Mario Kart Wii, like Smash Bros, is hedging its bets when it comes to control schemes. Probably because, like Smash Bros, it's ostensibly a GameCube title, with its gameplay mechanics in place long before the now-mandatory waggle was ever brought to the table. Which explains why, when you sit down to play it, you'll have a choice of five control schemes, a mix of the new (waggle) and the old (no waggle). Having played the game for the past week, and played using all available control schemes, I figured I'd let you know how the five shape up.
One will be your default control option. One will be a part-time novelty. The other three should be avoided at all costs.
Wii Remote + Nunchuk - The default control scheme. Only one you ever need, and the only one you should ever use. The Nunchuk thumbstick gives you the most precise control over your kart's movement, while flicking the Wii Remote to activate a trick is much easier than with the Wii Wheel. All the buttons are at your fingertips, and once you get used to the fact the drift button's on the Wii Remote, and not the Nunchuk, it turns into the most natural control scheme not just for this game, but for the entire series.
Wii Wheel - Super-disappointing. The first time you use it, you'll think it's amazing. Probably because the first time you use it will be in a 50cc kart race. On faster tracks, it can't keep up with your need for quick, precise movements. Fail. Same goes for more difficult races when you'll find yourself in the middle of the pack, trying to dodge shells and banana peels: they'll hit you, because it can't work fast enough. Fail. And in 150cc bike races, where tricks are necessary, you have to jerk the wheel upwards to activate a trick, causing you to flail all over the track. Fail.
Wavebird/GameCube Pad - No. Sounds good in theory, right? It served you admirably in Double Dash, right? Yeah, this isn't Double Dash. You need to pull off tricks to win harder races. Need to. The trick button for the Cube pads is hitting the d-pad. Which is awkward, out of the way, and will cost you time and positioning in a race.
Classic Controller - See above.
Wii Remote - The Wii Wheel sucks. Now imagine it without its helpful weight and familiar shape. It's like trying to drive a broken, Excited truck around an oily ice rink. Do not use under any circumstances.
In other words, use the Wii Remote & nunchuk, and only the Wii Remote & nunchuk. The Wii Wheel and 'Cube controllers should be thought of as Mad Catz peripherals: only for use by guests in multiplayer games. Guests you don't like. As for the Wii Remote on its own...I told you to forget about it, OK?