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Why mostly manual cars in UK

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Alan Bone04/12/2019 14:59:55
3 forum posts

My youngest son treated me to a holiday in the UK and we hired a (Fix it again, Tony). It was a manual as the price differential for an automatic was horrendous.

We traveled about 2300 miles while there and spent a fair amount of time on the so-called motorways, drive 50 metres, stop for about 2 minutes, then go another 50 metres and eventually about a kilometre before stopping again. UGH !

My question is, why so few automatics with all the stop, start driving?

Of my last 5 cars, only one was a manual, A GQ Nissan Patrol which I later updated to an automatic GU Patrol. I needed a fairly large car to to a 6 metre caravan. When I sold the GU and caravan I bought a Holden (Isuzu) Rodeo auto ute (pickup), drove it for a couple of years then gave it to my youngest son as the trade-in price offered was ridiculously low. Current main car is a Suzuki Celerio which is dirt cheap to run, when I stop driving in about 3 years my grandson wants it when he gets his licence. My other car is a used VW Multivan for carrying my mobility scooter, nice vehicle but very unreliable, motor karked after 5000 km and am waiting for youngest son to fix it when he gets back from the mine. He builds race cars a a hobby !

What are your thoughts about manual versus auto ?

Alan

KWIL04/12/2019 15:08:13
3140 forum posts
57 photos

More expensive to buy, more expensive to repair, more expensive on fuel. Is there another reason?

Mick B104/12/2019 15:11:26
1270 forum posts
71 photos

Autos use more fuel, accelerate less well, and not many garages know how to fix them. Gearbox trouble in manuals is rare, while 2 out of the 4 autos I've had have suffered gearbox breakdowns.

You were obviously unlucky in your motorway driving, or you picked bad times/places to be doing it.

That do?

Nick Clarke 304/12/2019 15:16:29
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455 forum posts
12 photos

Traditional automatics worked best in cars with larger engines with good low down torque and a wide rev range and here in the UK, as in many parts of the world smaller engines were the norm and so the auto choice meant compromises in performance and fuel economy that the buying public were unwilling to pay.

In my opinion automatics made sense - however in the sixties and seventies many manufacturers mainstream models were 1600cc or therabouts and a 1600cc automatic Ford Cortina was a far less pleasant car to drive than the manual (4 speed) version which was probably the most popular car to buy during much of that time.

While auto boxes for large vehicles were introduced in the 1940s the first auto transmission designed for a small UK car was the AP auto box fitted to Minis and 11/1300s from 1962 (and incidently it was manufactured about 800yds from where I now live) However this was not seen as suitable for young, keen drivers.

As such until recently the image of driving an automatic was that it was for oldies and it does not help that UK licencing laws allow someone to drive auto and manual if the driving test was passed in a manual car, while if in an auto you could never drive anything else - ie you were 'less skilled'

Personally having worked in the Motor Trade for several years including a lot of auto box work for the trade a well matched auto box is easier to drive, nicer to drive and requires less maintenance - and today the fuel consumption penalty is small.

The devil is in the detail of course and 'well matched' does not, in my personal opinion, apply to automated manual gearboxes and some 'sealed for life' autos which are nasty to drive and short lived respectively.

I am no longer personally interested in cars much, I think I have run too many, and so I drive a small basic manual car as the auto choice for that model is not a good one - however if I drove a different car with an engine of say 1.4 litres or more I don't think it would be manual.

Edited By Nick Clarke 3 on 04/12/2019 15:17:22

Edited By Nick Clarke 3 on 04/12/2019 15:22:12

Martin Connelly04/12/2019 15:19:20
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908 forum posts
112 photos

I have an auto box (7 ratio double clutch) and have had auto boxes for the previous 3 cars (Borg Warner with torque converter and lock out in 4th gear so no slip) so that is about 20 years. Most of my driving was commuting 17.5 miles each way on a rural A road with about 15 miles of no stopping for lights, junctions etc. but I still started to get a sore left knee so went for the auto option (which fixed the problem).

I think the auto versus manual came down to cost. The manual was cheaper and more reliable for a long time so that's what people bought and were used to. It becomes a case of avoid those new fangled, expensive, fragile and unknown experience autos even when it is no longer true.

I always go for an auto when hiring a car because they are usually in a much better state than manuals that have been used/misused by lots of people.

