When Hyundai launched the Venue last year, it wasn’t just the first connected car of India but was also the first car in the segment to feature a DCT transmission. Subsequently, if buyers were in the market for a compact SUV, they had quite a few transmission options to choose from. This includes a 5-speed MT, 6-speed MT, 6-speed AMT, 4-speed torque converter, 6-speed torque converter and 7-speed DCT. However, while some are smooth but not fun, others are fun but not cheap and the rest are convenient but not smooth. There was no transmission that provided customers the benefits of an auto, with the mileage and fun-factor of a manual. That is, until now. In another first, the Hyundai Venue has become the first car in the Indian market to offer a clutchless manual transmission, or as Hyundai likes to call it an Intelligent Manual Transmission (iMT). Is it really the answer to all our automated manual needs? Let’s find out.
Hyundai Venue iMT- Design
Just a month back, Hyundai launched a new trim level for the Hyundai Venue called Sportz. The new variant brought about a host of aesthetic upgrades over the standard model but is not to be confused with the launch of the Hyundai Venue iMT. Customers can choose to get the Sportz trim without the iMT and they can choose to go for the iMT without having to choose the Sportz package. Choose a standard trim level with the iMT and the only difference you’ll find over the regular Venue is a tell-tale badge on the front fender.
However, choose the Sportz trim with the all-new iMT and there are a host of aesthetic upgrades that help the car stand out. You get a blacked-out grille with red-accents, red-accents on the front, side and rear skid plates; along with red brake calipers, red accent on the roof rails and Sportz badging on the rear quarter panel. To top it off, the Hyundai Venue Sportz brings along two new colour options - Dark Titan Grey and Polar White, along with a Phantom Black roof finish for a two-tone look.
Hyundai Venue iMT - Interior
Step inside the new Hyundai Venue iMT and there is virtually no difference over the regular version. Other than a manual gear lever and a two-pedal configuration, the new Hyundai Venue iMT remains unchanged. However, if you happen to choose the Sportz trim along with the iMT, then like the exterior, the cabin brings along a host of aesthetic upgrades. You get the swanky butterfly-type steering wheel from the new Creta, new upholstery design, metal-finished pedal covers and red inserts on the AC vents and dials. If you wish for some more red, well you get red stitching on the steering wheels, door inserts and gear lever. The features list, on the other hand, remains the same.
Hyundai Venue iMT - Gearbox
Now let’s get to the most significant aspect of this review, the new clutchless manual transmission. The first time you get in, your brain does take a few seconds to register a manual gear stick on your left and two pedals below you. In order to start up the car, the iMT requires you to be in neutral but can be left in first gear when parked on steep slopes. As there is no clutch, you need to press the brake and thumb the starter just like a regular automatic vehicle.
How the gearbox works is with sensors that feed information to a transmission control unit which controls hydraulic actuators, that in turn control the clutch modulation. As soon as you move the gear lever from its current slot, intention sensors kick in and feed information to the TCU which gives the command to actuators to engage, disengage or modulate the clutch. As a result, users have just the throttle pedal and manual gear lever to control the amount of power that is being fed to the wheels. Start up, slot the gearbox into first, let off the brakes and the car starts creeping forward on its own. This creep function is very useful when dealing with bumper-to-bumper traffic.
As speeds build, without the clutch to worry about, users can slot into any gear they like and in whatever order they like. However, when you want to get going from a standstill, the car will only let you use 1st and 2nd gear to do so. If your gear position is too high, the Hyundai Venue iMT warns you with beeps and a message on the instrument console. As speeds build and you climb higher up the gear order, you can shift with the accelerator still pressed or choose to step off. They both work, with the latter being just a tad smoother operation. Another useful aspect of the new Intelligent Manual Transmission is its inability to stall. If you come to a standstill in any gear, the hydraulic actuators are ready to take over and keep the engine running. However, the iMT will need to be slotted back into a lower gear in order to get rolling again. Now while the overall iMT technology works very well in my books, one gripe I did have was the knotchiness I felt when slotting into gears. As a result, shifts need to be timed well in order to slot in without hesitation. So now that we have covered the basics and know how it works, let’s get to its performance.
Hyundai Venue iMT - Performance
Hyundai’s new iMT is only available with the 1.0-litre T-GDi turbo petrol unit which delivers 118bhp and 172Nm of peak torque. Now while the new iMT is pretty close to an AMT in its functionality, gear shifts can be controlled far better as you are in control. Going from 5th to 2nd or 4th to 1st, the iMT is far smoother compared to traditional AMT downshifts or upshifts. If you are new to manual gearboxes, then an iMT would be a lot more comfortable and convenient as well. There is a slight lag in power when you shift up or shift down, but it is negligible in everyday driving conditions. It is only when being driven hard or on a wide-open road that I felt that a manual or a DCT could have performed a bit better. However, the new transmission kept me happy in almost every situation I threw it in. In our acceleration tests, the best 0-100kmph time we could clock was 13:12. Whereas the best time we could achieve with the same engine and a DCT was 12:92, just 20 milliseconds faster. Quite impressive, if you ask me. The iMT is not an out-and-out performer like a DCT, nor is it as controllable as a manual. The iMT is the sweet spot that sits right in-between. It has all the benefits of an auto, while giving you more control and the mileage you would get with a manual.
Hyundai Venue iMT - Verdict
There is definitely a learning curve which comes with the new Intelligent Manual Transmission. This is true not just in remembering you actually have to shift gears but also when to shift, in order to get the best out of it. However, after spending a day with the new Hyundai Venue iMT, I was quite familiar with its controls. For those who are wondering, yes, the benefits of a clutchless manual are as good as they sound on paper. I had the benefit of an auto in the city and I had the control of a manual when it came to performance. Our acceleration times stand testament to the latter. Priced at INR 11.63 lakh (ex-showroom) for the Hyundai Venue iMT SX(O) Dual Tone Sportz, the new iMT is good value for money for those who want an upgrade over the manual but do not wish to spend the extra cash for a DCT.