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21 Comments Add Yours

  1. Jon

    Thanks for visiting the site Eric!

    I am also interested in reviewing both cars, although you are probably looking at fairly different price points (unless you want a new Impreza and the GTI is used).

    What about each car attracted you to them?

    Was it the practicality? The hatchback styling? What’s your price point?

    Perhaps I can help you further there.

    – Ed

    • Eric

      Well I just test drove the GTI and my friend’s 2011 Golf and I gotta say that I love the feeling of the car and just how it handles. I also like how when I sat in the car, I felt like I had a lot of space, not so claustrophobic. Price wise it’s within the range I was looking for, at most $36,000. The golf also has great fuel economy and and the amount of power it produces is quite nice as well. Not to mention that in a few years, I don’t see myself moving or needing a lot of space in a car. However, I am also concerned with how much it costs to maintain this car, for German cars are usually more expensive to maintain than Japanese cars.

      I haven’t tried the Subaru Impreza yet but I am planning to in the next couple of weeks with my friend. I was initially looking at the WRX, but realized that the WRX is only manual (which I wish to learn how to drive sooner or later) and it is a gas eater. The style of the Impreza is still pretty nice in my opinion, wish it still had the hood scoop but oh wells. The power in the car is decent and it is all wheel drive + good fuel economy. I’m hoping to see more improvement in the Impreza in the next few years, but overall from what I’ve seen, its a decent car. The amount of space it also has is also very impressive considering it is a hatch or sedan. OH and also, it takes REGULAR GAS!!!! (more money for me to keep in my pocket b^^d) And it would be easier to maintain.

      In the end though, I am looking for something practical, which both of these car seem to be. Preferably a sporty hatch, but sedan is also fine. And the maximum price of $36,000 before tax. I am also thinking about doing a couple mods on the car as well. But I don’t have a car yet so taking it one step at a time.

      Thanks John

    • Jon

      Hey Eric,

      I’m about to write an article about this, but I can not emphasize how much a manual adds to a car. Nothing will make you understand your car better from an instinctive point of you like learning to shift gears. Don’t believe for a second that any sort of paddle-shift or tip-tronic type of automatic is anywhere close to driving a manual – its the difference between you shifting in GranTurismo vs. driving in real life.

      It only takes you a couple of hours to learn, but once you get the hang of it it is an exhilarating experience that you can never match in any automatic. Not only is the manual more fun, but it teaches you to become a better driver by improving your foresight of the road (you have to recognize what is going up ahead of the road), making you a smoother driver, and being more efficient on gas (or a quicker driver, depending on your mood ;)).

      Don’t believe EPA (fuel efficiency) figures either as they normally favour the automatics – this is misleading. Typically, automatics have an extra gear which during the EPA testing they’ll get to to allow for cruising at that highest/tallest gear. Honestly, unless you drive on the highway on a regular basis at decent speeds you will rarely ever use that high gear. Not only that, but automatics tend to “hunt” for gears in automatic mode (which is inefficient) and automatics that use a torque converter (what you find in 90% of the autos out there) have mechanical losses you don’t have in a manual.

      In a manual, you can plan your route ahead and shift to the gear you want to and just ride the torque wave of the car. You could argue that DSG (direct shift gearboxes – as you would find in a VW) allows you to shift quickly and to whatever gear you want to, and this is true. However, DSGs are inherently complicated devices – requiring two clutches to get those quick shift times and all the components to move each one individually. These gearboxes are typically much heavier – detrimental to fuel efficiency and handling.

      If you are buying new, it will save you ~$1500 too!

      Please – find one of your friends that knows how to drive manual and learn it. It is an important life skill that I think everyone should learn anyway and the potential benefits of learning it are great.

      Ok enough of the manual vs. automatic rant.

      All those cars you have looked at have their pluses and minuses. What exactly are you looking for in the car anyway? So far I have been able to get from you:
      – good styling
      – sporty-ish
      – preferably a hatch, roomy is nice
      – somewhat fuel efficient?

