The 5-Speed Manual Transmission Is Nearly Extinct in America
There’s just one new car on sale in America in 2023 still rocking a five-speed stick. And yes, it’s a Nissan.
Bruce Springsteen, a Dixon Ticonderoga No. 2, and five on the floor. All three are more than 50 years old, still relatively culturally relevant, and can be purchased as new today. But the trusty five-speed manual transmission may be the first among the crew to exit now that the 2023 Mitsubishi Mirage G4 is ditching the option. That leaves the Nissan Versa as the only torchbearer for the 5MT left, a mantle that’ll almost surely come to an end once the current Versa bows in the next few years.
The five-speed manual transmission was initially available in the 1950s in some European makes but didn’t see its heyday until the 1970s when it was equipped on everything. The five-speed manual transmission was such a luxury that automakers made badges to proudly proclaim that your new ride was better than the hoi polloi’s four-speed slushbox—you had one more gear to ride at 55 in style.
The six-speed manual started to appear in the early 1990s, but five-speeds were the standard for most of that decade, although the writing was on the wall already with four- and five-speed automatics that were becoming more common, reliable, and versatile. The 991 Porsche 911 moved over to a seven-speed stick, and now even Ford uses a seven-speed in the Bronco.
But back to the five-speed’s demise, there are a few caveats worth mentioning. The outgoing generation Subaru Impreza offers a 5MT, but only for a few more months. The 2023 Mitsubishi Mirage was certified with a 5MT but is no longer offered as the automaker shows all trims now equipped with a CVT. And even finding a 5MT Versa will be a significant chore: it’s only equipped on base versions (and likely only exists as an entry price to put on a billboard) and there are only three available in the entire U.S., per Nissan’s consumer’s site.
That effectively means that a new five-speed stick is a rounding error among new cars on sale despite its decadeslong run. Farewell to “five on the floor,” you had a good run for more than a half-century.
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