Another thing to point out is that there is no manual gearbox on a fully electric car so people will have to change if they get one.

It is my belief that learning to drive in an automatic would be a lot easier than a manual car. Since there are so many small autos becoming available now I would suggest it as the way to go. Pass the test, drive for a while to learn roadcraft then take further lessons and pass the manual test at some point in the future if you want to drive a manual car.

Martin C

Steve Neighbour04/12/2019 15:19:45
23 forum posts
Posted by KWIL on 04/12/2019 15:08:13:

"More expensive to buy, more expensive to repair, more expensive on fuel. Is there another reason?"

 

I disagree, maybe a few years ago, when automatics were generally 3 speed Borg Warner, then the fuel mpg suffered and they were very expensive to repair, often also needing frequent transmission fluid changes, but that was then !!

Things have progressed significantly in the last 10-15 years, automatic gearboxes are now very reliable, are often 7, 8 or even 9 speed, no longer use a torque convertor system and are completely electronically controlled along with clever stop/start systems which can (and do) return mpg figures only dreamed of by those driving a manual car.

Example, when did you last see a manual bus, rubbish truck, or emergency services vehicle ?

 

I changed over 10 years+ ago, much to the horror of my father (always a manual man) and wouldn't drive a manual vehicle for all the tea in china now, simply there is no comparison with respect to mpg, ease of driving, ability to control the car effectively and overall comfort - in my mind (entirely my opinion I appreciate)

Obviously a few manufacturers think the same (JLR, MB to name but two) where it is no longer easy to buy a manual box model any more.

Edited By Steve Neighbour on 04/12/2019 15:22:44

Edited By Steve Neighbour on 04/12/2019 15:26:53

Howard Lewis04/12/2019 15:20:47
2588 forum posts
2 photos

Automatics usually consume more fuel than a manual, important in these environmentally aware times.

Also, a manual can be controlled by use of the gears (Forget the DSA "Gears to go, brakes to slow" - For years, drivers of commercial vehicles were expected to be able to halt a vehicle in the event of a brake failure. Yes modern brakes are better and more reliable, but failures DO occur. hence the spring brakes, held off by air pressure, on commercial vehicles! )

If I have to control the vehicle by overriding the automatic transmission, I may as well have chosen a manual in the first place. And a manual does not change up when I lift off and want to slow gradually!

And under snow or ice, give me a manual anyday!

Also, with modern electronic engine management systems, closing the throttle, cuts off the fuel, again environmentally friendly. And reduced use of the brakes, means less harmful brake dust is released into the air, not to mention brake discs lasting longer, again, environmentally friendly.

Stop - start progress is more likely on overloaded motorways, such as M25. Non motorway roads can actually produce shorter journey times under those circumstances! Even the grossly over loaded A47 can produce better travel than on the M25, M25 seems to be cars cars cars, while A47 is lorries, lorries and more lorries; but at least the wheels tend to keep turning.

Climbs off hobby horse

Howard

john fletcher 104/12/2019 15:39:47
564 forum posts

We bought a pre owned as the used car sale man says, Vauxhall Agila 1.1 automatic three years ago and we often say why did we wait so long. Very good on fuel, in fact we don't bother to check now,.after all what is the point on checking, you either leave the tank empty or fill it and use the car. I was always told avoid an automatic cars, they are problematic, not in my experience. John

Steve Neighbour04/12/2019 15:49:22
23 forum posts
Posted by Howard Lewis on 04/12/2019 15:20:47:

Automatics usually consume more fuel than a manual, important in these environmentally aware times.

Also, a manual can be controlled by use of the gears (Forget the DSA "Gears to go, brakes to slow" - For years, drivers of commercial vehicles were expected to be able to halt a vehicle in the event of a brake failure. Yes modern brakes are better and more reliable, but failures DO occur. hence the spring brakes, held off by air pressure, on commercial vehicles! )

If I have to control the vehicle by overriding the automatic transmission, I may as well have chosen a manual in the first place. And a manual does not change up when I lift off and want to slow gradually!

And under snow or ice, give me a manual anyday!

Also, with modern electronic engine management systems, closing the throttle, cuts off the fuel, again environmentally friendly. And reduced use of the brakes, means less harmful brake dust is released into the air, not to mention brake discs lasting longer, again, environmentally friendly.