      Here are my thoughts on the cars you have described above:

      Volkswagen GTI
      The GTI is a very strong car, and has been widely regarded as being the best “all-rounder” probably since the 5th generation GTI came out. If you are looking at the newest 6th generation, it is the best GTI to date. The car dynamics are excellent, the engine is strong, there is decent room, the fit/finish of the interior is unmatched in this class, and it just looks cool. I also love how the red markings on the grill pay homage to the original GTI which came out 1976 too.

      Downsides? As you have pointed out, the running costs will be higher. VW parts tend to be more expensive than Japanese imports (although Subaru may be an exception to this), and the reliability of the Brazilian-made car is yet to be seen. You will also need premium gas which doesn’t help things.

      Honestly though, my car uses premium gas but I never think about it. On average, it is $0.10 higher/L of fuel used, so in my car I pay $4.00 more (since I have a 40L tank) but the driving pleasure I get from a driver-oriented car is well worth it.

      If you are leaning this way, I would suggest you try to find a low mileage example that is a year or two old. You can save yourself a couple of grand and there are enough GTIs out there that you should be able to find one in the spec you want.

      If you want to trade in fuel efficiency for some of the sportiness of the GTI, the Golf is a good choice. The 2.5L engine has pretty good torque and the fit/finish is similar to that of the GTI.

      Subaru Impreza/WRX
      Honestly, I used to be a big fan of WRXs until I drove one (I drove a 2003). They have really good straight line acceleration, but I found the car a bit soft. The steering is a bit smushy (I couldn’t tell what the tires are doing), and it understeered (the nose tends to plow ahead when you try to turn at higher speeds) despite its “Symmetrical AWD”. Honestly, in Vancouver you don’t really need AWD – you just need a good set of tires. A FWD or RWD with a good set of tires will outperform any AWD car with bad tires.

      They have tried to “improve” the car in the last few years by upping the styling both interior and exterior, but honestly for my money I would take the GTI over this.

      The one thing I can say is the Impreza will probably have a higher reliability than the GTI.

      You can see relatively reliability here:

      From a value perspective, the base model Imprezas are good value. They offer AWD (if you are really dying for it) for a pretty attainable price, and the newer engines have overcome the fuel efficiency issues. However, Subaru has been cutting some corners in the last few years – despite the “new design”; the cabins have gotten cheaper with harder plastics that will not wear as well over the years. Base model Imprezas that used to come standard with rear independent suspension and disc brakes all-around have now been downgraded to torsion beam rears and drum brakes which make for worse handling (very Toyota-like = boring).

      Also – unlike the GTI above I would discourage you from buying a used WRX as they utilize a viscous limited slip for the differentials which have been known to get damaged if there have been too many “quick starts” off the line.

      This is just my opinion of course, and I would encourage you to try these out for yourself.

      I can offer you a few suggestions which will vary depending on whether you hold sporty or fuel efficiency higher on the priority list.

      – Mazdaspeed 3 (better reliability, cheaper)
      – Ford Focus ST (will be released soon as hatchback, essentially a sporty Ford Focus, better reliability than even Mazda, but similar cost to GTI). If you are not in a hurry for a car, I would wait to see what this is like. I think it will be an extremely strong competitor to the GTI as Ford has stepped up its game in a major way in the last couple of years.
      – Honda civic Si (better reliability, although the sportiness is debatable. Loads of room though – has more room than a C-class Mercedes)

      Fuel efficiency:
      – Ford Focus
      – Mazda 3
      – Hyundai Veloster (a bit of a left field choice, but its different, has loads of toys, and a 3rd door on the right side)

      Don’t forget – when you do buy a car if it has a turbo in it (as most of the sporty cars listed above do) remember to let the turbos cool down after each drive. All you have to do is to let the car idle for a few moments before shutting the car off. Forgetting to do this on a regular basis will lead to premature wear on your turbo and $$ down the road.

      My best advice however? Try as many cars as you can. There is no fee for trying them out, but like buying a house sometimes its hard to figure out what you REALLY want, until you have seen/experienced it.

      Happy Hunting!


