The Hyundai Venue equipped with the new iMT technology has got many intrigued. It’s a new transmission in addition to the various types of gearboxes on offer today.You know the basics, there's a manual transmission with a clutch to engage and change gears through a gear lever. Then, there's an automatic gearbox where there's no clutch pedal, and you can simply select a drive mode through a gear lever or selector dial. Now what if we told you there's a semi-automatic one which doesn't have a clutch but you can manually engage gears through this gear lever? Now that’s exactly what this new technology is. Hyundai calls it the iMT or Intelligent Manual Transmission.
Design or styling-wise there's no change apart from the fact that this trim is based on the Sport version, which gets a bit of a cosmetic treatment. This Sport package adds a new contrasting look to the SUV, thanks to a gloss black grille with a red insert and intake surrounds in the front bumper. Then, there are dark grey roof rails in contrast to the red side decals, brake callipers, and other red accents on the outside.
Even inside, there are only a few changes. For example, there is a new flat-bottom steering wheel with red stitching, dark grey upholstery with red piping, and loads of red accents on its interior. The standard version just doesn't get this dose of red elements. Now that this version is not very different from the standard Venue, we will here solely focus on telling you the advantages and disadvantages of having this semi-automatic gearbox. Here are five positives and two negatives of this new Venue iMT Sport trim.
1. Best of both worlds
To start off, well you have the best of both worlds, the control from a manual gearbox and some convenience of an automatic transmission. You are completely relieved of the clutch operation as there's no clutch pedal at all. Your left leg is at ease all times and this helps quite a lot especially in the bumper-to-bumper traffic of the city. Also what you still have, is a full control of shifting gears manually at your will. As a result, there's all the driving involvement of a manual transmission which an automatic car may lack.
Then, fuel efficiency is a big concern for most buyers. Thankfully, there's not much of a difference between the ARAI-claimed figures of this trim and the manual Turbo version. Do note that the Hyundai Venue iMT is offered only with the 1.0-litre turbo petrol engine producing 118bhp of power and 172Nm of torque. While its manual version is rated at 18.2kmpl, this clutch-less six-speed manual iMT delivers 17.8kmpl. Now that's not at all a big disparity if you ask. And we would believe in Hyundai's claim that this one doesn't compromise on fuel efficiency and performance. After all, it still uses a conventional manual gearbox underneath.
2. No jerks
Interestingly, the gearbox is smooth and there's no head nod movement with the shifting of gears. Be it any transmission, you know the process of shifting gears involves a slight delay. Generally, it’s observed in AMT or manual transmissions that this shift induces a back and forth movement. In this version, however, it is well contained and even matches the revs automatically. It just works beautifully with this 1.0-litre turbo mill. After all, it's a gem of an engine when it comes to excellent drivability. You can make good progress post the 2,000rpm mark when there's a nice strong push as the turbo spools up.
Even when you floor the gas pedal, it is very linear in its power delivery and never feels abrupt with its throttle response. This engine freely revs up to its redline at 6,500rpm, letting you push through each gear. However, it has got a good low- and mid-range, so you'd be ideally doing low speeds in a higher gear easily without the need for constant changing of gears. That said, the intelligent gearbox suggests you do that whenever there's a need.
3. Creep function
Your right leg is on the brake pedal, you've started the car, and now want to move ahead. You just put the gear lever in first gear and start releasing the brake. The car will automatically start moving slowly without you having to give a throttle input. This is pretty helpful and adds to the convenience when in stop-and-go traffic. All you have to do is modulate the brake at low speeds ,and if there's a need, give it a little gas. This creep function along with hill-hold function works even better on up slopes without letting the car move backwards. We didn't have to use the hand brake which usually gets imperative with a manual gearbox.
Then the car easily picks up from a standstill even in the second gear. This means, in bumper-to-bumper traffic, it can cut down your hassle of not just engaging the clutch, but also constant shifting from first to second. And since the power band is quite wide, you can literally speed up and slow down in this gear itself. Almost the convenience of an automatic.
4. Impossible to stall it
People learning to drive a car always face the issue of stalling it. You always have to be in the right gear and modulate the clutch and throttle accordingly. This concern is eliminated completely as it's just impossible to stall this vehicle. Even if you are in the wrong gear at wrong speeds, it will try its best to amble along. Worst case, it will beep with a warning sign on the instrument cluster to shift down.
We tried different situations like stopping when driving in the sixth gear and not shifting down. In case of a manual version, if you didn’t engage the clutch, the car would have given jerks and stopped. Not in this case. It keeps suggesting you to shift down unless you are in the right gear. It is the same when you go up the gears. For example, now I am in first gear, accelerating and as the revs build I know when to shift up. Well, anyone who knows to drive will get to know. Unless you're new to driving or, may be deaf to not hear the engine whirring so loud! Yeah, so whatever be the case, the instrument cluster suggests which gear you need to shift up to or to be in.
5. Price point
Now this one is very affordable than the proper automatic version of the Venue. But more interestingly, it’s not very expensive than the manual version of the SUV. Both, the Hyundai Venue iMT and DCT, are offered only with the 1.0-litre turbo petrol engine. If you compare it with the prices of the turbo manual, the DCT is easily a lakh rupee more, but the iMT is just about Rs 15,000-25,000 over the manual counterpart, depending on the corresponding variant.
1. Not yet a convincing option to buy
I spoke to a few people to explain to them this new technology. Automatic car buyers liked the clutch-less shifts, but were not really convinced that they will still have to change gears by themselves. Then, the manual car drivers loved the fact they will not have to use the clutch but were worried they will have to unlearn the process of not using the left leg at all and yet shift. The good thing is it doesn't take time to get used to it.
Then, there’s the worry about this system's complexity and reliability. Now even if things look simple on the go, there's an intelligent, little system to back it up. The absence of a clutch pedal has brought in a ‘transmission gear shift lever’ or TGS paired with an 'intention sensor'. When one is about to change gears, this sensor tells an electronic transmission control unit (TCU), which in turn signals the hydraulic actuators. These engage and disengage the usual clutch and pressure plates along with the functioning of the concentric slave cylinder and clutch tube. Well, this may sound pretty intense to some buyers. And this complexity might raise questions about its reliability in the long run. Nevertheless, nothing apart from the actuators and sensors has changed. So, it doesn’t seem like it’s going to be a big problem in the future.
2. Not available with a diesel
Now, such an innovative technology that adds to a driver's convenience could have had a far reach. But sadly it’s limited only to this turbo petrol option. It would have been great to have it on its diesel model as well. After all, the oil-burner of this Venue SUV is a silent, refined, and a very frugal powertrain. The availability of this iMT would have also helped Hyundai to bring in more buyers.
This is a first and one-of-a-kind of technology that people might take time to get used to. Some might get accustomed to it, while some might just avoid it. Well, only time will tell. For now, this whole package looks quite an interesting proposition to consider. Especially when you have the convenience of clutch-less shifts with the control from a manual.
Pictures by Kaustubh Gandhi