Though stick-shift SUVs are a vanishing breed, there are still a few automakers building them for consumers in search of the best manual transmission SUVs. As always, you get what you pay for, although manual transmission-equipped SUVs are generally less expensive than automatics, and often get better fuel economy. Most are car-based models, not really designed for heavy off-road use. And you can dude them up with all the bells and whistles if you want. It’s really your choice, isn’t it?
Here are three to put on your consideration list for Best Manual Transmission SUVs:
- Jeep Wrangler – Hands down, and, some say, the only true SUV in the bunch, the 2010 2-door SUV is the clear front-runner. With its standard 202-hp 3.8-liter V6 engine mated to a 6-speed manual transmission with overdrive and standard four-wheel drive, Wrangler handles tough trails and streams with ease. Cars.com says, “This off-roader emphasizes rock crawling over highway comfort, and when it comes to hard-core trailblazing, it’s rarely matched.” Other enticing features include standard electronic stability control (ESC) with roll control, traction control, brake assist, and hill hold control. Fuel economy is an EPA-estimated 15 mpg city/19 mpg highway. Starting manufacturer’s suggested retail price (MSRP) ranges from $21,915 to $29,525.
- Subaru Forester – Redesigned in 2009, the 2010 compact SUV is fun to drive, offers a spacious third-row seat, standard all-wheel drive (AWD), and the lowest base starting price in its class ($20,295). Check out the 2.5X and 2.5X Premium models, with 170-hp 2.5-liter horizontally-opposed, naturally-aspirated 4-cylinder engine and 5-speed manual transmission with Incline Start Assist, ESC, and traction control. EPA-estimated fuel economy is 20 mpg city/27 mpg highway. Edmunds comments: “More grown up in both size and character than past iterations, the 2010 Subaru Forester is a top pick in the highly competitive small SUV segment.”
- Ford Escape – The midsize 2010 is a smooth riding SUV that looks good and handles well on-road and off – and is a great choice for best manual transmission SUVs. With a base starting MSRP of $21,020, it’s also reasonably priced. Powered by a 171-hp 2.5-liter 4-cylinder engine and mated to a 4-speed manual transmission, the Escape XLS gets an EPA-estimated 22 mpg city/28 mpg highway. Base MSRP is $21,020, although there are a lot of high-tech options consumers may want to add. Kelley Blue Book remarks: “If you’re looking for traditional SUV features, such as high ground clearance and a high seating position, but you want it in a smaller, more fuel-efficient package, the 2010 Ford Escape makes a good choice.”
See list of all manual transmission SUVs