Let’s start with the very basics. Continuous variable transmission (CVT) is a lesser known alternative to the more conventional automatic transmission cars. The operation, however, is similar to all automatic cars. Slide the gearshift lever from “P” to “D” and off you go. But for the overwhelming majority of us in India—more tuned to operate manual transmission that require frequent gearshifts—the CVT may appear a bit complicated in the beginning. And in the AMT vs CVT tussle, none of the two are a favourite.
CVT cars, technically speaking, have no gears at all. Instead, it’s as if you have just one magical gear which is variable across all driving conditions. You don’t feel the signature jerk while shifting between gears in a manual transmission car. The change in automatic transmission cars is seamless. All that you notice is the change in the revolutions per minute (RPM) and the engine speed; lower for cruising, higher for acceleration.
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Here’s what actually happens in CVT cars. The gearshift system calculates the best engine speed for every situation and maintains it even when you rev up your car rapidly. For instance, the CVT will know that your optimal engine speed is quite high, maybe around 3,000 rpm. It shifts the gear higher as soon as you floor the accelerator. As you pile up—70, 75, or 80 kmph—the engine speed remains the same. There’s no rising crescendo of changing gears in automatic transmission cars. Rather, there’s a steady hum or a dull drone, with the engine working perfectly at that speed.
A third type—the Direkt-Schalt-Getriebe or the direct-shift gearbox (DSG)—is largely used by Volkswagen. Now which of these should you choose- AMT vs CVT vs DSG, is a debate of usability that automobile experts often lock horns over.
Japanese automobile major Nissan has been using CVT for several years now in the international market. Others like Subaru and Honda have begun following suit. Fully automatic transmission cars in India are still a rarity. But the market is increasingly warming up to CVT automatic transmission cars.
The Best CVT Automatic Transmission Cars
Here are the five best currently available CVT automatic transmission cars in India.
Maruti Suzuki Baleno
Price: ₹7.17 lacs
The Maruti Suzuki Baleno CVT is a generously large hatchback and one of the most affordable automatic transmission cars. It retains the front fascia from the bestseller Swift. But what makes the car unique is its profile and rear view. The Baleno has one of the best stance in its class and looks poised to plough the road. The cabin is profusely spacious, particularly the front. While the material quality may look compromised, it’s well heeled equipment-wise. The Baleno CVT runs on the same K-Series, 1.2 litre DOHC petrol motor that powers the Swift and outputs 62 Kw of power at 6,000 rpm and 115 Nm torque at 4,000 rpm. It’s also the only CVT variant available in the entire Baleno lineup. The car promises a whooping 21.04 Kmpl fuel economy.
Power to the Baleno CVT is retarded by drum brakes at the back and disc brakes in the front. The ABS system along with electronic brake-force distribution is standard across all variants. The 2,520mm wheelbase of the car provides comfortable space for both front and rear passengers. Thigh support is good and there’s enough room to reasonably stretch your legs. The Baleno CVT has all the potential of a bestseller and unlikely to be short-lived like its predecessor.
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Nissan Micra XL CVT
Price: ₹6.66 lacs
The Nissan Micra XL CVT car is one of the top mid-range automatic transmission cars available in India. The car derives power from the 1,198 cc, 1.2 litre 160-valve inline petrol engine which is coupled with the 5-speed CVT gearbox. The Nissan Micra XL outputs a maximum 76 PS power at 6,000 rpm and a peak 104 Nm torque at 4,000 rpm. The car offers a decent fuel economy of 19.44 Kmpl.
The Nissan Micra XL CVT notches up a top speed of 160 kmph and can reach 100 kmph in 0 to 14 seconds. The Torsion Beam rear and McPherson Strut front suspension keeps passengers insulated from potholes and other bumps in all Nissan automatic transmission cars. Driving the Micra XL CVT is one of the most pleasant experiences. The height-adjustable seat can align the driver’s line of sight to the windscreen. Access to the controls is easy and the multifunctional tilt-adjustable power steering allows greater control of the vehicle.