  2. Eric

    Wow I never really looked at the Ford Focus before, probably cause I didn’t really think much of Ford. Thanks for the tips though 🙂 I’ll have a look.

    I also have a few questions about engines as well. I don’t know much if not anything about the different engines cars have besides there are V-engines, horizontal and straight engines. Is there a place you recommend to learn more about these engines. For example: what makes one engine better than another?

    Thanks again Jon.

    PS – Notice you’re using WordPress, great piece of software 😀

    • Jon

      Yeah you should check it out. Its got some pretty nice class leading spec in there.

      I “recently” did a review of the Ford Focus (scroll to Categories – Test Drives) – check it out.

      And if you want something sporty and aren’t in a hurry to get a car right now, I would wait for the ST to come out. Its funny – in Europe (where this new Focus was based on), Ford is really seen as a competitor to VW. The last couple of years, Ford has stepped up their game in a big way by bringing over their European designed cars over here – Ford Fiesta (class-leading), the Focus, and soon the new “Fusion” – which is a newer version of the Ford Mondeo that James Bond drove in Quantum of Solace as a rental car.

      Oh – and I forgot to mention if you want something more fuel efficient you should check out Mazda’s “SkyActiv” engines. Instead of following the hybrid trend, Mazda has worked hard to make their internal combustion engines, transmissions, and chassis reach almost the fuel efficiency of a diesel. Upsides? Less weight and complication of regular hybrids, and the minimized rev range and slightly more difficulty finding a diesel pump station.

      As for the different types of engines, you can find various things online, but I haven’t found a good website that answers the questions you have, so here is my best dissection of the different types.

      In general, the different types you have pointed out below all have their strengths and weaknesses, and most are chosen for a given car based on packaging (ie available space). I’m not sure there is necessarily one that is “better” than the other, but like with most things there is a compromise to be made for each.

      “Boxer” type engines – this is also known as the horizontally opposed engines, commonly used by Subaru and Porsche (mostly). Less commonly known to be used in BMW bike engines, and recently the Scion FR-S (which is a Toyota built by Subaru confusingly).
      – horizontal layout means that the engines are very low (height-wise), offering the benefits of fitting into sleek cars, but more importantly offering a lower CG (Center of Gravity). This means that with a lower center of gravity, the overall mass of the car is situated lower allowing the car to handle better.
      – Because the tops of the pistons are now located on two different sides, you need twice as many cam shafts (the shafts which control the opening of the valves in the engine). This isn’t a big deal, but unlike inline engines it means you have to have double the components which add cost.
      – Typically less fuel efficient.
      – this could be either a pro or a con, but the sound is pretty distinct (and in my mind, it doesn’t sound as good) as other engines.

      “Inline” engines – the most common type and found on all conventional cars out there.
      – smaller casting (for the main block) compared to other types means its typically cheaper to make
      – shared cams means fewer parts, lighter weight
      – typically the most fuel efficient layout
      – I think they can sound pretty good if done properly
      – They tend to be “taller”, so makes the center of gravity higher (worse handling) – BMW has sort of gotten around this on some of their M cars by tilting their engine at an angle.

      “V” engines – sort of a compromise between the two above. Typically found on larger engines as you can maximize the room for a given engine area (its essentially using the hypotenuse of a triangle), although VW used to make “small angle” V engines which are angled out at 6 deg – I don’t even really consider this a V engine.
      – packaging allows for a lower center of gravity compared to inline engines
      – can sound fantastic (e.g. V8s, V12s)
      – as per the horizontal engines needs twice the components which add complication and weight
      – fuel efficiency typically not a strong point
      – V6s don’t sound great (I think mostly due to the odd number of cylinders on each side of the V. V10s sound pretty good though…)

      Hope that answers your questions. Don’t be afraid to keep asking! I will do my best to answer them but I definately can’t claim to “know it all”, so I’ll be sure to point you in the right direction in those scenarios.


  3. Eric

    Hey Jon,

    I got to learn how to drive manual and I gotta say, it was very enjoyable. I do have a dumb question about it though, if you are going downhill and you don’t have your foot on the gas, do you still need to gear up?

