In an effort to combat the swarms of Fiat 500s afflicting the nicer parts of town these days, Mini is offering a $500 discount on any stick shift Cooper, Clubman and Convertible through the end of August. My guess is even harder bargains can be driven, if you have a mind to it, as this is the end of the model year. In any case, you'll be buying a car that has some sort of service structure to support it, unless this generation of Fiats is different than the last one.
Stick-shift driving is a more engaging pasttime, a fact that BMW recognizes, offering that option in all of its performance models. More automakers are moving to faster-shifting dual-clutch transmissions and some best-sellers only offer stick-shifts on the very base models, though Porsche is putting the finishing touches on a 7-speed manual transmission, which raises the question of how wide the shift gate will need to be.
If you need another reason to step up, remember stick-shift Minis get better mileage than automatic transmission models, and besides you'll be practicing a dying art, as well as having fun. Check out Mini's website www.miniusa.com for details of the promotion.—Paul Duchene