Manual Or Automatic Transmission - Depends On What You Want To Achiev.
The Bottom Line The choice depends on your driving habits and conditions.
There are several factors that should affect your choice of transmission.
1. Do you often drive during "rush hour"? In this case automatic will be better - your right hand will be less tired and you won’t have to use the left foot. Besides, driving in heavy traffic with a lot of high-speed operation and frequent stops will not be very good for the clutch.
2. Fuel economy: Manual gearboxes, as a rule, provide better fuel economy (about 1 MPG better when automatics), and generally have more speeds so engine more often works in a range of optimal RPMs, they weight less and have no torque converter.
3. Acceleration: Manual transmissions, when properly used, provide better acceleration. Several factors contribute to this: they usually have more speeds to choose from, there is no torque converter that “eats” some torque, the weight is less.
4. Do you like to drive? Although automatic transmissions now got very sophisticated and adapt to the one’s driving style, they still cannot predict your intentions. Plus with them you don’t feel the direct link between your right foot and the engine response – the torque converter and other “goodies” mute it.
5. Price: Usually the automatic transmission costs $700-1200 extra. Some cars have them as standard equipment though, and some offer them as a free option.
6. Reliability: The automatic transmissions have much more parts and sophisticated control mechanisms. I have had bad luck with automatics.( Volvo 940GL)
Newer automatic transmissions with fuzzy logic provide good shift points and reasonable fuel economy. There are also "manumatic" automatic transmissions where you can shift manually, sometimes even with buttons on the steering wheel.
Nevertheless, it is still automatic transmission where you don't feel direct feel of manual, since it has torque converter. Commercials say that they are "like" transmissions used in Formula 1 auto racing. This is a lie - real F1 transmission may currently be found only in supercars like Ferrari 360 Modena as a $10K option or European cars that are not sold in the US (Alpha Romeo).
“Manumatics” are usually automatic transmissions that allow you to select the gear yourself. Yet, majority of them still downshift when you want to pass (kick-down) and upshift before you hit the rev limiter.
The CVT (continuously variable transmissions) start to appear in even bigger cars (like new Audi A4 – in Europe now, possibly in the US – in the 2002 model), they provide better fuel economy (some of them, i.e. in Audi, don't even have torque converters!) and acceleration than even manual and also can be shifted manually, and they don't require clutches. They are not so fun to drive us real manual transmission, but are much better than “regular” hydraulic auto transmissions.
The choice depends on your driving habits and conditions.