    I was also wondering if there was an optimal position for the engage point of a clutch to be? Is there even such a thing or is it just mostly what you’re comfortable with?

    What would you say are your top 5 “reasonably priced” sports cars such as Mazda RX-8 and etc.

    • Jon

      Hey Eric,

      Glad to hear that you enjoyed driving the manual.

      The question(s) that you pose are not dumb at all.

      Let me break it down into three separate questions:

      1. Can I coast downhill in a lower gear?

      I have heard conflicting things about going downhill and whether you should shift up or not. As you know, if you leave it in a lower gear and head down the hill, the natural friction forces from the transmission and gearing cause the car to effectively “slow down” reducing the need to use your brakes.

      Some people say you should up-shift to as high of a gear as possible, as coasting down and using the lower gears to effectively slow your car down puts reverse loading on your gears, which can lead to premature wear of the transmission. These people recommend shifting to the highest gear and leaving the slowing down of the car to the items that were designed for it – your brakes.

      By definition, gears multiply speeds in exchange for forces. E.g. when you start off in a low gear, you can easily move the vehicle but it will move slowly. Conversely, it is difficult to start moving the car in a higher gear because the force required to move it is much larger.

      Now if you were to “coast” down hill, the wheels start to becoming the driving force and you are essentially reversing the load on the gear train. So if you were to go uphill in a low gear, it is easier for the the car to move uphill. Conversely, moving downhill in the same low gear, you are swapping the driving gear and the following gear (ie what was easy going up hill, will be difficult to move downhill)- and thus the loads on the gear train are much higher.

      Long story short, I wouldn’t recommend coasting downhill in first gear.

      Is it the end of the world if you coasted down hill in one or two gears from the highest gear? Probably not. But its best to use your brakes wherever you can.

      2. What is the optimal engage point of the clutch?

      Lets start this by explaining how a clutch works (just in case you aren’t familiar with it). Essentially, a clutch is used to disengage the engine spinning from the transmission, and this is accomplished by pushing a bunch of plates together so that they “grip” each other and transmit the rotational energy from the engine. When you step on the clutch, you disengage these plates from one another, thus isolating the engine from the transmission, and ultimately the wheels. This is what allows you to change gears.

      As you probably know now, different cars have different “bite points” – the point at which the plates start to grip/slip from each other. Similar to braking, this is not a process which should be carried out like a on/off switch (e.g. you shouldn’t just stamp on the brakes until the car comes to a stop, or you will feel the car “jerk” – a high rate of change of acceleration). With a clutch, you want to be quick moving just before the bite point, and slower as the clutch is biting in. The slower the car is moving, the slower you want to be with this bite point transition. The quicker the car is moving, the faster you can be with the clutch.

      Good shifting can be qualified by how smooth the shifting action occurs – can you make it feel like there was no shift at all?

      This is a good balance of not letting the revs drop as much as possible (ie moving through the clutch quickly just before you can feel the clutch plates biting) while being smooth with the clutch so that the plates don’t bite too abruptly.

      The key with all of this is keeping your driving as smooth as possible so as to not upset the balance of the car, whether that is through sudden braking, abrupt throttle inputs, or poor shifting & clutch actuation. This is a ongoing skill that you hone as you drive, and when executed properly can be hugely rewarding. This for me, is what driving is all about. An upside of this in addition to becoming a better driver, is better fuel economy (gained through smooth driving), and better predictably (thus being safer on the road).

      3. What are your top 5 “reasonably priced” sports cars?

      This all depends on your definition of “reasonably priced”. When you mention a Mazda RX-8, I’m thinking you are referring to cars in the 15k range. The definition of “sports” car varies with different people, but my idea is a combination of how well the car handles, performance (acceleration and braking), and most importantly – how fun it is to drive.

