Home » They Really Want You To Know It’s A Stick: 2006 Mini Cooper S vs 2009 Hyundai Sonata

They Really Want You To Know It’s A Stick: 2006 Mini Cooper S vs 2009 Hyundai Sonata

Sbsd 12 4 2023

Good morning! Today’s Shitbox Showdown competitors might seem like an odd pairing, and I suppose they are, but there is a thread of connection: They’re both manuals, and they’re both at dealerships who really make it a point of telling you that they’re manuals. I guess they got tired of potential buyers showing up and not knowing how to drive a stick.

On Friday, I threw you all into a fit of confusion, apparently, and for that I apologize. But in my defense, the instructions were right there, as plain as day, in the paragraph right before the poll. You were supposed to vote for the car you thought was worst, not best. I’m assuming that all of you who voted for the LeBaron mis-read the instructions.

Vidframe Min Top
Vidframe Min Bottom

I do get the feeling, however, that the majority of you understood the assignment, and placed that trashed Land Rover at its rightful place at the bottom of the heap. That thing is just too far gone to be anything but a beater trail rig. It’s cool that it’s a stickshift, but really, if you’re looking for a cheap 4X4, just get a Cherokee. You’ll hate life a lot less.

Screenshot From 2023 12 03 15 34 18

Speaking of stickshifts, have you ever gone into a car dealership and asked for one specifically? I have, many times. They look at you like you’re from Mars. When I bought my one and only new car, a Mazda Protegé, I was specifically looking for a DX model with a manual. Out of probably fifty Protegés on the lot (it was a big dealership), they had exactly two manual DXs: One in white, and one in … white. I chose the white one. That was twenty years ago, and even back then I was told, “We just don’t stock manuals much, because we can’t sell them.”


Used car dealers have it worse, because they have less control over what hits the lot. And with fewer and fewer people (here in the US, anyway) able or willing to drive a stick every year, three-pedal machines just get harder and harder to move. Worse, since buyers aren’t expecting a car to be a manual, they sometimes show up to look at a car, only to discover they don’t know how to drive it. The dealerships selling today’s cars have taken drastic measures to get the message across. Let’s take a look.

2006 Mini Cooper S – $3,995

00y0y 7xbzi2t8co5 0ne0hq 1200x900

Engine/drivetrain: Supercharged 1.6 liter dual overhead cam inline 4, six-speed manual, FWD

Location: Hurst, TX (well, of course it’s a stick!)

Odometer reading: 82,000 miles


Runs/drives? Yep

Usually, I avoid ads like this. Dealers like to add banners to their photos to keep their name in front of you, and they always seem to do it in such a way that I can’t crop it out. But the big “Manual Transmission” badge caught my eye on this one, and I immediately knew what led to it: someone called about this car, set up a “By Appointment Only” test drive, and didn’t know how to drive a stick. Maybe more than one someone.

00i0i Fjux91xo2uh 0x20om 1200x900

Now, I don’t know what the take rate for manuals was on R53 Mini Coopers, but I bet it was pretty high. This is not a car I would expect to have an automatic transmission. This is not a car that is supposed to have an automatic transmission. It’s a hyperkinetic, supercharged, six-speed pocket rocket for those who want to have an absolute blast behind the wheel – in between bouts of infuriating down-time for maintenance and repairs.

00i0i Bk8wsjqdof4 0x20om 1200x900


This Mini has almost unbelievably low miles, though I get the feeling it’s been wrung out for most of those. I don’t know why, but this car is giving off track-toy vibes. The back seat is missing, for one thing. And there’s a tow hook, though I realize that doesn’t mean much; they’ve become a fashion accessory among certain crowds. But it just feels like this car has been driven hard.

00s0s Bskxwknkqly 0x20om 1200x900

It does run and drive well, according to the seller, except for worn-out rear struts, but it sounds like replacements might be included. It’s nice and straight, and the interior looks good too, except for the missing back seat. You’d want to go over it with a fine-toothed comb, I think, but this car with this mileage for this price feels like it could be a good deal for the right person.

2009 Hyundai Sonata GLS – $4,000

01616 99pdglchdss 0po0jm 1200x900

Engine/drivetrain: 2.4 liter dual overhead cam inline 4, five-speed manual, FWD


Location: Pflugerville, TX

Odometer reading: 166,000 miles

Runs/drives? Sure does

Just after I found the ad for the Mini, I found this Hyundai, with its own “Manual Transmission” text emblazoned across the photo. This one makes more sense; Hyundai Sonatas with manual transmissions can’t be too common. They’re out there, sure, but a person looking for a Sonata is more likely to be shopping for an automatic, I would imagine.

00u0u 2q7ymkdp49j 0x20om 1200x900


In this generation of Sonata, the manual gearbox was only available with a 2.4 liter “Theta II” twincam four, Hyundai’s spoils from the Global Engine Alliance. Certain versions of this engine have a less-than-stellar reputation, but I believe most of the problems were with later ones than this. This one, at 166,000 miles, seems to be holding up all right.

01414 Iocwmbko48z 0x20om 1200x900

The same can’t be said for the dash top; the Texas sun has not been kind. The rest of the interior is all right for the mileage, and it looks fine outside. One photo shows the dashboard with the car running, and the tire-pressure warning light is on, but we all know how those sensors can be.

00t0t Rxvc4whind 0x20om 1200x900

This car is priced quite a bit lower than other ’09 Sonatas I found with automatics, so I think it fits David’s “Ugly Stick” definition: a car that’s not in demand with a manual transmission. Though if I’m honest, I don’t think this car is ugly. Dull, maybe, but clean and straightforward. Maybe it’s just a sign of how fussy modern car shapes have gotten that something as generic and NPC-looking as this feels like a breath of fresh air.


I’m not part of the “no automatics ever” crowd, at least, not anymore. But I do prefer manuals when it comes to cheap cars, primarily for durability reasons. You have no idea how many ads I see for sub-$3000 cars with automatic transmission problems, and not one of them is worth fixing. Being willing and able to drive a manual is the best way to get by with cheap cars. One of these is a good daily-driver candidate, the other is more of a toy, but could be an everyday car for the right gearhead. Both feel like decent deals. Which one is your choice?

(Image credits: Craigslist sellers)

Share on facebook
Share on whatsapp
Share on twitter
Share on linkedin
Share on reddit
Notify of
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
The F--kshambolic Cretinoid Harvey Park
The F--kshambolic Cretinoid Harvey Park
4 months ago

What’s going on with the groin harpoon inside the mini’s passenger seat?

Would love your thoughts, please comment.x