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‘Autos are so mundane’: These women share their love of manual cars

From getting a kick out of changing gears to feeling more in control, they reveal the personal rewards of sticking to old-school driving.

‘Autos are so mundane’: These women share their love of manual cars

Marketing director and digital creator Aarika Lee, pictured with her two kids, says it's a lot more fun and engaging to drive a manual car. (Photo: Aarika Lee)

You can scarcely find manual cars on Singapore roads these days, let alone people who still drive them.  

So what makes these women choose to drive a manual when a car with auto transmission is manifestly more practical and much less cumbersome in Singapore’s stop-and-go traffic?

When it came time for marketing director and digital creator Aarika Lee to buy a new car five years ago, she and husband rapper Kevin Lester, also known by his stage name THELIONCITYBOY, deliberately decided on a manual car for their family of four.

They settled on a second-hand silver Toyota Yaris, a COE car that was about to be scrapped, and renewed it for another five years.

“There is so much to appreciate about a car when you drive a manual. You feel the car very differently and you never get bored,” she said.

“It’s also way more engaging and fun to drive a manual car that even when we rent a car overseas, we pick manual cars over automatic ones.”

Lee’s first car was also a manual drive: A 1970 classic Volkswagen Beetle. 

“I wish I could’ve kept her but it’s not cheap to upkeep vintage cars in Singapore so I had to let go. But I hope to own another one again one day,” said the 38-year-old.

How was Lee’s interest in manual cars first kindled? Watching her parents drive as a precocious kid of 10.

“I started asking my mum to explain how a manual drive worked. She would let me hold the gear stick while she took the lead with her hand over my hand and showed me how to change gears while she drove around the carpark.

“I think having a taste of that made it even more exciting for me. So as soon as I could, I signed up to take manual drive lessons,” Lee recalled.


It’s a similar story for Serena Chin, Legal Director at Carousell, whose love affair with manual drives began the moment she climbed into a Land Rover Defender when she was also of primary school age.

Her father, who was in the construction business, had driven the Defender home from the office one day and the rest is history.

I loved the ruggedness of the vehicle and I fell in love with it immediately,” the 30-year-old said.

In 2018, Chin snagged a reproduction Defender 2.5 3-Door TD5 90 Hard-Top that was listed on Carousell for S$47,000.

She named it Leaf after its grasmere green hue befitting the vintage styling of the almost 20-year-old vehicle, and still proudly drives the impeccably maintained classic car today.

Serena Chin first fell in love with manual drives when her father brought home a Land Rover Defender when she was in primary school. (Photo: Serena Chin)

Chin had driven another manual car, an Opel box van, for a good decade before that, which was great for ferrying friends for picnics by the bay, replete with a bean bag in the back.

“Drives in a manual car tend to be less boring," she said. 


For Carolyn Theng, it’s the feeling of being in full control of the vehicle that she misses most about driving a manual car.

She had driven a manual black Honda Civic Type R FN, which she even modified, for a decade before it had to be scrapped in 2018 after its COE ran out.

“I used to get a kick out of gear changing. The short shifter and the gear ratios on the 6-speed Type R were amazing; smooth and easy to manoeuvre.

"And I enjoyed listening to the engine rev as I changed from first gear all the way to sixth; it was music to my ears,” said Theng, who works as a marketing manager in the automotive industry.

These days, Theng, who is in her 40s, drives an automatic Audi A5 Sportback, a shared family car.

“I miss my manual drive a lot. Autos are so mundane. There’s no excitement; it’s just Point A to B for me,” she said.

For fellow manual enthusiast Annalisa Yeo it’s all about the clutch.

“I love being able to coordinate the clutch, gears and pedals all at once. I find it much more satisfying than driving an automatic car.

"The ease of automatic cars makes it easy for the mind to wander, sometimes even feel a little dull,” said the 29-year-old freelance actress, writer and performer.

“So I really appreciate the focus manual cars require. It feels cool to control multiple parts of a complex machine instead of letting it do all the work for you.”

CNA Women is a section on CNA Lifestyle that seeks to inform, empower and inspire the modern woman. If you have women-related news, issues and ideas to share with us, email CNAWomen [at]

Source: CNA/pc