      #1. Mazda Miata
      I may be a bit biased here (after all I do own one), but I own one for a reason. If you can look past some of its “image issues”, it is a rear wheel drive, awesome handling, lightweight car that can out-handle most of the cars on the road today. I bought one, not because it makes me look like a hairdresser or a middle-aged woman, but because it was what I thought was the best handling rear-wheel drive car for the money. The power isn’t mind blowing, but for most of the driving you do (ie around the city) it is more than adequate. The handling is VERY feelsome (you can feel exactly what the car is doing) and make adjustments using your instincts vs. looking at what is going on. This was never more evident than when I drove my friend’s 2003 Subaru WRX (which up until that point was my dream car) – the WRX just didn’t compare in the handling department. The Miata is reliable, relatively inexpensive to maintain, and parts are everywhere. Most importantly you can really use the car around town without breaking too many laws, or putting yourself (and others) in danger.

      People are often surprised by the performance of the car. In my Targa Canada West story, I briefly kept up with a Aston Martin V8 Vantage, chased BMW M3s, Porsche GT3s, and left behind a Porsche Boxter – its driver came up to me later and said my car looked really flat in the corners. Last weekend I went auto-crossing and surprised people with what the car was capable of. As much as I would like to take credit for this and say this was all down to my skill, the car deserves much of the credit. This car has taught me many things about driving too, mainly how to maximize speed by being as smooth as possible. My friend has a tuned 1997 Mazda Miata, and he went to a track day and caught up to, and almost passed a Lotus Exige – a $70k performance track-oriented car. Everytime something happens to my car, and I think “hmm maybe I should get a new car?”, I wonder what else I could get that would do as much as my car does – fun to drive, relaxing when it needs to be, capable of carrying my hockey gear, doesn’t break down too much nor the budget. No, it will not fit a family. No, I don’t drive by and get acknowledging looks from people. And NO, people don’t get in and think its a lap of luxury. But I know what this car is inside.

      When I drive a car, I don’t think about how many people it impresses, but rather how much fun I’m having driving it. When I go to work, the biggest thing I look forward to is driving to work, and driving home. This is what my car does.

      #2. Honda/Acura Integra Type R (1995-2001 generation)

      Ok so how am I going to follow that one? With a front wheel drive car no less. Made by Honda.

      Yes. The Integra Type R is getting a bit old. But this is in my mind the ULTIMATE front wheel drive sports car. Most people will look at this car and dismiss it as “just another Integra”, but this car is so far from other Integras out there.

      The B18C engine in this car was hand built in a separate assembly line from other cars at the factory, and the intake/exhaust ports were ported individually by workers. It revs to 8600 rpm (race-engine like), and there is a power band around 6000 rpm where the engine switches to a different cam, and you get this swift kick in the back like the car has a turbo installed in it.
      The chassis was tuned and developed by Spoon (tuning division of Honda), and adjusted to account for even the drivers weight on one side. It sounds like a race car, is limited in numbers, and has the practicality of having a lift back and front wheel drive. The car has history too – the original Championship White paint (reserved for Honda Type R cars) was a nod to the Championship White Paint Honda first used in 1964 when it entered into Formula 1 for the first time, and then winning in 1965.

      I never got to drive one, but my friend who used to have one took me around in it a few times – and the car sounds and feels awesome. He’s since sold that car, bought a Nissan 350Z, Mercedes C-Class and ML, but he has regrets of selling that car and vows to get it back one day. That is the kind of car this is – it gets under your skin, and you love it.

      Like the Mazda Miata above, this car is reliable and doesn’t cost huge amounts to own. I made this car 2nd to the Miata because A. its a front-wheel drive car, and B. good luck finding one that hasn’t been thoroughly molested.

      #3. Porsche Boxter

      This might have changed little over the last decade (up until the most recent generation), but that’s because it didn’t need to be. You can think of this car as a mid-engined, Porsche version of the Miata. Its responses are even sharper than that of the Miata, and so is the power, but you trade that off with practicality and higher running costs. Great car though.

      #4. Nissan 350Z

      All the Z cars are special in their own right, but this 350Z was a more “back to the basics” car that more closely emanated the original 240Z – bruising engine, fine handling rear-wheel drive dynamics, and …thats about it. Just simplicity.

