The first-of-its-kind clutchless manual transmission in the Hyundai Venue Turbo iMT seems like the ultimate cost-effective solution for hassle-free driving. We get behind the wheel to test it
This is the Hyundai Venue Turbo iMT, the first car in the country with the clutchless manual transmission. The iMT gearbox aims to address the two reasons why the automatic transmission is still niche in India - the cost differential over a regular manual and also the drop in fuel efficiency. These two reasons are why manufacturers have rolled out the AMT automated manual transmission but the head toss and slow responses mean driver’s don’t particularly enjoy using it. Hyundai though seem to have hit on a novel solution. Automate the operation of the clutch and remove the hassles of clutch-in, clutch-out and clutch-slip in stop-go traffic while retaining the regular manual gear lever. How does it work?
We answer ten most important questions so that you get a better understanding of how this new technology works. And we also look at whether this is a good option to the other transmission options. Let’s begin.
For starters, the system does not fire the engine up if the car is in gear. Since there is no clutch to press, it doesn’t start if the car is in gear. You need to slot it into neutral and then press the start-stop button on the Hyundai Venue Turbo. To take off, you slot it into the first gear, release the brake and simply get going. With no clutch pedal to operate, your left foot remains idle. Shifting gears is done the same way you do in a regular manual transmission, but without the hassle of pressing the clutch. There’s even a creep function where the car crawls at slow speeds after releasing the brake so you can inch in traffic without having to press the accelerator. When you shift gears, the sensors signal the actuators to disengage the clutch. After completing the shift, the clutch closes and drive is engaged. It’s reasonably quick and totally hassle-free.
The mechanicals of the iMT are similar to those of a regular manual transmission, except that the clutch is now operated automatically. It does not shift as quickly as a regular manual gearbox when driven enthusiastically, but most of the time, in regular driving conditions, the shifts are seamless. In fact, it is at par with the shifting skills of a very good driver. There are no jerks and the transitions are smooth and jerk-free.
We launched the car like a regular automatic, with the left foot on the brake and right foot on the throttle. The result was that you cannot aggressively wheel-spin by slipping the clutch. But once you get going, the power delivery is the same as the regular Venue Turbo. It feels peppy and eager to get going. In fact, in our VBOX tests, the sprint from 0-100kmph came in just 0.9 seconds slower than the Venue DCT.
The DCT gearbox on the Venue Turbo also doesn’t have launch control and in the interests of longevity it doesn’t launch from stand still aggressively. In fact the launch on the DCT and iMT is almost on par but the DCT has a quicker 1st to 2nd and 2nd to 3rd shift which gives it almost a second advantage in the 0-100kmph sprint.
Moreover, the shifts in the iMT are not as lazy as they are in an AMT or a CVT and that’s a very good thing.
No, you cannot stall the Venue iMT. After bringing the car to a halt in the first gear, the system automatically disengages the drive and depresses the clutch for you.
If you’re at a standstill in higher gears, the clutch does not engage. A reminder alarm to shift down the gears displays on the multi information display on the cluster and you have to slot the gearbox into second or first to get a move on.
In AMT transmission, the head toss can be quite bothersome. Is it the same in the iMT? Absolutely not. Lifting off the throttle between shifts smoothens the shifts and that makes the drive even more seamless. If you’re shifting with your foot floored in on the throttle, there’s naturally a cut in inertia and that causes your head to toss but that’s not an aggressive head toss. To avoid this, the best way is to let the foot of the throttle while shifting gears.
We launched the Venue in the first gear and it does go all the way till the red line. And even after revving it hard, the shifts are super smooth.
There’s no proof of this technology's long term reliability yet. But there’s no reason why it will not last. It’s equipped with the same components as a regular manual set-up, with the only difference being the addition of an actuator that’s operating the clutch. The clutch life might be 10 or 15 per cent less than a regular unit, but that’s an acceptable trade off to what you get in return.
What happens when you drive like a taxi driver, by driving at slow speeds in higher gears at very low rpms? In that case, the clutch does not engage, it throws up a warning on the MID, and you have to downshift. There’s no possibility of slipping the clutch, burning it and damaging the components.
Absolutely! It’s all about getting used to this set-up. All you need to do is modulate the throttle while reversing and the Venue iMT does get going.
The Hyundai Venue Turbo iMT also gets hill hold assist that prevents the car from rolling back when you are getting going on a steep slope. There are sensors that detect the incline angles and apply the brakes. You don’t have to use the handbrake either and the system is smart enough to know when exactly to engage the clutch and also to slip it so you get traction and move.
There’s no single variant of the Venue with all three gearbox options. There are variants where you get the manual and the DCT while others are offered with either the manual or this new iMT. Prices for the iMT equipped Venue start at Rs 9.99 lakh for the SX variant, and go up to Rs 11.2 lakh for the SX(O) Sport Trim. This makes the iMT Venue just Rs 20,000 more expensive than the manual SX variant with the 1-litre turbo-petrol engine. And lastly, the Venue Turbo DCT roughly costs Rs 1 lakh more than the Venue Turbo iMT. This aggressive pricing will certainly have a positive impact on buyers who are considering to buy the Venue iMT.
Next up on the cost of ownership front is the fuel economy. Given that most of the gearbox components of the iMT and the regular manual are the same, the fuel economy will also be the same. Under regular driving conditions, there’s no reason for the iMT to consume more fuel. Many buyers prefer manual transmissions because they are slightly more fuel efficient than their automatic counterparts. With the iMT, there’s the convenience of clutch-free gear operation along with the fuel saving benefits of the manual.
It is a very smart move by Hyundai India and there’s no question that this is an excellent option to consider. It is sensible and the system is indeed intelligent. Many buyers want an automatic transmission but they hate the characteristics of technologies like the AMT. The head toss is bothersome and the irregular shifts are unpleasant. These problems don’t exist in the iMT. Another reason why the iMT makes sense is because of how it functions in stop and go traffic. Constantly operating the clutch in slow paced traffic tires our left foot and at times it even gets irritating. The iMT largely reduces this burden of driving in traffic as it eliminates clutch operation. Changing gears is not a problem because the shifts in the iMT are as slick as a regular manual. Juggling between first and second gears in the traffic is not an issue at all.
If you are an enthusiastic driver who likes to enjoy the occasional wheelspin and quick launch at traffic lights then the iMT is not ideal and you should go with the DCT or the regular manual variants. But in terms of sheer convenience for regular drivers, this is a superb option - especially as you pay only Rs 20,000 more over the manual transmission. The upcoming Kia Sonet will also get iMT as an option and we won’t be surprised if other carmakers follow suit. A big thumbs up to Hyundai for introducing another smart solution that makes driving in stop-go city traffic so much easier.