Once upon a time, driving a manual car was a way of life and automatics were found in only a handful of expensive cars available. Today, only 8-9% of cars sold in Australia have a manual and that number continues to drop. What is the reason for this, and what does it feel like to daily-drive a manual sports-car around the city and suburbs today?
I never used to worry about the idea of peak-hour traffic on uphill sections of the freeway before. But I also never owned a Toyota MR2. And sure there are easier cars to learn how to drive a manual in, but the fact is this was on the bucket list for a long time.
Most manual drivers will tell you that once you’ve got it-you’ve got it, and also that it’s like riding a bike-a skill that never really goes away. And while it’s still a practice I’m very much perfecting, the nerves definitely do ease with the familiarity that develops after a month or two. Something that never goes away is a manual driver’s concentration.
I’d always regarded myself as a cautious driver in my previous automatic cars, trying to stay one step ahead of what will happen next. In a manual however that has become three steps. Around town, I’m constantly trying to predict what streets, turns and intersections I’m about to encounter, and as a result what gear I’ll need to be in. It leads to me paying more attention to other drivers and what they are doing. Out of the suburbs on more spirited roads, I think more about the road itself, and its relationship to the car. Corner radiuses and incline levels all become factors to consider. Wherever it is you’re driving, it’s almost impossible to lack concentration in your surroundings if driving a manual car.
Another difference that I noticed was what I’d bring with me on each drive. A reusable coffee cup with a closed lid may not seem like a big deal, but in a manual with no cup-holders it becomes the only way I can enjoy a much-needed coffee on the drive into work each morning. The smart idea would be to simply install some aftermarket cup-holders, but if you believe in keeping a car original (and making life hard for yourself) sometimes you’re not left with much choice. Luckily, with a coffee cup that is guaranteed to not leak I can leave it on the passenger seat until I’ve stopped at a red light and can sneak a sip in. Problem solved. I can’t recommend this as a good idea to any other drivers out there, and I think I’d be better off either kicking my coffee addiction or installing those cup-holders. My point is that you can never underestimate a good non-spill reusable coffee cup, and it will likely get you out of trouble more than once.