      Some people found this engine to be a bit loud, a bit thirsty, but hey – the VQ engine here has won engine of the year almost every year since it came out (by Ward’s 10 Best Engines).

      #5. Honda S2000

      Never been a good sales success, but on PAPER should have been a great car. 240hp, 9000 rpm rev limit (on earlier models; 2002+ was lowered to 8200 to provide more torque low down), 6 speed short shifting manual which feels really good, and rear wheel drive. The car was to celebrate the essence of Honda’s original open-topped rear wheel drive car, the S600.

      Problem was, is that cars aren’t driven on paper. With the short wheel base and peaky engine, this was actually quite a handful to drive (especially in the wet). This was largely addressed on later models, but it never quite handled progressively, snapping at you (ie oversteering) without much warning. Good value though.

      So …you are probably wondering – where is the RX-8? Well I’ve driven one and I have to say I prefer my Miata better despite the lower power. The car just felt like a bigger, less wieldy Miata. And although the revving to 9000 rpm was entertaining at first, I found frustating after a while the complete absence of torque. Not only that, but you have to ask yourself why a 2004 car with relatively low mileage only costs $14,000. And this is mostly due to the running costs of the car. The rotary engines rely heavily on polymer seals to seal moving components of the engine, and these will break down over time. Also you should budget 1L of engine oil a month – just part of the costs of running one of these.

      Hope that helps!


  4. Eric

    What do you think of the new Honda Accords? I know that they use to be the car to have and some people still believe so. The V6 engine doesn’t seem to be too bad, but there are somethings about the Accord (and Civic actually) that just bothers me (probably its cheap interior). What are your thoughts?

    • Jon

      In a word – Huge.

      The Honda Accord we get over here is built specifically to the American Market. So its big. Everything is soft and plush, and rides like a boat. If you are looking for a boat on wheels, then this is your perfect car.

      For the money, there are other options out there. I personally don’t really like any of the Mid-sized entry-level sedans out there right now, but some of my previous favorites include: Mazda 6 (specifically the Mazdaspeed 6 variant), the Subaru Legacy, and the Acura TSX (the previous generation, not this new one which is also huge). If you want something a bit more “premium”, I would recommend the VW Jetta and coming soon the new Ford Fusion (yes – there it is again, its a Ford!).

      All of these were decently sized to fit a family/friends without being excruciatingly large, reliable, and fun to drive for the size. I find there is an overwhelming trend towards getting “bigger” which I don’t like and is opposite to the car ethos that I subscribe to – “simplify, then add lightness” – as coined by my idol Colin Chapman (the guy who started Lotus).


  5. Eric

    Hey Jon,

    I recently read that Mazda are having plans to have a new RX-7 or possibly an RX-9. I have read reports that it is coming and that it may not be coming. Do you think that Mazda is going to release the new RX car in the next couple of years. The concept design looks amazing.

    • Jon

      Hey Eric,

      That is going to be a tricky one. I like the Mazda RX-7 and I think the last generation RX-7 was one of the prettiest cars made.

      The RX-8 however didn’t make sense in multiple facets:
      1. It didn’t sell that well, especially in the later years. In the first four months of 2011, <300 were sold in all of the US!
      2. Newer and tougher emissions regulations make it difficult for high revving engines (e.g. this rotary) to exist

      So in many ways, the heart of the RX series of coupes lie in the rotary engine, and it is a challenging business case as well as an environmental one.

      I think if a new RX comes, it will either be a hybrid and/or turbocharged. If it is turbocharged, you can count on the rev limit to be lower. In any case, the rotary engines lack what is desired most today - efficiency.

      Like the Honda Type R cars however (and any other high revving engines), this may have gone the way of the dinosaur. Sad.

  6. Beth

    Hey Jon,

    Your information on manual driving is really helpful. I’ve been driving stick for less than a week, but it already feels like I “know” this car better than any I’ve previously. We’re still working out our relationship, though, so I’d appreciate any advice you can give me.

