2020 Hyundai Venue iMT road test review
Hyundai seems set on a pretty clear strategy to further solidify its presence in the Indian market. We know the eventual aim is to topple Maruti Suzuki from its perch, but the way the Korean carmaker is going about this is interesting. The strategy seems to be to offer as much choice as possible to buyers, enough for them to not look anywhere else for their mobility needs. That seems to be the thought behind the numerous variant and trim options, the many engine and gearbox combinations, and an ever-growing line-up of cars across segments.
What is an iMT?
An iMT(Intelligent Manual Transmission) is Hyundai-speak for a clutchless manual transmission. It's not an automatic transmission at all, you will still need to change gears yourself. The idea is to provide both, the engagement of a manual and the convenience of an automatic. The origins of this tech date back to the early 1940s and numerous carmakers like Citroen, Fiat, Alfa Romeo, VW, BMW, Toyota and even Ferrari have had a go at this since then.
Hyundai's iMT is a hydraulically operated system. There are three main units to this system, a traditional gear shifter but with an intention sensor built-in, a hydraulic actuator and a transmission control unit. When you decide to change gears, the control unit is notified of this by the intention sensor. The control unit then uses the hydraulic actuator to create pressure. This pressure is used to control the clutch and pressure plate via a hydraulic mechanism, allowing the clutch to be engaged and disengaged without manual operation.
What's it like to drive?
With that small tech lesson out of the way, we find ourselves in a Venue that pairs this gearbox with the 1.0-litre turbo-petrol. Invariably, you'll be coming to an iMT from a traditional manual or an automatic, and there is a small psychological step to take when you find yourself in a car that seems like it will change gears for you but doesn't. But in our experience, a very short amount of time behind the wheel is all it takes to get used to this. You are rowing through a very familiar H-pattern shifter, there's just no clutch to operate while you're at it.
It helps that Hyundai has programmed the iMT's clutch actuation logic very well. You start in neutral, and the car starts to creep forward once you've slotted it in-gear. The gearbox will never stall like a manual. If you come to a standstill or slow right down in a high gear, the gearbox disengages the clutch so that you don't bog down. A prompt shows up in the MID asking you to downshift. Even on a slope, the hold function (as on automatics) tackles any difficult situation you may find yourself in.
The iMT also covers for bad driving on the move, if you slot into a very low gear for the speed, it'll either match revs or not open the gear slot at all, so there's no danger of burning the clutch. As you would in a manual, you can rev right up to the redline in each gear, the unit will only prompt you to shift up once you're there.
Now in terms of how it feels to use the gearbox, out on the open road it's a perfectly normal experience. Just like in a manual but with the convenience of not having to manage a clutch pedal. The Venue's six-speed manual is a crisp-shifting unit, and it feels as such here too. It's a largely similar situation in stop and go city traffic. We only noticed that the gearbox takes marginally more time to react when you shuffle through gears quickly while negotiating our packed streets. Here, the notched feeling from the intention sensor becomes a bit more apparent in the gear lever and the shifts themselves follow maybe a split second after you've slotted it into the gear of your choosing. But this has more to do with the gearbox needing time to decipher which gear you want to be in, rather than an effect of its mechanism. Anyway, it's still a far less tiresome experience than having to constantly ride the clutch in such situations.
Why does this Venue look a bit different?
The iMT gearbox option is only available on the Venue with the 1.0-litre turbo-petrol. Prices start at Rs 10 lakh for the SX trim or you can even have it with the new Sport styling package seen here. This is Hyundai's answer to Kia's GT-Line and comes with minor but effective visual updates.
Here you get dual-tone paint with grey highlights all over the body, Sport emblems, red brake callipers and red inserts on the grille, bumper, wheel arches and roof-rails. The interiors have been made more exciting too. You get the Creta's four-spoke steering wheel with red-stitching, aluminium pedals, grey upholstery with red stitching and red accents on the dashboard. This Sport styling package can also be had with the DCT, where it gets paddle shifters, and with the diesel manual.
Aside from the new gearbox and angrier looks, the Venue iMT's driving experience remains unchanged. This means that the SUV continues to ride and steer as competently as it always did. We only thought the 120PS and 172Nm three-cylinder turbo petrol felt a bit softer in its throttle response and a bit more linear in its power delivery than what it felt with the DCT. Hyundai seems to have made these tuning changes to accommodate the changes needed for the BSVI norms, and make this transition to the iMT gearbox more seamless. If anything, this has made the Venue an even better daily commuter.
Should I buy one of these?
We don't think this iMT can quite fully replicate the rewarding experience, for an enthusiast, that is a perfectly executed manual gear shift. But, as a means to a less stressful drive, there's a lot of scope here. You only pay about Rs 20,000 more than a manual for an equivalent iMT equipped car. At no real loss to efficiency, that's a no-brainer of a deal when you consider that it does away with what is easily the most tiresome aspect of driving on our roads.
Also watch our video review of the Hyundai Venue iMT below
Starts Rs 7.53 Lakhs
Starts Rs 6.71 Lakhs