Hyundai Venue Turbo iMT | Best of both worlds
The clutchless Hyundai Venue Turbo iMT
Purists love manual transmissions. The tactile joy that’s derived out of working the clutch and the gearbox, synchronising the motion of your feet and left hand for that perfect heel-toe downshift can be addictive. A good manual transmission treats enthusiasts with just what they want – slick shifts, short throws and the ability to tame the car they’re driving with complete control. But let’s not get carried away with this. You can enjoy manuals only if the driving conditions allow you to. For that, your commute has to be free from traffic or you should frequent the open roads outside of the city. Regular Indian driving conditions are exactly the opposite. They include melted chocolate roads, low-IQ motorists and cities with some of the world’s worst traffic jams. And that means there’s limited scope for drivers to indulge in the joys of a manual gearbox. It’s no small wonder that buyers are now transitioning towards automatics that relieve them from the hassles of operating the clutch and the gear lever in stop-and-go traffic. CVTs and AMTs are some of the affordable automatic transmission options out there but they come with certain drawbacks. CVTs have the elastic band effect that really affects acceleration. AMTs cause head toss and the shifts are lazy.
Hyundai though has introduced an out-of-the-box solution. It’s called the intelligent manual transmission (iMT) and it automates the operation of the clutch, eliminating the clutch pedal completely while retaining the regular gear lever. That’s not all, the iMT is devoid of head toss and elastic band effects that are otherwise drawbacks on other automatics. So let’s delve into a first-hand account of how the iMT turns out for drivers who are used to regular automatics. For this we took Vidula, a friend of evo India’s, out on a drive in the Hyundai Venue Turbo iMT. Vidula is an enthusiast who loves being in the driver’s seat and we thought her account of this first-of-its-kind technology in India would perfectly capture the essence of evo India that’s always centred around the #ThrillofDriving. “I love driving. But I’ve grown up in Mumbai and you know how the traffic is. It’s madness. Once I passed my driving test, I switched to driving an automatic and that was that. For the last 11 years, I have only driven an automatic,” she says. That’s the collateral damage created by traffic jams – enthusiasts who love to drive are now compelled to settle for imperfect automatics as their daily drivers.
“If you want to drive around town, it has to be an automatic,” laughs Vidula. And her reasons are justified. There can be a number of challenging situations when you’re crawling in slow-paced traffic behind the wheel of a regular manual car. “I do most of my driving in the city. But I occasionally head out of the city, just to explore. With manuals, I don’t like operating the clutch and constantly shift through the gears. One of my biggest fears is stalling the car in traffic and people honking from behind. Such situations put you under pressure. That balance of getting off the clutch is tricky and I prefer my automatic. All I have to do is slot it into Drive and go.”
With Hyundai having introduced the iMT recently, we were keen to know what Vidula thought of this technology. “Is it like a tiny robot operating the clutch for you?” she asks. “Absolutely!” I nod in affirmation. With no clutch to operate, the left foot goes on a permanent vacation. And the working of this transmission is fairly easy. The system reacts to the slightest of movements of the gear lever and then the sensors signal the actuators to disengage the clutch. After the shift is completed, the clutch re-engages and drive is sent to the wheels. Moving on to Vidula’s fear of stalling the car in traffic, the vehicle’s smart electronics simply won’t allow for such a situation to occur. If you’re stationary with the gear lever slotted into first, the system automatically holds the clutch for you. If you drive like a fuel economy-focused cabbie, at very slow speeds in higher gears, the system will set off auditory and visual alerts through the MID, reminding you to shift down to an appropriate gear. While it’s reminding you to downshift, it simultaneously disengages the clutch, avoiding any damage to the gearbox and ultimately eliminating any chances of stalling the car. The fact that it’s termed ‘intelligent’ isn’t far-fetched and it appears as if Hyundai have really thought this through to avoid any kind of operational inconvenience.
Working of the iMT is decoded and Vidula’s insistence on driving the Venue as we head out for lunch has convinced me that she indeed prefers to drive rather than simply be driven around. She’s the evo India type, and we love that. To satiate the hunger for on-road thrills, her ride is usually a triple-cylinder supersport and with that I had established that the bar was set high when it comes to rejoicing the thrills. “Wow, I wasn’t expecting the Venue Turbo to move with such vigour,” said Vidula. Well, this obviously isn’t a comparison, but we cannot go without mentioning that the Venue Turbo is no slouch when it comes to performance and dynamics. The 1-litre, three-cylinder direct-injection turbocharged petrol engine was first introduced in the Venue before being carried over to other Hyundai cars and we have always expressed our high praise for this powerplant for the thrills it delivers. With 118bhp and 172Nm of torque that comes in from as low as 1500rpm, there’s no dearth of performance from this engine. It makes the Venue eager to get going and the needle hits triple-digit speeds before you expect it to. The chassis is set up incredibly well and this helps the Venue harness all the performance efficiently, with a well-balanced ride and agile handling. With the iMT, there’s also better engagement while driving. “What I like most about the iMT is the control. I finally understand what everyone means when they say manuals give them control. I don’t have to rely on the computer to decide a gear for me — I can decide for myself and get the most out of the car like that,” says Vidula.
Moving on, what makes the Venue Turbo iMT a tempting proposition is that it doesn’t require any additional maintenance compared to a regular manual transmission. It shares its components with Hyundai’s regular 6-speed manual gearbox with the only difference being the addition of sensors and actuators that automate the clutch operation. The system is programmed in a way that you can’t stall the car, and there’s no possibility of slipping the clutch, burning it or damaging the components. With that, reliability remains similar to that of a regular manual setup and so does the fuel economy. Vidula had done her research before she drove along with us and she added another important point, “I’ve always thought that automatics were very expensive but this doesn’t cost too much more than the manual. The premium seems like a reasonable trade-off to what you get in return.” I couldn’t agree more. iMT variants of the Venue Turbo cost marginally more than the regular manual counterparts and what justifies this premium is the hassle-free nature of gear shifts like an automatic with control and engagement of a regular manual! What Hyundai has done with the Venue Turbo iMT is that it has taken the drawbacks of regular manuals and automatics and hit a home run by smashing them out of the ballpark to create something that’s practical, hassle-free and yet fun to drive! It was a long day but we were happy to have added another enthusiast to our clan while exploring the Venue Turbo iMT. “So guys, when are we going out on another drive?” asks Vidula. Being mega fans of leisurely drives, we’re sure tempted, but we look down at our Google calendars, and the wide grins on our faces turn into blank expressions and we pretend as if this question was never asked.