    1. How do you feel about coasting downhill in neutral? I know it’s technically illegal, but it saves gas right?

    2. The revolutions should be roughly between 200pm and 300pm, correct? Actually I have no idea what the scale is. It could be 2-3 or 2000-3000. I’m not even sure if the unit is 1/min.

    3. Sometimes it’s still a bit jerky when I switch gears. From reading your post, it sounds like I’m releasing the clutch too fast. Should I pushing down on the accelerator at all when I change gears? I did once and it didn’t sound very healthy… but like I said this car and I are still working out our relationship!


    • Jon

      Hey Beth

      When I was a kid, I wanted to drive manual because it made everyone who drove one look so cool. When I actually learned to drive, it made me feel like I was a race car driver despite driving a shitty truck. And now I find there is always something I could improve on to make the driving smoother – that is the challenge and exciting part of driving manual.

      Answers to your questions below:
      1. Do you know why it is “technically” illegal?

      The main reason this is illegal is because you don’t have as much control over the vehicle in the event of an emergency. Say you are driving down the highway and you need to speed up for whatever reason (to avoid a collision for example); that 1s you take extra to shift into gear may be the difference between coming out unscathed or having a collision. I would recommend you keep it in gear if possible.

      Some people claim that “coasting” allows you to save gas as you keep the revs low as possible, but this is not necessarily true. On newer cars, the engine actually stops injecting fuel into the engine so you don’t use any gas at all if it is in gear and your foot is off the throttle. Because the engine is still turning, to “reignite” the engine the computer simply tells the injectors to start inmecting again and the engine will pick up smoothly where it left off. If you “coast” however, the engine has to inject fuel into the engine to keep it running, and usually this amount is an “enriched” amount as engines tend to run better at higher rpms (revolutions per minute).

      2. The revolutions quite honestly can be whatever you want them to be, and that is the joy of driving manual. If you want to be more economical (and this will vary depending on what time of engine you have), you want to try and shift as early as possible without it “bogging” down your engine (which will actually use up more gas as the computer has to inject more gas to keep the engine from stalling). For my car, I normally shift at 2500rpm in the first few gears and once I get into 5th gear I shift at 2000rpm into 6th. If I’m feeling like driving “enthusiastically”, this shift point will shift anywhere from 3000rpm to near 7000 rpm (my red line).

      You may find these points are different for your car – try different numbers and see for youself. You will notice with different cars there are different “power bands”, where you will notice a significant difference in power and/or torque depending on where you are in the rev range. Try these different points for yourself and see where you think you like it best. Remember, the faster the engine is moving the faster you can let go of the clutch.

      3. Usually when it’s a bit “jerky” it usually means that your clutch is being released too fast. Also, you shouldn’t be stepping on your accelerator when switching gears as you want to take the load off the transmission. A general rule of thumb is that your accelerator foot should be doing the opposite of what your clutch foot is doing. You will have to play with the point of where they “meet” in the middle to ensure this is as smooth as possible.

      Hope that helps, and I hope you enjoy your new “relationship”!


  7. Beth

    Thanks Jon! Your comments are really helpful.

    One more question:
    I vaguely remember someone telling me years ago that you don’t need to use your brakes if you gear down correctly. I’ve been experimenting with this, but I haven’t gotten as smooth a transition gearing down as I’ve finally accomplishing gearing up. Slow down more before switching gears? And does this work going down (gentle) hills? Even when the car is slowing down naturally, it still feels hard on the gears.

    But, as mentioned before, this car and I are still getting to know each other! Maybe the car loves it but I’m interpreting the response wrong. I think we’re finally friends, but this relationship most likely won’t ever blossom into love.


    • Jon

      Hey Beth

      You should see my response to Eric below when he asked me a similar question.

      Long story short, while you can slow your car down by shifting a gear down, I wouldn’t recommend going down too many gears. Its best to leave the slowing down to the mechanical device which is designed to do that – your brakes.