Stop - start progress is more likely on overloaded motorways, such as M25. Non motorway roads can actually produce shorter journey times under those circumstances! Even the grossly over loaded A47 can produce better travel than on the M25, M25 seems to be cars cars cars, while A47 is lorries, lorries and more lorries; but at least the wheels tend to keep turning.

Climbs off hobby horse

Howard

Is your 'Hobby Horse' an auto then laugh

The cons of an auto are a lot less than ever nowadays, my car has a 9 speed triptronic gearbox (fancy name for fully electronically controlled) coupled to a 2 ltr EU6 diesel and easily achieves 50-55 mpg, on a longer run an a motorway at a steady 70 mph it will hit 60+ mpg, I travel in excess of 25k miles a year, in all weather conditions, and find it very easy to adapt to ice/snow etc, just select the correct mode and the electronics does the rest, it also has flappy paddles allowing quick and easy manual changing so I fail to see what the advantages of a manual are now !

On the flip side, my better half has a small car with a 900cc 3 cylinder petrol engine, and a 5 speed manual gearbox, it averages around 35mpg being nowhere near my car which has a bigger engine.

The old thinking of "Brakes to go, Gears to slow" - I was taught that very method when I learnt, has long been overtaken by new techniques (no pun intended) simply because using only your gears to slow down gives no rearward warning from brake lights that you are actually slowing down and brake pads are a lot cheaper than gear boxes and clutches (ROSPA advanced driving course recommendations)

Climbs off perch and getting my coat wink

Steve

RMA04/12/2019 15:57:38
216 forum posts
4 photos

Good question Alan. Personally I'm all for autos and the modern ones are a dream to drive....8 gears and the option of sequential manual if required. Fuel consumption excellent.......63+ per gallon on a run and high performance. Okay the car wasn't cheap, but on England's crowded roads (not exclusive to motorways) they really do come into their own.

I have arthritic knees so it's a relief not having the worry if at the next clutch depression my knee locks up!

I think the answer to your question is historic. Way back they were pretty exclusive and cars were in the main bought on price. Auto boxes were treated with suspicion and the torque converters of the day aided a higher fuel consumption.

I was sold on them many year's ago when a friend bought a new Triumph 2000 auto and he let me drive it......never looked back, although I do admit to buying a couple of high performance manual cars in between, but always went back to an auto. I've had many autos and only one mechanical problem in all those miles, which was a blown seal on a Rover 3500.

Pete Rimmer04/12/2019 15:59:40
536 forum posts
24 photos

Autos have traditionally been expensive and juicy and carried the stigma of being a car for people who 'can't walk and chew gum' i.e. can't manage a clutch and gear stick. I say this having a mother who somehow managed to pass her auto test but even in an automatic being her passenger was a terrifying ordeal.

I don't know how it is in Aus but in the UK if you'll normally learn to drive in a manual car which gets you a licence to drive any transmission type, or you can opt (either by choice or necessity as above) to take a test in an automatic which restricts you to automatic transmission cars. Thus, most people test in a manual car and therefore buy the type they learned to drive in.

The reliabiliy/consumption issues are largely gone now and the 'stigma' much diminished but manuals are still (just) out-selling autos, which are fast gaining favour because of modern technological features such a paddle-shift. Kids play driving games on their consoles and that makes paddle-shift (and pure-auto) cars very familiar to them now.

JA04/12/2019 16:01:09
830 forum posts
48 photos

Twenty years ago I had an automatic 1.4L VW Polo. It was nice to drive and did not seem to lack power. Over the 50,000 miles I had it the gearbox gave no problems at all. The only problem was that the car wore out front brake pads at an alarming rate.

Recently I had the use of a brand new Audi fitted with a modern electronic automatic gear box. I believe the box had more than one clutch and no torque convertor. It certainly had six speeds. It was considerably less smooth than the old Polo's box. However, if I was buying a new car I would opt for one with such a modern box because I am getting older. I also realise that the lack of smoothness may be due to its newness.

JA

3404604/12/2019 16:01:59
884 forum posts
6 photos
Posted by Mick B1 on 04/12/2019 15:11:26:

Autos use more fuel, accelerate less well, and not many garages know how to fix them. Gearbox trouble in manuals is rare, while 2 out of the 4 autos I've had have suffered gearbox breakdowns.

