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CVT vs. 5-speed manual

I'm thinking of buying an Impreza. I thought I would get a Honda Fit but the more I look at them...the more I wonder if I could stand the look of the thing long term. The Impreza doesn't thrill me too much, either, but it's better, and a Golf TDI is just too expensive!

But I'm a little concerned about gas mileage. Looks like most people don't reach what's advertised, and some do a lot worse. But then...some seem to do pretty well. But on average it sure sounds not what you'd quite hope for.

Does anyone here have good knowledge of manual vs. CRT? I like sticks, and doubt the CVT would save enough gas to pay for itself. But is it possible that someone who knows how to drive a stick and is careful could do better than a CVT (which of course is rated 3 mpg higher). There are also some posts suggesting software problems with CVT, so perhaps 5 speed is more consistent and reliable on mpg? The trick is there aren't many with manuals posting (I assume most people buy automatic these days) so it's tough to tell from reading the posts. Any thoughts?



  • xwesxxwesx Fairbanks, AlaskaPosts: 8,508
    My thought is that you don't choose a car's transmission based on fuel economy - you choose it based on preference. The FE difference is minimal in the real world, and you're going to have to live with whatever you decide.
  • backybacky Twin CitiesPosts: 18,732
    Drive both before deciding. I did, and although I prefer a stick, I'd have to go with the CVT on the Impreza because the 5-speed is much noiser than the CVT, and just feels less refined. Which puts the Impreza way down my shopping list because there are some small hatches with sticks that I liked driving, e.g. Mazda3 (6-speed), Elantra GT (6-speed), Golf (5-speed), and Focus (5-speed).

    I checked fuel economy on both of the Impreza test drives, and although they were relatively short the CVT definitely did better there.
  • First, don't regret not buying a Golf TDI. I had a 2010 TDI, and sold it with only 30k miles on it because it was a reliability nightmare.

    In place of the TDI I bought a 2012 Impreza Sport Premium hatchback with a 5-speed manual. I'm going to disagree with Daniel with regard to the 5-speed being noisier. In fact, noise is a primary complaint with the CVT because it revs high and hold the high revs during any kind of acceleration (this is common CVT behavior). With the 5-speed, you have better control of the engine's RPMs.

    As others have said, I don't think the fuel economy differences between the two tranny choices is significant, as long as you know how to drive a stick well.

    On the Impreza forum that I frequent (NASIOC), there are many CVT owners who wish the bought a manual tranny, but didn't either because of city driving, or family members who can't drive a stick. But they would have made a different choice if they could have.

    I have the stick, and wouldn't want it any other way.

    Good luck!
  • ateixeiraateixeira Posts: 72,587
    it was a reliability nightmare

    Some of the folks in the diesel threads think they walk on water...
  • dcm61dcm61 Posts: 1,465
    Rented a Chevy Orlando in France a couple of weeks ago ... I4 Turbo Diesel, 6 spd MT. Tons of torque, so didn't have to shift too often, but still had to row thru 6 gears. I prefer my CVT.
  • I have the hatch Sport Premium. You can pretty much eliminate any high rev engine noise, if it bothers you, by simply paddle shifting the car. I do that once in a while, but mainly, I'm use to the CVT now and it doesn't bother me. It does get better mileage than the manual. I live in a city and a manual is a PITA in traffic. I have 13k miles on the car now. Highest was 44 mpg this summer driving 60 mph or less on a country road trip. Lowest mpg is summer was about 30 mpg with lots of stop and go traffic, speeds around 80 mph on freeways mixed in. Now, its winter here in MPLS. I'm getting about 27 mpg overall. Not good, but then again NO car gets good gas mileage up here in winter with the gas formulation that is used, idlling to warm up the car constantly and driving with the engine cold. Not to mention spinning and sliding on snow and ice. By the way, your not really comparing apples to apples with the FIT. Its 2wd vs AWD. Big difference. If gas mileage is your ONLY criteria, I would guess the Fit will do better. For me, AWD was my first criteria and gas mileage was third or fourth.
  • xwesxxwesx Fairbanks, AlaskaPosts: 8,508
    That's a great synopsis, Fred.

    On average, the Fit really isn't all that stellar in the FE department. Its space is fantastic, but you'll probably not see better than about 34-35 mpg on average. It's actually one of the least fuel efficient FWD sub-compacts currently available.