      As for smoother downshifting, you can slow down more, OR you can apply a technique called “rev matching” (which is wayyyy cooler and much more rewarding if you can pull it off). If you notice, when you downshift, you can see the revs rise as you are switching to a lower gear (remember lower gears = higher revs for the same speed). So when you normally downshift, you have to wait for the synchros (a bunch of cones inside the transmission) to help transition from one gear down into a lower gear, which causes the revs to rise.

      You can smooth this transition by “rev matching” – essentially in between your shift (and while your clutch is still pressed in), you “blip” the throttle and try to release the clutch so that the revs “match” what they should be in the lower gear at the speed you are travelling at.

      Does that make sense at all? Maybe some numbers will make sense.

      Lets assume the below example:
      – 3rd gear driving at 40km/h = 3000 rpm
      – 4th gear driving at 40km/h = 2000 rpm

      So if you were say, driving straight wanted to down shift to 3rd gear to speed up (since its hard to speed up quickly in 4th gear at the speeds you are going at), you would have to clutch in, shift to third, and slowly release the clutch out. You will notice that the transmission will bring the revs back up to 3000rpm (using the synchros) in 3rd gear, where you can better accelerate.

      Now, instead of waiting for the synchros to do this work, as you clutch in, you blip the throttle to 3000rpm and release the clutch. Now you have reduced the time it takes for the transmission to match the speed of the engine and this is called rev matching. Do NOT hold the accelerator down while doing this – you are only “blipping” to get the transmission to the right speed.

      You will have to figure out where your car is for the numbers above, as I just made the ones above up. Drive at 50km/h in 3rd gear – what rpm are you at? Then see how much you would need to blip to match the revs. After a while if you get it you won’t have to watch the revs – you can just sort of do it by feel. This technique is all about timing, and adjusting your own technique to make this smooth.

      So are there any benefits to doing this, besides impressing your friends and allowing quicker downshifts? There are many actually…
      1. you can downshift as you please, so you will be a more reactive driver to different situations.
      2. rev matching (if done properly) eases loads on the transmission and reduces wear on the synchros, prolonging the life of the tranmsission
      3. It makes you a much smoother driver (good for the car and any passengers you may be carrying)
      4. respect level from other people (and myself especially) gains another valuable point 😉

      Your timing is actually pretty good – in the next couple of weeks (hopefully) I will be releasing a video on driving manual, where I will go over some of these techniques.

      Let me know how it works out for you! If you can get a good feel for how this works, I can show you how to “heel toe”, which is braking and rev matching at the same time 😉


    • Beth

      Thanks again Jon! I’d never heard of “rev matching” before – I’ll have to try it out.

      Can’t wait for the video!

  8. Beth

    Hello again,

    Rev matching is going to take some practice. Your description made it sound easier than it is. Are you going to demonstrate it in your video?

    One more question (for now): what’s the best thing to do if you’re going fast and you have to slam on your breaks too quickly to gear down?

    Thanks Jon!


    • Jon

      Hey Beth

      Sorry my first video will only cover the basics.

      The second video (which may not be for awhile) will go over more advanced techniques.

      This is a good segway for why a technique called “heel toe” is needed.

      Essentially, you step on all three pedals at the same time; you start braking with the toe of your right foot, and while you clutch in with your left, you tilt your right foot and use your heel to blip the throttle while you shift down.

      Essentially, this is a rev match but with braking.

      Clear as mud? 😉

    • Beth

      Oh no. Just when I thought I was getting the handle of stick shift you throw this at me!

      How many gears are you shifting down? Can you skip gears with this technique?

    • Jon

      Haha that is the fun of it all…

      You can shift as many as you want, although some gears I don’t usually bother with (e.g. 1st doesn’t see a lot of downshift action).

      Technically you can skip gears, but I like to break up the gear changes by going in sequential order to minimize the loads on each gear.

      This might be a bit nerdy for you, but it shows rev matching and heel toe technique very well. You’ll have to live with some of the intro stuff, but there is a good example of heel toe at 2:24 which the driver uses to enter into a corner – braking down while downshifting and rev matching at the same time.

      Look at how fast they shift!!

      haha I grew up watching this shite…probably explains a lot I know.

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