The last Volkswagen Golf variant with a manual gearbox has been cut from the range – leaving the smaller Polo as the last man(ual) standing with three pedals.
The 2023 Volkswagen Golf small car can no longer be had with a manual transmission – for the first full year in its entire Australian tenure – after supply constraints saw the car maker double down on more popular model grades.
The six-speed manual Golf – offered only in the entry-level model, for about $30,000 plus on-road costs – was first temporarily taken off sale from the Model Year 2022 range late last year, to free up production slots for more popular (and dearer) variants of Volkswagen’s small car.
Executives suggested to media at the time the manual would return come the start of Model Year 2023 – however Volkswagen Australia has confirmed today the three-pedal variant has been “formally discontinued” for the new model year.
Given the three-pedal option is only available on the base variant, and the manual hasn’t been produced for Australia for six months or so, a VW spokesperson told Drive the “Golf sells as close to 100 per cent auto or DSG [dual-clutch auto] as makes no odds.”
The entry-level model is thought to be the least popular model. The more expensive Life and R-Line variants – priced north of $40,000 drive-away – account for about 30 per cent of sales each.
Previously offered for $2600 less than the entry-grade automatic model, the deletion of the manual pushes the starting price to $34,690 plus on-road costs.
The last time the manual was available to order late last year – prior to two price rise across the remaining automatic range in January and June – it cost $29,550 plus on-road costs.
The smaller Polo city car is now the sole remaining Volkswagen passenger car available with a manual transmission, and only in entry-level, five-speed 70TSI Life trim – down from two manual variants across two engine tunes.
The Golf GTI and R hot hatches were offered with six-speed manuals in previous-generation ‘Mk7.5’ form – however this gearbox was axed from both cars in 2018, citing low demand, with just 10 per cent of buyers not springing for the dual-clutch (DSG) automatic (in the GTI).
A decade ago, at the end of the ‘Mk6’ Golf’s run in 2012, a manual transmission was offered in all nine available model grades – as a (cheaper) alternative to an automatic in eight of them, and as the sole transmission option in the ninth.
Sales of manual transmission-equipped vehicles are in decline across all vehicle segments, data from the Federal Chamber of Automotive Industries (FCAI) shows.
In 2000, 44 per cent of passenger cars (which excludes SUVs, utes and vans) sold featured a manual gearbox.
By 2010, that was down to 30 per cent – preceded by a sharp decline to 10 per cent in 2017, and only five per cent in 2020, for a total of 11,282 manual cars sold.
The Volkswagen Golf has been available with a manual transmission for its entire tenure in Australia – first launched in 1976, dropped in 1982 and relaunched with the broader VW brand in 1990.
The list of manual small cars available in Australia has declined significantly in recent years, with the Toyota Corolla, Kia Cerato, BMW 1 Series, Audi S3, Peugeot 308, and standard versions of the Ford Focus and Renault Megane dropping their manuals in the last five years.
Seven small-car nameplates can still be had with a manual transmission: the Ford Focus (in ST hot hatch trim), Hyundai i30, Honda Civic (Type R), Mazda 3 (in G20 and G25 petrol forms), Renault Megane (RS Trophy), and the Skoda Scala (in base 110TSI Ambition form).
Manual small cars still on sale
- Ford Focus ST
- Hyundai i30 base model, N Line and N
- Honda Civic Type R
- Mazda 3 G20 and G25
- Mini Clubman Cooper and Cooper S
- Renault Megane RS Trophy
- Skoda Scala 110TSI Ambition
Note: The above list includes ‘small cars’, not one-size-smaller city cars, such as the Ford Fiesta ST and Hyundai i20 N.
Manual small cars axed in recent years
- 2022: Volkswagen Golf 110TSI (officially)
- 2021: Toyota Corolla, Kia Cerato
- 2020: Hyundai Veloster (entire range), Holden Astra (entire range)
- 2019: Audi S3, Alfa Romeo Giulietta, BMW 1 Series, Ford Focus (all but ST), Renault Megane (all models except RS)
- 2018: Peugeot 308 (with death of GTi), Volkswagen Golf GTI/R
- 2017: –
- 2016: Honda Civic (all except Type R), Subaru Impreza (excluding WRX), Nissan Pulsar (entire range)
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.