In the manual vs. auto debate, our lady ghost-writer thinks you should stick to manual…
Seeing as how I’m actually a motoring journalist, you may be just as surprised as my editor when I tell you that I don’t know how to drive a stick-shift car (What?!? – Ed.) Besides, these days most people prefer to drive an automatic anyway compared to a manual, thanks to our horrendous traffic conditions.
Come to think of it, just by virtue of the new cars for sale these days, the actual act of shifting your own gears has now become a dying art. A large number of people including automakers, car fanatics, and car buyers have placed the manual transmission in the “wherefore art thou?” category. And it’s understandable why buyers would opt for an automatic instead; juggling two feet against three pedals in bumper-to-bumper traffic for hours on a daily basis can be downright exhausting, especially if you live in a city like Kuala Lumpur – even walking around in the Sunway Pyramid doesn’t ache your legs as much; trust me, I would know.
Hence the days of the manual gearbox are slowly dying (they’re pretty much dead actually. – Ed.) and the new generation of eight and nine-speed automatic, CVT, DSG, Ti-VCT and whatnot are becoming the new trend. I wasn’t in the least bit surprised that some automakers claim that their sales figures for manual vehicles are decreasing, and therefore they’re omitting the importation / assembly of manual models altogether. And of course carmakers like to sell the automatic transmission variants more anyway, because then they can charge buyers slightly more, and they can standardise their production process; no need for a second line of manual variants, less CKD packs to order, etc.
I don’t blame the human race for opting for automatics simply because, our primitive brains really don’t respond well when asked to multi-task. If changing the radio station and looking for road directions while driving an automatic car can be seen as a challenge, try doing the same thing while your left hand and left leg are occupied with the gear knob and clutch! It’s quite impossible. (practise! – Ed.)
But there’s no harm in learning how to drive a manual car because you’ll never know when you’d be stuck in certain scenarios that require the skill to use a manual transmission. For instance, let’s say that your car has to be sent for repairs and the only loaner or rental car available has a manual transmission. Or if you travel overseas, stick-shift rental cars are the norm, hence you pretty much have no choice but to drive one.
Plus, driving a shift-stick is enjoyable because it will take plenty of concentration and focus where there‘s frequent shifting involved and you are more attentive since it requires paying more attention compared to driving automatic vehicles. Besides that, manual cars are slightly cheaper in the Malaysian market compared to the automatic variant. For instance, the Honda CR-Z manual will cost you RM115,747 while the automatic will set you back at RM119,643. As the petrol prices recently increased, ‘shifting’ to manual vehicles is also a better choice as the shift-it-yourself-option has better fuel economy than automatics.
I’d certainly urge motorists out there to continue driving stick shifts if you already are, and embrace the ‘Manualhood’ if you have yet to do so because stick shifts will make your driving more interesting. And remember, God gave us a pair of legs so using only one to drive is a bit of a waste isn’t it? – AF.