My parents finally got the new car a couple of days ago. Apparently manual transmissions are even less popular than I thought, as there were none available in Southern Ontario in the right trim, so we had to wait for them to manufacture it. It seems that manual drivers are really in heavy decline in North America. I can still spot them on the road (once you drive manual, you can see the tell-tale signs in other drivers), but I see far fewer of them than ever before. It's sad really; I actually have had a lot of my friends mention that they'd love to learn how, but in all honesty they probably never will.
There are a number of benefits to driving manual. The most obvious is that manual cars are cheaper, and you can save $1-2000 if you can drive stick. It's also just a useful skill to have. Manual drivers can always drive automatic cars (we just usually don't like it), but automatic drivers can't drive manual. If you go to many parts of the world, particularly Europe, you might have a hard time renting an automatic transmission, so knowing how to drive manual can be an incredibly useful skill when travelling. I also find that manual drivers tend to be better drivers, since the need to change gears manually forces them to be more aware of their speed and the things happening around them. Of course it's also a little bit of a point of pride among guys. There's still, I think, a lot of particularly testosterone fueled competition between guys over who is the best driver, and being able to drive manual, which so few people can do, is a big notch in your belt.
Unfortunately, the system in North America is stacked against manual drivers. Driving schools all teach in automatic, exclusively so in Toronto. Finding someone to teach you manual is really hard, and if you don't already know how, you can't buy a manual car, because you won't be able to drive it off the lot. For a lot of people, that means they will never have the chance to learn. For most of my friends, if I don't teach them, they literally don't know anybody else who could. I was lucky enough that my dad grew up in England, where he learned manual, and imported that skill to Canada where he taught my mom, and eventually myself. Without that, I'd probably be driving manual like everyone else.
Anyway, that was a surprisingly long and unnecessary tangent which has served to thoroughly bury the lede. Really, this post was meant to be about the new car. Which, for the record, is fantastic. It's like I took my old car, which I really liked, and fixed almost every nagging flaw. The clutch is like silk, and changing gears is buttery smooth. The biggest differences are in the on-board computer. My last car effective didn't have one, but this one definitely does. A little display next to my (still digital) spedometer shows all kinds of useful info, including the car's mileage and remaining range, the audio source, and info from my phone. Bluetooth lets me link my phone in and make and receive calls, as well as play music and podcasts from my phone, the lack of which was probably my biggest annoyance with the last car. Possibly my favourite new feature, however, is the automatic climate control. You set the temperature you want, and the car takes care of maintaining it, just like a home thermostat.
It's not perfect. Since my phone uses an old AVRCP protocol (Google's fault, not Honda's) it won't show incoming texts, track info, or incoming text messages, which is disappointing. While the black interior looks beautiful, I suspect it will get painfully hot in the summer. And all the expanded technology and features leave far less room for compartments to keep things in, meaning I can fit less random stuff in there. If that's the worst of my complaints, however, then I think I'm doing pretty well. The biggest drawback, to be honest, is that I'll need to live in constant terror of being the first to scratch or dent the thing.
Taking in the old car was strange. I drove it there after work, and handing over my key and watching them drive it off into the back was disconcerting. That said, it was over with pretty quickly, and I made my peace with it, I think. It served me well for a very long time, and hopefully the new one will too.