    If one considers that the Impreza will likely sit at 30-32 average with AWD, the Fit isn't really a good fit unless you simply want a Fit. ;)
  • ateixeiraateixeira Posts: 72,587
    Fit is an over-sized sub-compact, though. In Brazil it's actually considered a "monovolume", or basically a small minivan.

    I find it more roomy than the Civic, for instance.

    My mom's on her 2nd Fit. Great city car, but noisy on the highway.
  • bpeeblesbpeebles Posts: 4,085
    This *is* a Subaru forum comparing CVT -vs- manual xMission.

    My wife and I have been driving manual xmissions for well over million miles. Never one bit of trouble with them. (never even wore out a clutch)

    Recently, my wife got a Subie with CVT. Our main reason for chosing CVT is the MPG it offers.

    After some time with the CVT, I have formed some opinions. (As an engineer as well as a driver)

    *)First of all, I have no clue what all the reviews mean by a CVT being "noisy". Even if I listen very carefully, I can only hear a VERY slight wirring sound which is never obtrusive. No more noise than the gear-meshing sound of a manual xmision.

    *) The promised MPG is easily achievable with a light throttle-pressure to keep the engine-RPMs low and allow the CVT to shift up as the roadspeed increases. Country-roads (under 50MPH) actually seem to get BETTER MPG than on a highway. (over 60MPH)

    *) I can say that it is MUCH harder to maintain a constant roadspeed with CVT compared to a manual xmission (exact same Subie engine in both cars) . The CVT is always trying maintain optimum engine-rpms ... but the roadspeed changes all the time as it does this. One has to 'pedal' constantly to maintain constant speed as the road rises and falls.

    *) Acceleration is actually quicker than a normal automatic that shifts gears... but the SOUND the engine is making does not relay the briskness of that acceleration to the driver. The car simply accelerates as the engine-RPM stays stable.

    *) The Outback is a pretty large vehicle and is dragging around all the xtra metal of AWD system. (in addition to all the extra moving parts which must be rotated)...yet it is AVERAGING 28MPG during daily driving. PHENOMENAL!
  • ateixeiraateixeira Posts: 72,587
    Can't complain about 28mpg, that beats what I average in my Miata. LOL
  • xwesxxwesx Fairbanks, AlaskaPosts: 8,508
    Just finished a 12,641 mile trip over five weeks. We averaged 26.7 mpg in our 2010 Forester (EJ25 w/ 5-speed manual). Believe me, it was FULLY loaded that whole time! LOL The best tank just broke 30 mpg, with many in the 28 mpg range. I think the mid-west, with 10% ethanol and long, high-speed drives, did us in. We were under 25 on those stretches. Avg price of fuel was $4.45 combined (about 50% Canadian and 50% American miles).

    Really cannot argue that the CVT offers better mileage return. I still wouldn't give up the MT. Actually, I would be concerned about how well the CVT could handle the load. Prior to leaving on that trip, I towed an enclosed trailer 350 miles to pick up a piano, then hauled it home. I sure love the versatility of this little car. For "normal" use, though, CVT wouldn't be a problem at all.
  • ateixeiraateixeira Posts: 72,587
    Yikes on those gas prices.

    Per CR the new one does +4mpg better than ours, and that makes we want to trade my wife's up for a new one.

    Competing priorities, though.
  • xwesxxwesx Fairbanks, AlaskaPosts: 8,508
    Yep! Thankfully, the new ones are going the ugly route, so that makes it easier for me to suppress any such urges. Besides, we only have 69,000 miles on ours!

    You've had your '09 for what, about 5.5 years now? That should put you in at about half my miles. :-P Keep it. You'd never make up the difference over a meager 4 mpg.
  • ateixeiraateixeira Posts: 72,587
    Yeah, we just finished the 30k service. :D

    So it's just now broken in.
  • nippononlynippononly SF Bay AreaPosts: 12,692
    I just did the 60K on my '09 (OBS). And I thought of myself as not putting a lot of miles on it! And mine isn't officially five years old until next May!

    2013 Civic SI, 2009 Outback Sport 5-spd (stick)

  • xwesxxwesx Fairbanks, AlaskaPosts: 8,508
    We were putting on miles at probably about the same rate as you, nippon. Ours is five years old in September (2014). But, we did do that transcontinental trip a couple months ago, so that boosted us to nearly 70K. Since then, I think we've filled the car with fuel three, maybe four, times.
  • nippononlynippononly SF Bay AreaPosts: 12,692
    Well I'm looking to get at least 10 years out of this one, and hoping they still offer a manual by the time I am ready for my next one, and that it is a 6-speed. The icing on the cake would be that they offer a moonroof with the manual, but I have a feeling that is going to be too much to wish for by then.

