The last new cars with four-speed autos or five-speed manual transmissions


Five new cars on sale in Australia still have ‘four on the floor’ – albeit as automatics – and the number of new vehicles with five-speed manual gearboxes is diminishing.


The first cars with six-speed transmissions began arriving in numbers in local showrooms towards the end of the 1980s, with everything from high-end BMWs and Porsches, to Australia’s home-grown HSV Commodore ‘VN’ SS Group A sports sedan.

More than three decades on, even workhorse commercial vehicles can be had with up to 10 automatic speeds. And seven-speed manuals are now available in a limited number of sports cars.

But more than 120 years after the first production car with four gears launched – or 74 years since the first five-speed – there’s still a broad array of cars available in Australia with fewer than six forward speeds, from budget city cars to commercial vehicles.

Excluding (most) electric cars, and vehicles with continuously-variable transmissions (CVTs) – which feature one and zero gears respectively – here is every new car on sale locally with four-speed or five-speed transmissions.

Four-speed automatics: Kia Picanto, MG 3 and ZS, Suzuki Jimny and Suzuki Baleno

While four-speed manual transmissions didn’t survive past the end of the 1990s – axed in cars such as the original Mini (1998) – four-speed automatics live on in Australia’s most affordable new cars.

The Kia Picanto is currently Australia’s cheapest new car – excluding the soon-to-die Mitsubishi Mirage – while the MG 3 isn’t much dearer. The MG’s four-speed automatic was introduced in 2018 as a replacement for a slow-selling five-speed manual.

The Suzuki Jimny is the newest vehicle in this group, having launched at the start of 2019 – and is joined by two more popular ‘cheap cars’, the Suzuki Baleno hatchback and MG ZS small SUV (in base Excite trim).

All of these four-speed vehicles are powered by small 1.25-litre, 1.4-litre or 1.5-litre four-cylinder, with power and torque outputs peaking in the MG ZS, with 84kW and 150Nm.

Five-speed manuals: 16 models

Over 50 years since the first production car launched with a six-speed manual transmission (1967 Alfa Romeo 33 Stradale), there are still 16 new vehicles on sale in Australia with five-speed manual transmissions.

Most are budget city cars and SUVs, namely the Fiat 500 (and its Abarth 595 hot hatch twin, and the convertible versions of each), Kia Picanto, Mitsubishi Mirage and ASX, and the Suzuki Ignis, Jimny, Baleno, Swift and Vitara.

The list also includes Australia’s oldest new vehicle, the 37-year-old Toyota LandCruiser 70 Series, which is only available with a five-speed manual – and hasn’t been offered with an automatic transmission option since 1990.


Five-speed automatics: Fiat 500 and Abarth 595

The last new cars on sale with five-speed automatic transmissions are built in the same factory – the Fiat 500 hatch and convertible, plus their Abarth 595 siblings – following the demise of the Hyundai iLoad/iMax and Mitsubishi Pajero last year.

Rather than the torque converter gearboxes used in the four-speed cars, the Fiat twins use an ‘automated manual transmission’ – which as its name suggests, shares much of its design with a traditional manual gearbox, but with an electronically-controlled clutch and shifter, and only two pedals.

Are you surprised to see any cars on this list? Should all new cars have at least six gears? Share your opinions in the comments.

Alex Misoyannis has been writing about cars since 2017, when he started his own website, Redline. He contributed for Drive in 2018, before joining CarAdvice in 2019, becoming a regular contributing journalist within the news team in 2020. Cars have played a central role throughout Alex’s life, from flicking through car magazines as a young age, to growing up around performance vehicles in a car-loving family.

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