Though not a head-turner like the Baleno, this hatchback from Nissan looks attractive on the roll and reflects finesse. The front fascia accentuates the look of the car with oval-shaped head lamps, the honeycomb grille, and the sloping hoods with character lines. The sides of the car forge a distinct appearance, courtesy the 14-inch all-steel wheels, black B pillars, tinted windows, and body-coloured door handles and ORVMs. The boot of the Nissan Micra XL CVT has chrome inserts flanked by conventional taillights. A stop lamp sits above the rear windscreen and enhances the visual cues of the car, particularly in the night.
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Honda Amaze VX CVT
Price: ₹8.46 lacs
With some fresh features and a cosmetic facelift, this Honda Amaze trim has made quite a name for itself among the best CVT automatic transmission cars in India. Ever since its launch, the sales graph of the company is heading northwards, courtesy the rising demand for compact sedans in India. The VX CVT trim is position just below the optional VX variant in the Honda Amaze lineup. The car packs some of the best comfort, safety, and exterior features in class.
Power to the car is supplied by the four-cylinder SOHC i-VTEC 1.2 petrol engine which is mated to a five-speed gearshift. The engine outputs a peak 109 Nm torque at 4,500 rpm and a top power of 88 PS at 6,000 rpm. The power-train has five forward and one reverse automatic gear. The car accelerates from 0 to 100 Kmph in 15.7 seconds and can notch up a top speed of 142 Kmph. The compact sedan offers good handling. The lightweight and agile steering adds to the control.
The Honda Amaze VX CVT is among the better looking automatic transmission cars in India. It’s loaded with ample convenience and comfort features that include keyless entry, air conditioner with heater, height adjustable driver seats, rear defogger and other add-ons. The cabin offers a comfortable ride and there’s enough space to relax your legs during a long drive.
The two-slat suave chrome grille in the front bolsters the look of the vehicle, one of India’s best looking automatic cars in India. The distinctive head lights, body coloured bumper, oversized air intakes and fog lamps further enhances the look. The OVRMs having integrated turn indicators cane be electrically folded.
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Honda City SV CVT
Price: ₹10.63 lacs
Honda City SV CVT is the benchmark for all mid-segment sedans and one of the best automatic transmission cars in the country. It has maintained a style statement with the powerful i-VTEC technology and has been a bestseller in its class for more than a decade now. The Honda City SV CVT is fitted with a 1,497 cc petrol engine that delivers 145 Nm peak torque and 119 PS of power. The car uses the i-VTEC technology along with SOHC which ensures variable valve timing depending on motoring requirements. The valves open more while cruising at higher speeds and vice versa. It save more fuel compared to other cars in its class. The Honda City SV CVT has a paddle shift system below the steering to help the driver easily change gear ratios and torque requirements by pressing the plus or minus buttons on the shift. The car returns a mileage of 18 Kmpl.
Inside, the seating is very comfortable. The driver’s seat is height adjustable and ensures comfortable driving position. The rear arm rests have cup holders that are undeniably important during a long drive. With superb thigh and lumber support, the Honda City SV CVT lends one of the best cabin rides among all automatic transmission cars. Body coloured bumpers, premium head lamps, and the front chrome grille enhances the exterior look of the car.
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Toyota Corolla Altis CVT
Price: ₹17.05 lacs
Talk about automatic transmission cars and the Toyota Corolla Altis CVT is perhaps the best in segment. The car is fitted with a 1.8 G petrol engine and gets a 7-speed CVT-I Sequential Shift-matic power train. It retains the engine from its earlier versions with the identical 4-cylinder 2ZR-FE trim which outputs a peak 173 Nm torque at 4,000 rpm and 103 Kw of top power at 6,400 rpm. The mileage is at a decent 15.23 Kmpl for a car in its class.
Ride quality of the Toyota Corolla Altis CVT is superb. The three-spoke leather steering, illuminated entry integrated with the ignition system, lends superior control. The eco-driving indicator and the paddle shift are the brownie points of the car.
The Toyota Corolla Altis CVT has killer looks. It’s a head turner. The radiator grille with chrome plating, halogen head lamps, seven-spoke alloy wheels, retraceable and electrically adjustable ORVMs, are exclusive to the CVT trim. The roof mounted antenna and body coloured bumpers are other important features. The Toyota Corolla Altis CVT has redefined automatic cars in India.
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