Yes, It's Ethical To Drive A Stick Even If It Gets Lower MPG

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The new Miata has 160 hp, wider and longer dimensions and a six-speed manual gearbox.

The new Miata has 160 hp, wider and longer dimensions and a six-speed manual gearbox.

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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 Eco

2011 Chevrolet Cruze Eco

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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?


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Comments (8)
  1. In my car, the automatic option is more fuel hungry than the "stick" version. Not everyone drives a brand new vehicle and sadly only a few motoring journalists notice this.

  2. In nearly all cars with both transmissions offered, this is true. See my post below.
    If the engine is identical, the manual will usually get better mpgs, especially city mpgs.
    I went from a 2.2L VTEC Honda automatic to a 2.3L Mazda manual & saw city mpgs go from 18 mpg to 24 mpg even though the new engine has a slightly larger displacement. Similar vehicle weight, btw. Its mostly the torque converter, as I never broke 20 mpg city in any of my 4-cyl autos but now both my 2.3L manuals do much better than that.

  3. I agree it's silly. If we ever get to the point where 1-2 mpg for the difference between a standard versus automatic is a factor in everyone's buying decision then stop the Earth as I want off.

  4. I feel like I just wasted 45 secs of my life reading this pointless article...

  5. Where is David Sirota coming from: anybody know? Just sayin': Everybody has their own reasons for their statements. I was recently told by an Audi dealer that (a) Audi doesn't make a manual A3 (LOL) and (b) I couldn't possibly get better mileage in a manual Audi A3 than an auto A3 (also patently not true) - but that might have been because he didn't have a manual A3 to sell me.

  6. "Author" David Sirota hasn't a clue (I guess subject research is no longer a requirement to be a jounalist, who knew!?)
    Generally, there are 3 transmission types a normal driver may encounter - manual tranmissions, torque converter automatics, and new dual-clutch automated manuals. Automatics have a torque converter. Consider this: When the vehicle is stopped in drive but the engine is running, the engine doesn't stall. When accelerating, in certain lower gears and at low speeds, the converter is slipping just like it does at a stop, until lockup occurs at cruising speed. This slippage is the reason lockup torque converters were developed in the 90s, and until lockup occurs, not all engine power is transferred, resulting in lower mpgs.

  7. @ Sung Park..I think you need to expand on your definitions, there are definitely automatics without torgue convertors.They use an automated clutch for standing and there is no slippage after moving off.This way you can have your cake and eat it too as they can be as economical as a manual and be driven in auto or manual. With this available why would anyone want the inconvience of a clutch pedal? You also forgot the CVT automatic which does not have a torgue convertor either. In fact hydraulically controlled autos "with" torgue convertors are a bit old fashioned and being fazed out. Do you know how the Prius system works? no torgue convertor,no clutches,no cvt belts,no reverse gear,no gear changing,but its automatic!

  8. "With this available why would anyone want the inconvience of a clutch pedal?"

    Such nonsense! What is inconvenient about a clutch pedal? What, will pressing the brake and gas pedal inconvenient too? WHAT NONSENSE.

    Might as well take the driverless car, then, and be DRIVEN around like a sack of mindless potatoes, then there will not be any "inconvenience".

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