Honda’s engineers thought long and hard about how to give the new Type R a sublime shifting action, and their efforts have really paid off. It’s maybe lacking a little heft, but it’s sweet, accurate and has a delectably short throw. At 40mm, it’s actually the same throw length as the old NSX-R.
There’s only really one conventional car on sale today that can beat the Civic in the gear change stakes: the new Mazda MX-5. It feels just as precise and mechanically sweet, but with a little added might. It has the same 40mm throw, too.
There’s a reason Mazda worked so hard to make the new MX-5’s gear change as good as possible: the short manual shift on the original was its defining attribute. Speak to any Mk1 Miata owner about gearboxes, and they’ll endlessly wax lyrical about the car’s stubby gear lever and its stickety shifts.
Take a look at our MX-5 video series: Project MX-5.
When talking about the new MX-5, we said the best gear change of any conventional car, because if you go for something less conventional like a Caterham, you’re in for a manual gearbox treat. We recently sampled the Seven 420, and adored its ludicrously short shifts.
Sticking with the unconventional theme, we arrive at the Ariel Atom. The lever is short and simple, and the changes are so good that you’ll be spouting all sorts of cliches about it feeling like a bolt-action rifle.
You’d think that all the 1980s/90s supercars with gated manuals - things like old Lamborghini Diablos - would have sublime shifts, but that’s not necessarily the case according to our most experienced supercar driver and bloke-we-hate-quite-a-bit, John Marcar. You’ll often find quite a long, clumsy throw, but there are exceptions, and one of those is the F50. John reckons it’s the best manual he’s ever sampled.
Two things are missing from the new Audi R8: the old N/A 4.2-litre V8, and the manual gearbox. The R8 was a car that got the gated manual just right: it offers a much shorter and more accurate throw than many gated shifts that came before it.
There was one attribute of the NSX that everyone at CT loved when we spent time with it recently: the gearbox. It’s quite a stiff thing so does require a firm hand to slot in position, but once you gel with it, most other manual shifts will disappoint.
We’re including the Boxster as it was the last manual-equipped Porsche we drove, but whether it’s this, the Cayman or the 911, Stuttgart does gear changes very well indeed. As with the NSX, it responds best to sturdy inputs, and that’s the appeal. The downside? Porsche’s sets of manual cogs tend to include rather long 1st and 2nd gears.
Yes, this is the third Honda we’ve mentioned. And we’re sorrynotsorry about that, because the Japanese company has come out with some incredible shifts over the years, one such change appearing on the S2000. It’s short and feels nicely mechanical, and as this is a car you need to change gear in quite a bit, that’s a good thing.
Take a look at our S2k video: 10 Things You Didn’t Know About The Honda S2000.
The Toyosciobaru is an interesting one as it’s probably the least mechanical-feeling of the lot. But it’s the way it feels as though the lever is almost sucked into each slot that is oh-so satisfying.
What are the cars you most like to change gear in?