    I certainly won't be buying a CVT in this lifetime unless I finally bite the bullet on a hybrid.

    2013 Civic SI, 2009 Outback Sport 5-spd (stick)

  • xwesxxwesx Fairbanks, AlaskaPosts: 8,508
    Agreed, except that I have no interest in hybrid tech, so no problems for me there!

    That's not to say that there is anything inherently *wrong* with a CVT, just that neither of us prefer it. :)
  • jfljfl Posts: 1,348
    When I was looking for my '13 Impreza in Sept, 80-90% of the available cars were CVT. A few dealers had no manual tranny Imprezas at all.

    I purchased the only silver 5m in the Calif bay area. My wife said I got a good price cuz hardly anyone buys a manual anymore!
  • nippononlynippononly SF Bay AreaPosts: 12,692
    Sadly Subaru, which was for the longest time firmly committed to offering manuals across a wide range of models, has in the last couple of years retreated on that. :-(

    I'm not surprised you had trouble finding a manual. My local dealer only stocks WRXs and one or two base trim Imprezas and Foresters with a stick.

    My choices seven years from now for manual Subarus are likely to be limited to WRX and STi (and BRZ if it makes it to a redesign), I fear. I wouldn't mind a stick-shift Forester or CrossTrek with that huge panoramic moonroof, but I think the boat has already sailed on the Forester and I won't be holding my breath on the CrossTrek....

    2013 Civic SI, 2009 Outback Sport 5-spd (stick)

  • jfljfl Posts: 1,348

    @nippononly said: Sadly Subaru, which was for the longest time firmly committed to offering manuals across a wide range of models, has in the last couple of years retreated on that. :-(

    They're just building what sells. And lots of people think paddle shifters are just like a manual ... but WE know they aren't!

  • nippononlynippononly SF Bay AreaPosts: 12,692

    Are they building what sells, or are they selling what they build?! Sounds like I'm joking, but I'm really not...

    2013 Civic SI, 2009 Outback Sport 5-spd (stick)

  • saedavesaedave Chicago, ILPosts: 683

    CAFE (Corporate Average Fuel Economy) considerations now dictate the product mix. CVTs deliver the required economy improvement with the test procedures used. I would not be surprised to see Subaru drop all manuals in the next few years.

  • nippononlynippononly SF Bay AreaPosts: 12,692
    edited December 2013

    @saedave: They are designing them to the EPA test, not to predict real-world mileage. Lots of people were disappointed by the new Impreza CVT, getting way below rated mileage. Stick shift drivers, of course, went on getting the same superlative mileage they always have in their Subarus. ;-)

    By the way, I am sad to say you are probably right about the manuals comment, EXCEPT there is no way they drop the manual completely from the WRX/STi (and probably not from the BRZ either, if that model survives to gen II).

    2013 Civic SI, 2009 Outback Sport 5-spd (stick)

  • saedavesaedave Chicago, ILPosts: 683

    I think you are correct about manuals continuing in those very low volume models which would have little effect on CAFE.

  • bpeeblesbpeebles Posts: 4,085

    @nippononly said: saedave: They are designing them to the EPA test, not to predict real-world mileage.

    I wonder how many folks even know how the EPA does its MPG testing? I read thru the test-procedure a few months ago... Basically, it goes as follows:
    Known - Vehicle weight

    1. On level ground, the TIME is measured to coast to a stop from a specific speed
    2. From this, the aerodynamics of the vehicle can be calculated
    3. The above numbers are plugged into a computer
    4. Vehicle is scrapped into a machine that can test emissions,fuel-use, and other specifics
    5. The computer spits out the MPG numbers

    The important thing to keep in mind is that the vehicle is not ever driven on a road by the EPA folks. (Step 1 above is done by the manufacturer) The computer and its algorithms to calculate MPG is all that is used.

    The only way a manufacturer can 'sway' the results is to mis-represent the coast-down numbers. (which has happened in the past a couple times.)

    Personally, I ALWAYS get higher MPG than the EPA estimates. However, my driving-habits have been fine-tuned over many years of driving for economy. (My VW diesel is rated at 39MPG and I routinely get over 50MPG - I have a spreadsheet of fuel-purchases for every vehicle I own including Vespa scooter, Motorcycle and automobiles)

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