Back to a manual
It's been 20-ish years since I've regularly driven one of these things.
I recently traded out the terrible Versa because it had issues. What I replaced it with was a Japanese subcompact. Used, of course. It's a little car that easily achieves a 35 MPG average, but can achieve 40 and even better with hardly any effort.
The big deal however is that the car has a manual 5-speed transmission.
In America, finding a car with a true mechanical manual transmission is rare. Go to any shopping center parking lot, and it's a sure bet that fewer than 1% of all the cars there will have a 5 or 6-speed stick in the floor. You just don't see these things anymore.
It's even more rare to see a car with manual gearbox that is not a kid racer piece of garbage. My car is 100% unmodified. No stupid aftermarket tint. No "cold air intake" buffoonery. No Flowmaster muffler. No "upgraded" wheels. A car like this is so rare that I can confidently say it is most likely the only stock unmodified car with a manual gearbox whenever parked in any parking lot.
Advantages of driving a car with a manual gearbox
If you know how to handle 3 pedals and a stick, there are some nice benefits.
Stick Discount - If the model of car I bought had an automatic transmission, it would have cost 25 to 30% more just to buy it. With the 5-speed stick I got a massive discount just because of the stick.
Possibly the best anti-theft deterrent device - I could take the car, park it in any lot, walk away leaving it running, unlocked and with windows rolled down... and on my return the car would be right where I left it. Nobody would bother stealing the car because nobody knows how to drive stick anymore.
Stupidly easy to increase gas mileage - The automatic version of my car is 33 pounds heavier than what I have. That's like carrying two 16-lb bowling balls in the trunk 100% of the time. A 33-lb weight reduction may not sound like much, but believe me, it matters. I can also do other things now like short-shifting, proper coasting, and so on.
Engine braking to save brakes - When done properly, downshifting to slow the car when approaching a stop extends brake life (particularly the fronts) a great deal.
How does it feel going back to a manual?
Modern cars pretty much operate like a Barbie Jeep in the respect everything is all push-button and sterile.
It literally has been 20+ years since I've daily driven a manual, and I totally forgot how organic the driving experience is with a stick. With the car I have now, a Barbie Jeep it is not.
Driving stick is not as smooth as the auto, but that's not a bad thing. I can really feel the car more when upshifting and downshifting. It has actually caused me to drive more safely and deliberately.
Where fun factor is concerned, obviously the manual is better than the auto. Running through the gears or even just downshifting to pass someone is fun.
My car is thankfully modern enough to be equipped with two things I can't live without, that being A/C and cruise control. Having A/C is self-explanatory. It's the cruise that's awesome. I've never owned a car with a stick that had cruise that actually works. This one does.
It's neat driving the manual. I dig it.