 percent, up from roughly 4 percent in previous years.
Why are manuals so awful? Because, says Sirota, most manual-transmission models deliver lower fuel-economy ratings than do the same cars fitted with modern automatic transmissions.
First, that's not consistently true. The best fuel-economy figures on the 2012 Chevrolet Cruze Eco, for example, come from the version fitted with the six-speed manual.
A Cruze Eco with an automatic falls from a combined rating of 33 mpg to just 31 mpg.
Second, and more importantly, the choice of vehicle (its size and weight) and engine option (if there is one) has far more effect on your gas mileage than the relatively minor difference between a manual and a stick.
2011 Chevrolet Cruze EcoEnlarge Photo
Choose a 2012 Toyota Prius hybrid over that Cruze Eco manual, for example, and you'll improve your fuel efficiency by a whopping 50 percent, from 33 mpg to 50 mpg.
Sirota professes to like the sensation of shifting the manual transmission in his 2001 Saturn, but apparently he now has qualms about doing so.
We'll set his mind to rest: In the 2001 Saturn SL, the manual gets better fuel economy (29 mpg combined) than does the automatic (27 mpg).
But more than that, we have to advise Sirota, gently, that there are forests and there are trees.
Manual transmissions are a tree; car choice (and, on a broader level, lifestyle choice) is the forest.
So it's perfectly OK to like manuals.
And to choose them in your next new car--especially if that car has high gas mileage to start with.
Did we mention that the Chevy Cruze Eco offers a six-speed manual?