You were obviously unlucky in your motorway driving, or you picked bad times/places to be doing it.

That do?

Can agree with that in the main.. My Jensen Interceptor 3 uses fuel at 6 miles to the gallon around town, 15 on a run, goes like you know what of a shovel for accelaration, 70 mph in bottom gear,. No gearbox trouble to date in 15 years but if it comes it will be down the road as I know what repair cost will be, as fitted with the same torqueflite gaerbox as RR.

Bill

Nick Clarke 304/12/2019 16:09:10
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455 forum posts
12 photos

Interestingly the reason the place I worked at did so much work on auto transmissions in the 80's (mainly BW35, 12J, 45 or the Ford C4) was because much of the trade was frightened of them - but they would go for amazing mileages with no repair - to the stage where the metal clutch plates would wear so thin that a box that came in with 'I think it may be slipping a bit' would have plates worn so thin they would cut paper!

If the fluid was trashed by overheating or burnt brake bands it could cause problems but we only ever scrapped a box if the case was broken - if you had someone in the business who knew what they were doing (emphatically not me!) you could replace anything to repair any fault.

Posted by Howard Lewis on 04/12/2019 15:20:47:..........

And under snow or ice, give me a manual anyday!

The early BW boxes had D1 and D2 selection where D2 started off in intermediate using the torque convertor's torque multiplication to make life easier on slippery surfaces, but later ones and virtually all autos since, appear to be designed to allow you to select a lower gear if wanted rather than a higher one if needed for stability on ice.

John Haine04/12/2019 16:18:17
2780 forum posts
140 photos

VAG DSG transmission is smooth, gives better economy than the same car with manual gears, provides manual sequential selection if you want engine braking. I'm on my second, first was a Skoda Octavia 2 litre with 6 speed; now an A1 with 7 speed.

Nick Clarke 304/12/2019 16:34:09
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455 forum posts
12 photos
Posted by 34046 on 04/12/2019 16:01:59:

No gearbox trouble to date in 15 years but if it comes it will be down the road as I know what repair cost will be, as fitted with the same torqueflite gaerbox as RR.

Bill

I think you may be being unduely pessimistic overe your gearbox - During my time there we only dealt with one Interceptor (a II I think) but to reassure you this is what the Classic and Sports Car magazine website has to say: 'The Chrysler Torqueflite auto is cheap to rebuild; rarely fails unless it runs dry' Link

Dave Halford04/12/2019 18:49:12
521 forum posts
4 photos
Posted by 34046 on 04/12/2019 16:01:59:
Posted by Mick B1 on 04/12/2019 15:11:26:

Can agree with that in the main.. My Jensen Interceptor 3 uses fuel at 6 miles to the gallon around town, 15 on a run, goes like you know what of a shovel for accelaration, 70 mph in bottom gear,. No gearbox trouble to date in 15 years but if it comes it will be down the road as I know what repair cost will be, as fitted with the same torqueflite gaerbox as RR.

Bill

What!!!!! All you need to do is Google Duncan Watts Transmissions or Dave Billadeau for anything 70s Mopar. They will know where you need to go.

Simon Collier04/12/2019 19:37:27
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305 forum posts
52 photos

Manuals are very rare these days here in Sydney. I doubt if there is a manual hire car anywhere. As for new cars, I think you'd struggle to find one.

Neil Wyatt04/12/2019 20:39:51
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Moderator
16933 forum posts
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I did some of my learning in a vehicle without synchromesh

Driving bigger vehicles (e.g. LWB Mercedes Sprinter, Dodge Ram) as autos is fine, I like being able to 'creep', but I like the 'engagement' of gears particularly in my 20s and living in Wales with lots of hills and hyperbolic curves (that can scare the S out of English drivers used to constant radius bends) gearboxes offered a lot on fun.

Traction control addresses some of the auto issues, but is nice with a gearbox too.

In 15-20 years when we are all driving electric cars it will all be a bit academic.

Neil

Andrew Evans04/12/2019 22:45:29
277 forum posts
1 photos

Not sure if there are more autos in Australia compared to Europe. You always pay more to rent an automatic, purely because the rental companies can charge more as some people either can't or won't drive a manual. Think it is even more in the US where most people seem to have never heard of manual transmission.

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