Consider them a dying breed.
It wasn’t so long ago that a manual transmission came as standard fare. Things are different now. Ferrari has ditched the manual entirely and Porsche is phasing it out. Fortunately, there’s still some hope for those who prefer to row their own gears. We’ve gathered a list of affordable sporty sedans that offer a manual at no extra cost. They must also be priced less than $35,000. In no particular order of preference or pricing, here are five sporty sedans that remind us why we love to drive.
No, it’s not the WRX STI, but at the end of the day the Subaru WRX will easily fill most people’s needs. A CVT option does exist and drivers say it isn’t all that bad: but it’s the six-speed manual you’ll want in a car like this. With a total of 268 horsepower on tap thanks to its turbocharged 2.0 boxer four, the WRX has always been associated with driving fun. It has rally racing roots, after all. And because it has all-wheel-drive, the WRX can be driven year round without any trouble. It may not be the prettiest car out there, but for a base price of $26,295, you really can’t go wrong.
VW offers its Jetta in many flavors, but it’s the GLI trim that was made specifically for enthusiasts. Despite being front-wheel-drive, many consider the Jetta GLI as the poor man’s BMW 3 Series. Unlike the latter, however, the Jetta GLI offers a six-speed manual as standard. Sure, you could go for the optional dual-clutch gearbox, but part of the fun would immediately be gone. Power comes from a turbocharged 2.0-liter four that’s good for 200 horsepower. It also has a fully independent suspension, a black honeycomb grille, smoked taillights, dual exhaust, and even red-painted brake calibers. Pricing starts at just $24,535.
The ILX may just be the best Acura built today. Amazingly enough, it’s also the cheapest. If you want something a bit more mature than the Honda Civic Si, the ILX might be your car. In fact, it’s built on the same platform and shares many other mechanicals with the Civic, but it’s wrapped up in a classier package. There are three trim levels, but our advice is to go for the top-end 2.4-liter four-cylinder with 201 horsepower and 170 lb-ft of torque. And get this: this engine only comes offered with a six-speed manual. At least Acura does something good these days. The ILX is also fairly easy on the wallet, with the 2.4 trim costing $29,200.
If your budget allows for it, you can be the proud owner of a new Mitsubishi Lancer EVO or a Subaru WRX STI. We decided to group these two together for a couple of reasons: One, they’re long-time rivals. Two, they’re both at the very top of this pricing category. The EVO bases at $34,995 while the WRX STI starts at $34,495. It’s not really possible to convince a fan of one to switch sides, but for those debating between the two, it’s hard to go wrong with either. Obviously the Subie is much newer, but the EVO has an old school flavor that’s getting harder to find, especially for the price. And yes, a six-speed manual comes in both.
The Dodge Dart may not be quite the car many were hoping for, but the GT trim does offer enthusiasts a solid bang for the buck. For a starting price of just $20,995, the Dart GT comes with a 2.4-liter inline four that produces 184 horsepower and 174 lb-ft of torque. Dodge serves up a couple of optional automatics, but the best choice is clearly the standard six-speed manual. Opinions on the exterior design are polarized, especially in regards the rear styling, but there’s no doubt the Dart, now infused with some Italian emotion, is a huge step up from Dodge’s previous offering in this category. That car was so bad we won’t even say its name.