Clarkson: ‘Anyone buying a manual is mad’

Photo: BSRAgency

Jeremy Clarkson has used his weekly column in The Sunday Times to say that drivers of manual cars “are mad”, apparently after he’d had an epiphany while stuck in traffic for more than two hours last week.

He wrote: “‘Why,’ I wailed inwardly, would anyone ever buy a car with a manual gearbox these days?’ It’s like saying, ‘I don’t need a television with a remote control. I’m perfectly capable of walking over to it and changing the channel myself.’ There is a pleasure to be found in driving a car with manual transmission when on a scenic hilltop or speeding around a racetrack, but on the Oxford ring road a manual gearbox is just annoying. People who would buy a gear stick manual are the sort who choose not to have a washing machine because they prefer to clean their clothes in the local river.” he continued.

Clarkson made the remarks in his review of the new VW Touran, a people mover which he described as “a sensible family car to move you around while you wait to die.” It appears that his experience with the Touran is responsible for him questioning the ongoing interest in manual cars.

“So why are automatics not more popular in the UK, and why have more recent updates to manual transmissions – such as those that use paddles mounted at the sides of the steering wheel – taken off? There was a time when automatics chewed fuel, weighed a ton and cost about the same as a house. And there was a time too when the halfway-house arrangement — usually a manual gearbox operated without a clutch pedal via flappy paddles on the steering column — was jerky and complicated and completely incapable of setting off without making more smoke than a First World War battleship. Those days are gone. Flappy-paddle gearboxes now are sublime. Fast. Easy. Rewarding. Nice.” – Jeremy Clarkson

Clarkson added that these days the feeling he has towards gear levers is “barely concealed contempt.”

Nevertheless, in the UK the buying statistics are against him. “Yes, automatics in whatever form are becoming more popular, but even so, more than 70 per cent of all cars sold in Britain have manual gearboxes”, Clarkson said, concluding: “That means more than 70 per cent of Britain’s car drivers are mad.”



  1. I have a manual because I’m not ALWAYS in traffic, and when I am on a nice twisty road the manual is simply more fun, plus the clutch gives me far better traction control IMHO. Automatic trannys breed stupid distracted drivers who do stupid things because they don’t have to think about how they are driving.