Driving cars in stop-go traffic can be a cumbersome exercise especially if you have to do it for hours at a stretch, every day. A car or a bike with an automatic gearbox is an obvious choice but comes with a cost barrier, both to purchase and maintain. Purists also complain about the lack of total control at times. For a sizeable chunk of Indians, automated manual transmission (AMT) proved a big relief from running costs (similar fuel efficiency as a manual) but these too come at a relatively hefty premium. And if we all thought AMTs were a sweet spot between manual and automatic gearbox, in comes Hyundai’s iMT or ‘intelligent manual transmission’ that sits somewhere between an MT and an AMT!
How does it work? Exactly like a manual transmission but saves the driver the hassle of using a foot clutch to engage a gear. An automatic also does away with the latter motion. In this case, you do have to go through a six-speed manual shifter. The car will start only in neutral gear. Press the start button, no clutch pedal to depress and simply put the stick into first gear. Touching the gearknob activates a sensor that in turn sets the auto clutch into action. The sensor is smart enough to detect whether the intent of touching the gear knob is to change a gear basis also the engine revs and speed of the car. Depress the throttle pedal and the car moves ahead. Once in motion, simply shift the gear stick into second just like you would in a regular manual gearbox car. Same for downshifting: while in a manual car, the driver engages the clutch pedal; this happens automatically here.
What happens when you drive it in the wrong gear? A warning beep brings that to your attention. The car slows down, even stops but the engine doesn’t stall as it would in a manual car. There is also a digital indicator on the instrument panel to suggest the appropriate gear. You may need it a bit at the beginning. In the Venue, this iMT is available only with a 1.0-litre turbo petrol engine. The latter is tiny but smooth and powerful enough (119bhp/172Nm) for this compact SUV. Its six-speed manual gearbox is also a sweet shifter with smooth, non-fussy throws. As the clutch action is automated, there is no unwanted, mistaken revving of the engine which usually happens during shifting gears manually.
Prices of Venue with an iMT ’box starts at Rs 10 lakh ex-showroom. It is only available in the top 2 trims – SX and SX(O). For Rs 25,000 and Rs 12,000 more, respectively, both trims are also available in this added dual-tone ‘Sport’ version (pictured here) with its clever highlights. Looks pretty trendy with the red accents throughout, including the inside.
The rather unconventional gearbox may need a little getting used to. Rally and race cars have used this technology more for saving time and effort for the driver, to save milliseconds in their endeavor to go faster. In the Venue the agenda is purely to reduce fatigue associated with driving manual cars in our choc-o-bloc urban jungles. And driving it around for a few hours did prove that.
Should you get one? If you change your car frequently, you may be better off with disposing a Venue with a conventional gearbox in the used-car market as this is quite a novelty. Hyundai has started a trend which Kia will also follow with. However, it will be a widely-accepted form of driving only if other carmakers follow making it natural for most drivers to pick up this habit as well. For someone well-versed with driving a manual, this isn’t very hard getting used to. If Venue is your choice of car, but you are not comfortable with shelling the higher price and running cost of its dual-clutch transmission variant, this iMT version is an acceptable compromise. It will be less tiring than driving a manual car in everyday traffic. In which case, the SX trim is even more sense as it is priced enough cheaper than a fully-automatic Venue and only Rs 16,000 more than an equivalent manual-gearbox version. In a segment so fiercely crowded and competitive, the Venue iMT does stand out.
Price: Rs 9.99-11.25 lakh (ex-Mumbai)
Specs: 998, 119bhp, 172Nm, 6-speed semi-MT, 10-11kpl (urban)
[Image Credit: Sanjay Hyundai]