I remember when I first started to learn to drive and found myself daunted at the prospect of managing a manual transmission car, I thought that I’d never get the hang of it. A few lessons in though and I’d thankfully got the hang of it.
My parents had drove an automatic car for years, so weren’t able to take me out in between lessons, but after a few professional lessons, I did wonder why they preferred automatic transmission so much. By changing gears and using all 3 pedals, I felt a connection with the car and felt like I was in control of this perfectly formed piece of machinery.
Once I passed my test, I never even considered an automatic vehicle, I wanted a manual, I wanted to feel like I was driving and not just be a passenger; I wanted to feel the control of the car. I wanted to be the one that controlled when the rev counter reduced, when the power was applied through acceleration.
I remember my dad once telling me that when I had to pay for the maintenance on my own car, that I would no longer ride the clutch the way I did. You see, I always wanted to be the first to pull away from the traffic lights as soon as the colours changed to red and amber; but never ever did I speed. I’d sit without the handbrake on, holding my bite. My daily commute from work was mainly along A and B roads with a 70 mph limit, so I’d accelerate at speed to reach the limit, then I would maintain the speed limit.
Not long afterwards my career lead me into the Motor trade where I was lucky enough to drive a demonstrator, so I never did have to service and maintain my manual car after-all my dads warnings.
For me I drove a manual car because I wanted to feel in control of the drive, the gear changes and have that thrill of the road with the performance when I wanted it.
Driving an automatic wasn’t a choice that I had made, instead it was a demonstrator car that I’d been given as my company car for 3 to 6 months at a time. I was quite surprised at how much I enjoyed the drive. I could still have the power that I’d been used to, I just didn’t determine when I changed the gears, but I found that the car was intelligent enough to know when the change was needed. Who knew that a car could be so intelligent, right?
Driving an automatic was easier, when you’ve been driving for so many years along the same daily commute, you find yourself on autopilot, still fully aware of your surroundings but in a more relaxed mode. The need to be first pulling away is no longer great, after-all I must have sat at those same lights over 1,000 times.
When I left my role within a Dealership, I found myself having to order my own car on lease. I was back to the choice of a manual or an automatic car lease. Remembering the thrill of driving the manual versus the ease of driving the automatic.
Cost is always a factor of course too. You tend to find that a manual and automatic have a difference in the on the road cost of around £1,000-£1,500 which can equate to between £20-£40 per month for a lease car. In the end I opted for a manual BMW 4 Series Gran Coupe lease. I loved the car, especially the electricity of the blue colour, but soon I craved the ease of the automatic.
I also noticed that unlike my last demonstrator which was an automatic Audi A5 Sportback, probably highlighting to me how much I coasted downhills saving fuel in the manual car. Again probably something that my dad would have warned me against.
My husband had a VW Touareg lease on order, the only transmission is Automatic. Well, it’s a Tiptronic with paddle shift, but as it doesn’t have a clutch pedal you can legally drive them with just an automatic only driving licence. His new car arrived 6 months after I’d first taken delivery of mine, we ended up swapping cars. It wasn’t just the transmission that swayed it for me, I love the higher seating positioning of an SUV too, but I really did miss that easy driving experience that I’d become accustomed to with driving the Automatic.
Honestly, I’m not sure if it’s an age thing or a sense of maturity when you have children and don’t feel the need to be first across the line at traffic lights, without surveying 1,000 drivers I guess I’ll not know, but if we take our customer’s alone, the vast majority of drivers that order an automatic car, do have a manual driving licence.
Let’s look at the key differences between the two cars: -
They tend to be cheaper all around, they cost less to repair, cheaper to buy so consequently cheaper to lease
This is especially the case if you leased a top end performance car and took it on a track day, you’d want to feel the gearshift changing when the revs peak and switch off the traction.
It’s definitely easier to drive an automatic, allowing the car to make the gear changes for you.
You have a perfectly good resting spot for your left foot, which is particularly pleasant when cruising along the motorway. That sweet spot where the third pedal would be in a manual car.
Without the gear leaver there’s no excuse or reason not to have both hands firmly fixed to the steering wheel. As a passenger I've noticed that if a driver selects the wrong gear, they do tend to glance at the gearshift, ultimately taking their eyes off the road.
Whether you opt to choose a manual or automatic car, it’s really down to personal preference and driving style. Having said that, I would always recommend that a new driver learns in a manual vehicle, to ensure that their future car choices are not limited to automatic transmission only.