Civic SI and Type R: Honda Knows What Enthusiasts Want, Industry Trends Notwithstanding - story fullscreen Fullscreen

Civic SI and Type R: Honda Knows What Enthusiasts Want, Industry Trends Notwithstanding

Finding a new Porsche or Aston Martin with a manual transmission will be hard, but Honda has your back

In a world where high-performance brands like Porsche and Aston Martin are slowly leaving the manual transmission in the dust, here comes Honda with a pledge to keep our blood boiling as we row our own. Of course, you won’t be able to get a manual transmission in all Hondas – those days are long and gone – but you’ll be able to have six gears and three pedals in the models that matter the most.

The Next-Gen Honda Civic SI and Type R – Manual Only

Civic SI and Type R: Honda Knows What Enthusiasts Want, Industry Trends Notwithstanding
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Plus today’s automatics offer better performance

It’s not like the manual transmission is a favorite of automakers anymore. Over in Europe, it’s still pretty easy to find a new car with a manual transmission, but here in the States, it can be a difficult task – unless you’re willing to wait for one from the factory, assuming that specific model is available with the option for a manual transmission. Even automakers like Porsche have contemplated retiring the manual transmission altogether until the company was forced to hear the public outcry as two-thirds of 911 GT3 customers opted for the six speed – a move that lead Porsche to start offering certain trims of the 911 with that very same transmission. That’s not always how the story goes, though, as just recently, Aston Martin vowed to kill off the manual transmission altogether, starting with the facelifted V8 Vantage and the new vanquish, which was promised to be offered with a manual from the start. The worst part is that this came years after then CEO, Andy Palmer, swore that Aston Martin would be the “last manufacturer in the world to offer a manual sports car.” Honda, however, isn’t amused with these “kill the manual” shenanigans.

Civic SI and Type R: Honda Knows What Enthusiasts Want, Industry Trends Notwithstanding
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That’s why the next-gen Honda Civic SI and Civic Type R will be offered exclusively with a six-speed manual transmission.

That’s right – there won’t even be the option to opt for an automatic, or at least that’s what the company says now. Something tells me that if sales start to slide for either model because of automatic demand, the years following will see the option become available, but at launch, is three pedals only. The best part is that this news from Honda Public Relations Representative, Carl Pulley, in a video showcasing the 2022 Honda Civic Sedan (embedded below.)

Why Is The Industry Shifting Away From Manual Transmissions

Civic SI and Type R: Honda Knows What Enthusiasts Want, Industry Trends Notwithstanding
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Thankfully, Honda isn’t giving up on the manual transmission just yet

If you google the question you see in the heading above, you’ll find a number of different answers and tons of forum posts of enthusiasts quote literally arguing over why the automatic is better than the manual or vice versa. The truth is that there isn’t just one answer as to why even high-performance automakers are killing off the automatic transmission. In fact, there are a few.

Demand For Manual Transmissions Is Impressively Low Today

Civic SI and Type R: Honda Knows What Enthusiasts Want, Industry Trends Notwithstanding
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To the capability of handling more power
The most dominant reason is, arguably, that there isn’t as much demand for manual transmissions anymore.

From an enthusiast’s standpoint it’s hard to believe, but it 2019, only 3.7-percent of new vehicles sold had manual transmission and in 2020, that dropped to just 2.4-percent – a figure that’s sad compared to the take rate of more than 25-percent in the mid-1990s. One could argue that it’s because few models are offering a manual transmission, but that’s a debut for another time, as there’s more to this story.

You Can’t Out-Shift An Automatic Transmission Anymore

2021 Honda Civic Type R Limited Edition - Driven Interior
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Looking back to days when the GM 4L60 and 4L80, for example, were so common, it’s no surprise that a variation of these transmissions was also found in GM performance cars. In the early 1990s, for example, the Chevy Camaro featured the 4L60 if it was equipped with an automatic transmission. Anyone with a manual transmission that new what they were doing could easily beat you through each of your gears, and that’s without any form of throw reduction. But, back then, automatic tranmissions were coupled by fluid via the torque converter and primarily hydraulic, with solenoids activating various clutch packs and bands via fluid pressure in the valve body. As you probably know, apply pressure to fluid isn’t exactly instantons and without some series upgrades, out-shifting an old automatic was a piece of cake.

2021 Honda Civic Type R Limited Edition - Driven Interior
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Fast forward to today, however, and technology has advanced to new levels. We now have the continuously variable transmission (CVT), which should never be used in a performance application as far as I’m concerned, while the other mainstay is the dual-clutch transmission, aka DCT.

The DCT usually comes with paddle shifters behind the wheel, and if you haven’t driven one, let me tell you that they shift fast and precisely with zero drama.

You hit the paddle, and you’re there, up or down, it doesn’t matter. Of course, it’s still not the same as shifting on your own, but DCTS (and automated manuals, for that matter) are simply better from a performance standpoint. They shift faster, are more precise, and almost always offer better sprint times. Plus, these days, they can be built to handle impressive amounts of power – something we can’t say for the automatic transmissions of the 90s and early 2000s.

Cost Is Key and Development Isn’t Cheap

Civic SI and Type R: Honda Knows What Enthusiasts Want, Industry Trends Notwithstanding
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And that so few people opt for manuals today
Less than 3-percent in 2020

With the take rate I mentioned before – 2.4-percent as of 2020 – you can’t blame automakers for not wanting to keep the manual transmission around. This is why brands like Honda sell most of their lineup with an updated form of an old-school automatic or a CVT. Developing a new manual transmission that a very small portion of clients will opt for isn’t profitable by any means, and that’s ultimately what automakers are there for – to make money. The good news is that certain brands listen and see where there is demand and will go out of their way to keep even a small portion of customers happy. Porsche did it for the 911 to a certain extent, and now Honda is going to do it with the Civic Si and Type R. You better take note, because it won’t last forever. After all, the next-Gen Civic Type R could be the last one we ever see.

Honda Civic Sedan Introduction

Note: skip to around 9:30 if you want to hear confirmation about the Type R’s manual transmission

Robert Moore
Robert Moore
Editor-in-Chief and Automotive Expert - robert@topspeed.com
Robert has been an auto enthusiast his entire life. He started working cars at a young age, learning the basics from his father in the home garage on the weekends. As time went on, Robert became more and more interested in cars and convinced his father to teach him how to drive when he was just 13 years old. Robert continued working on cars in his free time and learned as much as he could about engines, transmissions, and car electrical systems, something that only fed his curiosity more and eventually led him to earn a bachelors degree in automotive technology with a primary focus on engine performance and transmission rebuilding.  Read full bio
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