Say It Ain’t So! Docs Suggest Chevrolet Cruze Losing Manual Transmission

After a year of good news (McDonald’s all-day breakfast came to Canada), it seems only fitting that 2017 will end in tears.

The Chevrolet Cruze, one of a shrinking number of models in which one can easily find a manual transmission, appears set to lose that option after the 2018 model year. As the owner of a manual-shift Cruze, no words can ease the pain.

The glaring product shift appears in General Motors’ 2019 VIN decoder document, posted by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration late Thursday. As of yet, we haven’t heard back from Chevrolet to confirm the document shows the full range of planned 2019 models.

For buyers of 2018 models, the Cruze offers a six-speed manual transmission on numerous trims — from the L, LS, LT, and Diesel sedan, to the LT and Diesel hatch. That’s a fair bit of stick availability in a world that’s rapidly shedding the third pedal. For 2019, however, the option disappears. Added to the lineup, however, is a continuously variable transmission.

2019 Cevrolet Cruze VIN, Image: NHTSA

It looks like the row-your-own lifestyle is leaving the Cruze lineup in favor of the efficient, shiftless experience afforded by a CVT, though we don’t know where exactly that tranny will appear. A conventional automatic, assumed to be the existing six-speed unit, continues throughout the Cruze line. (Diesels carry a nine-speed.)

As for powertrains, the model’s second-generation turbocharged 1.4-liter four-cylinder carries over into 2019, as does the 1.6-liter diesel introduced for 2017. What’s new is a CNG version of the 1.4, as well as a 1.5-liter offering. The latter engine is a turbocharged unit that serves as the entry-level engine in the Chevrolet Malibu, making 160 horsepower and 184 lb-ft of torque in that application.

If 2018 is truly the last year for the manual-shift Cruze, its mourners could probably fit in a small bus. Stick-shift take rates in North America hover in the low single-digit range. Still, the Cruze always seemed to lead the U.S. compact pack in the “Save the manuals!” parade. When it debuted back in late 2010, the model’s Eco variant advertised 42 miles per gallon on the highway, all thanks to a long-legged six-speed manual with triple overdrive gearset. A 2018 1.4-liter model with stock six-speed currently rates a 40 mpg highway figure.

The diesel model, however, rates an impressive 52 mpg highway figure when equipped with a six-speed stick. That number drops to 45 mpg when matched with the nine-speed automatic.

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