Toyota Hopes To Sell More Stick Shifts With The 2019 Corolla Hatchback

They’re cheaper, more fun, and fading fast.

Demand for stick shifts has waned with the advent of the automatic transmission and the more modern appetite for semi-autonomous vehicles, but some car companies continue to cater to the resistance. That’s why Toyota is touting a retooled six-speed manual transmission for one of its sportiest models: the 2019 Corolla hatchback.

Even as IHS Markit forecasts manuals to comprise less than 4% of new vehicle sales in the U.S. this year, half a dozen models in Toyota’s lineup still offer a stick shift as an option. The Corolla hatchback, due in dealerships later this year, debuts what Toyota calls an Intelligent Manual Transmission, which adjusts engine rotations automatically for smoother shifting between gears.  

Stick shifts comprised about 5% of sales for the Corolla hatchback’s previous generation, called the Corolla iM. But Toyota executives said they’re aiming for manual transmissions to make up between 15% and 20% of the sales mix to remain competitive with rivals. Stick shifts generally cost less than cars with automatic transmissions and remain in demand abroad.

“Keeping the manual transmission for the Corolla enables a lower price point option,” said Stephanie Brinley, principal analyst at IHS Markit. “Ultimately, I think it's more about price than offering a sporty image, though it can assist there as well.”

Sitting lower, longer, and wider than the outgoing model, the Corolla hatchback runs on a 168 horsepower, 2.0-liter engine paired with a standard continuously variable transmission with paddle shifters. In a bid to prove that manual transmissions can coexist with modern amenities, Toyota has included dashboard technology more commonly found in cars twice its price. Those features include Apple CarPlay, Amazon Alex connectivity, and Toyota’s Entune 3.0 infotainment system.

Said Adam Lovelady, a member of the Corolla’s Product Sales and Engagement team, “We’re here to keep the manuals alive.”