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2011 Mazda3 Sport (Mazda)
2011 Mazda3 Sport (Mazda)

Best Of The Lot

Three stick shift cars for a buyer who won't go automatic Add to ...

Good Morning,

I am one of those old "dinosaurs" that you see pop up on the driving forums talking about the virtues of manual transmissions. I learned how to drive in a 1976 AMC Pacer with a "3" on the floor and the venerable six-cylinder under the hood.

I am not much better today, as I bought a 1997 Jeep TJ last year and also own a 2003 Ford Escape with the five-speed. The unfortunate reality is that the choices for "newer" vehicles with manual transmissions are becoming fewer and far between. I am curious as to what you two would suggest. Stick with picking up "older" vehicles, or go to a newer vehicle? - Chuck in Winnipeg

Vaughan: I know Cato always wants to jump in first with one of his long-winded sermons, however in this case I must cut off his omniscient self.

Chuckie, the answer is "newer" not "older." You may be older, but automotive technology is moving ahead so fast you should forget about last year's stuff to say nothing about the latest and greatest from 30 years ago.

There are a bunch of great new cars - not with the "three-on-the-tree" or the "four on the floor" that you grew up with - but manual six-speeds and automatics with eight ratios.

So get with the times. The new stuff is light years ahead of those old crocks (no offence) that you drive.

Cato: Yaaaawwwn. Uh, ah, oh … That was such a nice little nap. Were you saying something? I thought I heard you mumbling, but I was in such a deep sleep, dreaming …

Angelina Jolie had just walked in and was telling Jennifer Aniston to take a hike. But horror of horrors, over my shoulder I could make out your silly hat bobbing up and down in the distance, drawing closer and closer…

You were saying something about "three on the tree" and "four on the floor." Angie was there and Jen - and then you! The dream turned into a nightmare and I woke up. Horrified.

And no, I did not imagine you offering some brilliant insight, a pithy observation, a nugget of pure wisdom.

2012 Ford Focus

Vaughan: Well, fine. But focus on Chuck. We have no idea what he actually wants - except his youth back - and that ain't gonna happen. We know he's somewhere between a '97 Jeep TJ, and '03 Ford Escape and eternity. Not much to go on unless you're a Holy Man.

As I'm not, I'd tell him to buy a Maserati GranCabrio Sport or a 2012 Hyundai Accent. Both are available with six-speed transmissions - the Accent has a true manual and the Maserati has an auto-box with paddle shifters.

Cato: Scrap the pricy Italian job - the Maserati.

Our man Charles likes his cars old and cheap. That reminds me… No, that's too easy.

Sure, the reinvented Accent is a nice little runabout and cheap, cheap, cheap: the base sedan starts at $13,199, the four-door hatch at $13,599. Hyundai's people say they've cut the "official" starter price by $1,100 while adding $1,500 in content.

Of course, no one ever paid the official starter price, not with all the discounting Hyundai Canada has done on the Accent over the years.

Chuck needs also to look at the 2012 Ford Focus. Starts at $15,999 for the sedan, $19,899 for the four-door hatchback. Ford has a nice manual tranny in play there.

And as far as great deals go, I love the Mazda3 Sport hatchback. Base price here is $17,495, but Mazda Canada has plenty of sales sweeteners in play. Chuck, you'll pay thousands less if you work the deals.

Vaughan: Well, Cato, you have provided your usual laundry list of middle-of-the-road choices, while I'm attempting to delve into the inner needs of our man Chuck in order to put him on the path to self-actualization.

When people long for their '76 Pacer, it means they're looking for bigger answers.

Cato: Who do you think you are? Wayne Dyer? Deepak Chopra?

2012 Hyundai Accent

Vaughan: Chuckie, I have no idea what you want, need or desire. You'll need to find that within yourself. Be trusting. The universe will embrace you. Or not. The truth is, I just do this to annoy the easily annoyable Cato.

However, I can tell you that if you drive the lowly Hyundai Accent, all dressed for about 16-thou with a six-speed manual, you will forget all about the glory years in your '76 Pacer. But if you've got money to burn, then go for the Maserati.

Cato: Forget trusting the universe. Embrace Mazda's deals.

Jeremy Cato and Michael Vaughan are co-hosts of Car/Business, which appears Fridays at 8 p.m. on Business News Network and Saturdays at 11:30 a.m. on CTV.



2012 Hyundai Accent L hatchback

2012 Ford Focus SE hatchback

2011 Mazda3 Sport GX

Wheelbase (mm)




Length (mm)




Width (mm)




Height (mm)





1.6-litre four-cylinder

2.0-litre four-cylinder

2.0-litre four-cylinder

Output (horsepower/torque)

138/123 lb-ft

160/146 lb-ft

148/135 lb-ft

Drive system

front-wheel drive

front-wheel drive

front-wheel drive


six-speed manual

five-speed manual

five-speed manual

Curb weight (kg)




Fuel economy (litres/100 km)

6.7 city/4.9 highway

7.8 city/5.5 highway

8.1 city/5.9 highway

Base price (MSRP)




Source: car manufacturers

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