Whether you want your car to be sporty or practical, something to show off or just to get you from A to B – your car is a personal choice.
So when it comes to what you’ll be doing in traffic, how do you decide how you’re going to shift gears?
Not so long ago, the big debate after settling on what you wanted for your next car was to decide whether you wanted a manual or an automatic. It was often a personal preference: people who had to drive short distances, in stop-start traffic preferred automatics for their convenience; while drivers who travelled on open highways, or wanted to make the most out of their car’s performance or fuel economy chose a manual transmission.
Traditionally, manuals were also the cheaper option as well, because they used to cost less to build, and didn’t require complicated engineering like an automatic transmission. Nowadays, though automatics have caught up to manuals in terms of gears – and thanks to new technology – can even surpass manuals in terms of efficiency and economy.
Drivers in Australia have traditionally opted for manual transmissions, whether it was to save money (automatics are still an option on new cars that may add thousands on to your final invoice) or because of the efficiency that manuals often brought over older automatics. Manual transmissions were also the pick for enthusiasts, who wanted more control over a cars performance, rather than just steer it on the road.
Economy is also a factor. Because of their relative simplicity over automatics, manual transmissions have been able to have a higher amount of gears without becoming a problem for the rest of the car or for mechanics working on them. The classic selling point for manuals has been that they can achieve better fuel consumption and performance because they have more gears to make the most of the engines power.
One drawback of a manual is the skill required in learning to drive in one. Learning how to change gears, especially from a standstill, without stalling the car, can be daunting at first but you soon develop a rhythm to releasing the clutch, and accelerating, as well as bringing the car to a stop and changing gears down.
Another potential downside of owning a manual car is, as younger drivers increasingly go for their automatic licence you may not be able to command a competitive resale value for your manual car.
When deciding on buying a manual, weigh up whether you’re just going to be using the car to get from A to B, in mainly short trips around town or if you're driving long distances or you want to get a feel for your car.
Automatics are the convenient choice for most drivers. They are easy to drive (other than learning how to handle a car on the road), and are a good starting point for first time drivers who aren’t used to driving.
Traditionally, automatics were avoided because they sucked power out of the car, and were generally underwhelming if you wanted any kind of spirited performance out of your vehicle. However, a lot of development has gone into transmissions to make them more efficient and make the most out of the cars engine. This has led to the development of six-, seven- and even nine-speed automatic gearboxes, which can find a better gear to harness the power delivered by the engine. Another advance is the research and development into Continuously Variable Transmissions (CVT). CVTs artificially create “unlimited” gears from two pulleys, connected to the engine and the wheels to choose the best ‘gear’ for the speed and power.
Automatics are still seen as lagging behind manuals in terms of performance, and fuel economy, even though power and economy gaps have been reduced significantly or eliminated. This is partly reliant on car manufacturers who engineer their transmissions a particular way, and if drivers can’t see the benefits over a manual, then the automatic is chosen by fewer drivers. Automatics are often a costly option on a new car, although this is changing as car makers begin to offer the transmission as the standard option.
One benefit of driving an automatic will be the ease of use you’ll be able to drive with, and the relative ease you’ll be able to offload your car when it comes to sell it.
If you’re buying an automatic, ask yourself whether its worth the extra cost (if its an option), and how convenient you want your driving experience. Automatics are especially good for drivers who regularly find themselves in heavy traffic, or in slow city streets. Automatics have a reputation for not being engaging for drivers, although most modern auto transmissions come with a manual or sports mode for you to shift gears yourself, so it’s really a matter of how much driving you do, and if you feel that a manual is too taxing around town.
To compare manuals to automatics, come in to any Motorama dealership and pick out any two cars to take for a test drive and make sure you speak with our expert sales teams to find the best car for your daily drive.
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