Continuously Variable Transmission: What are the Pros and Cons?


In the market to buy a new car with a CVT Transmission?

Many vehicles now come with a Continuously Variable Transmission (CVT). Compared to standard transmission, CVT transmission uses a brace of pulleys connected by a strong metal belt instead of actual gears. One pulley connects to the engine as the other sends power to the wheels.

CVT transmission works without any physical gears. Instead, the belt and pulley system work together to simulate changing gears, depending on power demands. This can change ratios in response to acceleration, achieving any ratio to match your car. The result is a smoother ride with seamless drivability and efficient fuel performance.
Here are the pros and cons of CVT transmissions.

The Pros

1. Better Efficiency and Responsiveness

Vehicles equipped with CVT maximise fuel economy.
Today, almost all hybrids use this technology because of the efficiency offered. Makes and models that come with the CVT option receive better fuel ratings. It’s widely found in Japanese cars such as Honda CRVs, Subarus, Mitsubishis and other European imports. Toyota now also includes CVT transmissions in most models.

2. Seamless Acceleration

CVTs offer an infinite number of available gear ratios for optimised performance.
The infinite ratios help maintain a steady cruising speed which keeps your car’s engine in peak power range. Seamless acceleration is achieved because the transmission is always in the right gear. It ensures the engine speed is optimised for optimal power, allowing the car to speed faster in certain conditions.

The 2019 Toyota Corolla Hatchback employs the latest twist on the technology with the ‘launch gear’. Similar to the first gear in standard transmissions, the launch gear handles the car’s acceleration up to 35 kph, then the CVT switches over to the belt and pulley system.

3. Lighter Weight

Without gears to maintain proper driving ratio, CVTs are lighter and smaller than standard transmissions.
They take up less space underneath the car which reduces weight profile and makes a practical option for compact vehicles. A lower weight profile means your car won’t work as hard when you’re driving, minimising stress and premature wear-and-tear.

The Cons

1. Expensive to Purchase and Repair

Unmatched fuel economy and smoother responsiveness comes at a cost. Running expenses and upkeep is low as there’s less moving parts. But repairs can be expensive and often require a complete replacement if they fail. Different CVTs come with different problems as well. Here are the main ones associated with Honda and Nissans.

CVTs also have different servicing requirements. Special oil, transmission fluid and parts are needed for repair and maintenance, which should only be done by a skilled mechanic.

2. Changes Your Driving Habits

If you’re buying a car equipped with a CVT always go for a test drive.
Driving will feel different because the throttle response seems delayed compared to other transmissions, especially if you have years of driving experience with standard.

3. Opposite of Sporty

CVTs are designed to be practical and efficient. For drivers who want a car that’s fun to drive around, CVT transmission is incapable of handling high-torque applications which makes it hard to achieve that sporty feel.

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