Car comparisons and lists often have similar types of cars. You won’t often find someone comparing a Ford F-150 to a Porsche 911, for instance. They are so different that comparing them doesn’t make any sense, and what list would have those two cars on it? All that to say, Two unlikely cars topped the Consumer Reports list of most reliable cars with manual transmissions, the 2021 Dodge Challenger and the 2021 Mazda Miata.
The 2021 Dodge Challenger and 2021 Mazda Miata both come in a manual
Consumer reports made a list of the best new cars and SUVs that still come with three pedals. The list has 13 cars and, sadly, one SUV. (Keep in mind this is not a list of any new car or SUV with a stick shift, it is just the most reliable ones according to CR.)
The cars are pretty much stuff you could guess; the Nissan Z, Porsche Boxster, BRZ/86, and the like. Sadly, the only SUV to make it was the Subaru Crosstrek.
While the Miata being one of the highest-ranked manual cars isn’t surprising at all, the Dodge Challenger is. To be clear, many other cars on this list, including the Miata, scored much better overall than the Challenger. Still, none other than the Miata scored a perfect 5/5 on the predicted reliability section.
Is the 2021 Dodge Challenger a good car?
Like many vehicles, this all depends on what you need from your car. Objectively, it is a decent car and is recommended by the shrewd CR test. It got an overall score of 73/100. There are roughly 9 trillion versions of the Dodge Challenger, so to keep it easy, we will only talk about the tester used by CR, the loaded mid-trim R/T Plus with a 375-hp, 5.7-liter Hemi V8. Although there are bigger, more powerful options, the 5.7-liter seems to be the most useable package while still enjoying the grunt of the big V8.
CR found the ride to be a bit choppy but not bad. The real deterrent that affected the handling and road feel was the muscle car’s size. It is too bulky to be anything close to agile, but that isn’t really want the Challenger is going for. The V8 is strong and exhilarating, and if the power wasn’t enough to get you, the sound will. The overall package is a mean-looking car with tons of power, few frills, and a six-speed manual gearbox. It’s a reliable, modern muscle car.
The 2021 Miata is everything its always been and more
The Miata and Challenger aren’t comparable. These are two very different cars made for very different drivers. The Challenger is all flash and brawn, while the Miata is about as flashy as a pair of khaki slacks. But like the slacks, it means business. The Miata scored an outstanding 86/100, which should surprise no one.
The Miata has always been light, maneuverable, snappy, and direct. It is THE driver’s car, in my opinion. No one is impressed if you pull up to them at a stoplight, but the real ones will know.
The 2021 MX-5 Miata is powered by a 2.0-liter four-pot that makes 181 hp. Before you say anything, it only weighs 2,300 lbs. That is a killer power to weight ratio, but even that doesn’t matter. The Miata isn’t about power; it’s about speed – and yes, they are different. In the hands of a skilled enough driver, the Miata will smack most anything around on the track. They are all about cornering speed, which is the most fun part of driving anyway if you know how to do it right.
Consumer Reports doesn’t like a bumpy ride
As great as the Miata is, it is still a sports car, which means a few things will suck. The ride is jittery and bumpy, according to CR. The other and probably the worst part of the Miata is the noise. It is a loud car. The engine and exhaust sound great and sporty, but they can tend to drone on and get fairly annoying. The engine noise, along with the road and wind noise, really makes for a grating experience after a while.
The two best could’t be more different
So if you love a three-pedal car and don’t need an abundance of room, the two best options are a giant American muscle car and a tiny Japanese sports car; take your pick.