A few weeks back I helped my younger brother move in back to UC Santa Cruz. This year he’s living off-campus so there’s plenty more to bring, mainly the stuff that belongs in the kitchen. His MK7.5 Golf GTI hatchback can fit quite a bit of stuff, but in the end we also needed a second car to haul to all.
Unfortunately, my first ever car, the family’s 2006 Toyota Corolla, gave up the ghost the same weekend. The car’s utterly weak C59 manual transmission (third gear has had a grind since I can remember) shattered a few gear internally, and it was making the most horrible noises when driving, akin to a racing car gearbox with straight-cut gears. The lever refuses to go into third or fourth gear, and we simply weren’t confident it can make the 130 miles round-trip to Santa Cruz.
We needed another car quite quickly, so to the Turo app we went the night before. 50 bucks on the credit card later the following morning, and we had ourselves a 2017 Honda Civic to use. What lovely convenience it is to be able to rent a car in that swift a timeframe; the traditional route would’ve found us at the SFO airport rental car complex because it’s be the only spot open on a Sunday. Not to mention it’d cost considerably more.
The Civic had an automatic gearbox obviously, because why would any sane person lend their manual transmission car out to a stranger. I did the driving duties, and it was the first time in the longest time I’ve driven an automatic car for an extended period. Perhaps it is because I’m getting old, but as an avid advocate of the row-it-yourself gearbox, I found driving the auto Civic to be an absolute pleasure. Automatic transmissions are actually okay!?
I get it now: in normal everyday driving, not having to do the clutch and gearstick dance at every intersection is a godsend for comfort. In a car with an auto ‘box you just push the gas and go. Manual transmission fanatics sticking to their dogma of daily-driving a stick-shift car being no more difficult than a car with an automatic gearbox are fooling themselves; I use to be that guy, but having driven to Santa Cruz and back in that Honda Civic, my position have changed completely.
Bay Area traffic isn’t going to get any better, mind.
I don’t think I’ll buy another manual gearbox car as a daily driver ever again. The bliss and ease in letting the car shift itself, particularly in traffic, is worth the “car enthusiast credibility” sacrifice. Don’t get me wrong: on an empty winding mountain road in a proper sports car, a stick with a clutch is still the choice for pure driving enjoyment.
Or you buy a 911 with PDK and get the best compromise of both worlds.