Transmission: 5-speed, 6-speed
Engine: 2.5L/152-hp/171-lb-ft I-4, 4.0L/261-hp/281-lb-ft V-6
Availability: All except SL
Price: $19,835 - S 4x2, SV V-6 4x4 - $26,415
Nissan doesn't put nearly as many restrictions and conditions on your selection of a manual when it comes to the Frontier. You can get both the base four-cylinder and the optional V-6 with a choice of automatic or manual transmissions. On the four-banger, you get a five-speed, and on the V-6, you get a six-speed. You can also get the manual on all trim levels except the top-line SL in two- or four-wheel drive. The manual also has a slight fuel economy edge over the automatic, delivering 1 mpg better in the city and on the highway.
Engine: 1.6L/188-hp/177-lb-ft turbocharged I-4
Availability: SV FWD, SL FWD
Price: $22,390 (SV), $24,710 (SL)
In somewhat of a break from other small crossovers, the Juke offers a manual only on the higher trim levels -- the base S model is CVT-only. Like many of the others, however, the manual is limited to front-drive models.
Engine: 4.0L/261-hp/281-lb-ft V-6
Availability: S, Pro-4X, 4WD only
Price: $29,025 (S), $31,195 (Pro-4X)
Unlike the Pathfinder, which has gone soft and crossover, the Xterra continues to ride on a modified Frontier chassis complete with rear leaf-spring suspension. Unlike some of the other entries on this list, the six-speed manual transmission is only available with four-wheel drive. Like the Wrangler and the FJ Cruiser, the 4x4 Xterra also gets a traditional two-speed transfer case with low range.
Engine: 6.7L/350-hp/650-lb-ft turbodiesel I-6
Availability: ST, SLT, Lone Star, Outdoorsman, Big Horn, Laramie
Price: $37,650 (4x2 ST Regular Cab Long Bed), $40,625 (4x4 ST Regular Cab Long Bed)
If you still like to pretend you're an over-the-road long-haul trucker but don't have a Class A license, the Ram 2500 and 3500 might be the truck for you. The only full-size trucks still available with a manual transmission, both flavors of Ram HD offer a stick with the Cummins 6.7-liter turbodiesel I-6 (the gasoline-powered Hemi V-8 is auto-only). You do sacrifice some 150 lb-ft of torque by going for the stick, as the manual Cummins is rated at 650 lb-ft while the automatic puts out 800 lb-ft, but thanks to the ample aftermarket support for the Cummins, making up that torque deficit and then some is probably not much more than a re-flash away. Just be prepared to sacrifice the Ram's 5-year, 100,000-mile powertrain warranty when you do so.
Engine: 2.5L/170-hp/170-lb-ft H-4
Availability: 2.5i, 2.5i Premium
Price: $24,370 (2.5i), $25,870 (2.5i Premium)
As noted in the introduction, the smaller Forester lost its manual option for the 2009 model year, going to an all-automatic lineup. However, the slightly-larger, wagon-like Outback crossover retains a manual on the 2.5i and 2.5i Premium trims. The 256-hp, 3.6-liter flat-six is five-speed automatic only. Four-cylinder models will be getting an all-new engine next year, boosting power to 173 hp and torque to 174 lb-ft. Thankfully, the manual transmission will still be offered for 2013.
Engine: 2.5L/152-hp/171-lb-ft I-4
Availability: Comfort RWD
The Equator is nearly the same as the Frontier, but unlike the truck on which it's based, the Equator does limit your manual transmission options. The Suzuki only offers the V-6 with an automatic while choices of manual I-4 are limited to rear-drive with an extended cab for the shockingly high price of $24,899 -- $1950 more than a four-cylinder automatic. You'd have to be determined to buy this one when you can get a shift-for-yourself Frontier, Tacoma, or Colorado for thousands less.
Suzuki Grand Vitara
Engine: 2.4L/166-hp/162-lb-ft I-4
Availability: Base, RWD
The Grand Vitara is not quite as grand as it once was, as the 3.2-liter V-6 was dropped from the options sheet in 2011, leaving the 2.4-liter, 166 hp four-cylinder as the only engine choice. However, you do get a choice of transmissions, and one of them is a five-speed manual. Other than the available stick, there isn't much remarkable about this compact SUV. Its 19/26 fuel economy rating puts it on par with many of its substantially more powerful V-6-powered competitors. You also give up four-wheel drive to get the manual, making the Grand Vitara a rear-drive only proposition. Its modest starting price of less than $21,000 might be appealing, but be prepared for a fairly basic small SUV experience.
Suzuki SX4 Crossover
Engine: 2.0L/150-hp/140-lb I-4
Availability: Base, Technology Value Package
Price: $17,794 (Base), $19,624 (Technology Value Package)
It's a bit of a stretch to call an SX4 an SUV, even though it has "Crossover" right in its name. Tall wagon might be a more accurate description. Regardless, it's a legitimate option for those seeking transportation with some semblance of utility and off-road ability. In this case, there are a few compelling reasons to get the manual. For one, the automatic option is a CVT, and those don't make for the most engaging driving experience. And the manual in the SX4 is a six-speed, assuring that even with its modest 150-hp output, you'll at least have a good time rowing it. Unlike some of the other models on this list, you can actually get the manual with a few desirable goodies if you select the Technology value package, which includes a leather-wrapped wheel with audio controls, touch-screen navigation with nueLink, heated front seats, and cruise control, still for less than $20,000.
Toyota FJ Cruiser
Engine: 4.0L/260-hp/271-lb-ft V-6
Availability: 4x4 MT
You may have noticed a trend on this list. Often, choosing a manual also forces some other choices, like being limited to two- or four-wheel drive. In this case, it's the latter, as the manual FJ Cruiser is only available with four-wheel drive. Other than reducing fuel economy by 2 mpg in the city and on the highway, giving the manual FJ a surprisingly thirsty 15/18 rating, there's not much downside. Toyota's well-regarded 4.0L V-6 produces 260 hp and 271 lb-ft of torque in this application, providing ample power for this midsize SUV.
Transmission: 5-speed, 6-speed
Engine: 2.7L/159-hp/180-lb-ft I-4; 4.0L/236-hp/266-lb-ft V-6
Availability: All Except Double Cab Long Bed
Price: $17,935 (Regular Cab 4x2 I-4), $27,515 (Double Cab 4x4 V-6)
Like is main rival, the Frontier, the Tacoma offers a manual transmission across a broad selection of trim levels, configurations, and drivetrains. From the bare-bones regular-cab four-cylinder all the way up to the V-6 Double Cab 4x4, you can get a stick in your Tacoma. In fact, the X-Runner sport truck package is only available with a manual. Toyota may occasionally get a bad rap for making boring vehicles, but it gets kudos from us for keeping the manual widely available on the Tacoma.
Volkswagen Tiguan S
Engine: 2.0L/200-hp/207-lb-ft turbocharged I-4
Availability: S FWD
The U.S.-spec Tiguan with a stick shift was one that made us exclaim, "Wow, they make one like that?" We have yet to see one of these rare specimens in the wild, but they do exist. Once again, the manual option is limited to the bare-bones trim level, so you can forget about getting factory navigation, automatic climate control, leather trim, and other niceties with your shifty Tiguan. You can also forget about VW's 4Motion all-wheel-drive on the front-drive-only Tiguan S manual. If you're more concerned about driving dynamics than being pampered by creature comforts, however, the S model is nearly 200 pounds lighter than the top-line SEL Automatic, about $15,000 cheaper, and a half-second quicker from 0-60.