What Are The Pros and Cons of CVT (Continuous Variable Transmission)?

Updated On: 29 August 2022, By Sutanu Guha

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What Are The Pros and Cons of CVT (Continuous Variable Transmission)?

The CVT has its share of pros and cons, but what is it that makes it the preferred choice for so many automakers? Lets find that out.

The CVT or Continuously Variable Transmission have been the preferred choice of the automatic transmission for many automakers. These belt-driven transmission systems are known for their comparatively seamless gear changes with the advantage of infinite gear ratios, and that translates down to refined ride quality. The rpm levels remain more constant and the engine remains relaxed, at varying speeds, and that makes CVT fitted vehicles quite fuel-efficient as well. However, the towing capacity of a vehicle gets affected, and driving skills needs to be experienced when handling a car fitted with CVT, especially in high terrain situations and when reversing. Because of the later problem, many car owners and automakers swear against the viability of CVT engine options.

But the CVT is not a recently developed mechanism, Daimler and Benz, aka Mercedes Benz received a patent for it way back in 1886, and Zenit motorcycles used to come fitted with this transmission option.  Speaking of bikes, the now-discontinued naked Aprilia Mana 850 used to come fitted with a CVT and it was an exception in a market where most automatic bikes choose Dual-Clutch transmissions. When it comes to cars, the Datsun GO, and GO+, Honda Amaze, Maruti Suzuki Baleno, Nissan Magnite, and the Renault Kiger are some of the household cars that come fitted with a CVT. So, why is the CVT preferred so much, but companies, like Mazda, swear to never use CVT in their car? Lets find out the pros and cons of the CVT:

Pros and Cons of CVT (Continuous Variable Transmission)

Pros

Improved fuel efficiency

In a price-sensitive and kitna deta hain market like India, the CVT transmission is a boon to its customers. It has been noticed that most vehicles that come fitted with CVT transmissions are highly rated for their fuel efficiency, with better km/l numbers. Most hybrid or PHEVs come fitted with CVT transmission options, which in certain situations help even mid-size vehicles to achieve 22 km/l. Currently, the Honda Amaze is one of the most fuel-efficient cars that comes fitted with a CVT and it gets a segment-leading ARAI-rated mileage of 27.4 km/l. 

Desired responsive Power At all Times

Because the CVT transmission does not have any fixed gear ratios like a conventional gearbox, it delivers a very positive responsive reaction when the accelerator is pressed hard when driving uphill. By not having to worry about shifting into the right gear, you stand gaining the right amount of power and pace when traversing an incline path. This is also useful during highway drives, where you can easily reach cruising speed. 

Smooth Rides over Long Distance

The belt mechanism of the CVT transmission which drives the pulley or rotor/disc in a CVT unit makes the necessary gear shifts as per the power input and vehicles momentum. As sophisticated as it might sound, this seamless mechanism works very subtly, and negates out the sudden jerks or lurches that one often experiences with vehicles fitted with manual transmissions. Thus, a car fitted with a CVT transmission has a very smooth ride quality. Especially over long distances where the engine drives in a relaxed manner. 

Better Torque Ratio

Since the CVT transmission keeps the rpm limit within a very relaxed range i.e. between 2000-4000 rpm most of the time, this helps keep a very efficient torque ratio in every circumstance. This is possible because the transmission does not require the same gearing as conventional transmissions. This constant delivery power makes a CVT equipped car very predictable, where you will have instant power when taking off from an idle situation or stay idle on constant RPMs for longer times. 

Lighter unit and fewer parts to mend

The CVT transmission simplifies the entire shifting mechanism, which is enunciated by the fact that few equipments is used to make a CVT. This in turn lowers the overall risk of experiencing any kind of mechanical failure down the long run. And since this unit does not need any load of gears to maintain the proper ratio, the weight of a Continuously Variable Transmission engine significantly reduces. This unit also requires less space, so the scope for a practical cabin becomes feasible. The reduced weight further aids better fuel efficiency and that is one of the perks of owning a CVT fitted car in India. 

Cons

Expensive to Repair

Historically speaking, the CVT transmission has a tendency to fail faster than a conventional transmission option.  Most of the time, a CVTs shelf-life is good for 80-90,000 kms, after that, the belt starts showing signs of decay. In such scenarios, most automakers tend to replace the entire unit and that shoots up the cost of repair exponentially. 

High maintenance costs

Maintaining the simplicity of the CVT transmission system becomes quite an affair for the obvious fact that it uses a special oil that does not mix with normal transmission fluids. Unlike in conventional transmission systems, the oil lubricates the metal parts, whereas the CVT oil grabs the metal parts so there is no slippage.

Peculiar Acceleration tone

When fitted with the CVT transmission system, theres this peculiar engine noise, when accelerating. This is because of the rubber band effect. The expansion and contraction of the CVT belts might not affect the delivery of the power very noticeably, but it definitely results in a non-linear accelerating noise that we seldom find in cars fitted with CVTs. 

Hang Up At High RPM levels

As advantageous it is to have a CVT vehicle in hill-climb situations, it becomes equally challenging to keep the revs in check so as to not shoot the vehicle into the danger zone. The fact that a CVT unit has an infinite number of gear ratios is a good thing, but at times the unit misreads the input that it receives, which revs the engine in high gear when there is no need. 

No Towing Capacity 

Most heavy-duty vehicles will have automatic transmissions or manual transmissions, basically transmission systems with teeth. This is primarily because most of these vehicles require fixed gear ratios for varying degrees of power. The power in a CVT transmission system develops like a power surge and stays constant at a certain rpm level, and you cannot tow with this state of tune. It is not unusual for CVT fitted vehicles to have towing capabilities below 1000 lbs. 

Light vehicles, which include hatchbacks or sedans are ideally suited for CVTs. So, what do you think about the Pros and Cons of CVT (Continuous Variable Transmission)? Would you buy a car fitted with the same? Please tell us your thoughts in the comment section below. Also, join our TELEGRAM group to interact about anything on wheels with like-minded individuals. Also, connect with us on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter for more about vehicles!

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