Does the new CVT tranny make Hyundai i20 more elite?

Elite i20 model

For its 2018 model year, the Elite i20 gets a refresh and a new auto gearbox

Hyundai has been on an upgrade spree over the past few months, adding more features to its cars and making them more future-proof. The latest one to join that list is the i20 which, instead of just a cosmetic makeover, also gets a new CVT (continuously variable transmission) gearbox.

An automatic gearbox is being increasingly preferred by car buyers who are mostly driving within city limits, with the traffic congestion in the major metros leading to slow-moving, stop-and-go traffic and driving the steady change in gearbox choice.

Most of the recent additions to the growing population of automatics have been AMTs (automated manual transmissions), which with their relatively low-tech solutions are focused more on keeping costs low and operating efficiencies at an optimum, considering the inherent limitations of AMTs.

Hyundai has, however, chosen to give the i20 the more high-tech solution of a CVT gearbox, which is the right choice given the premium small car positioning of the i20. But CVTs have their own set of problems in the way they behave and in the way they are tuned. How does the new i20 CVT fare? I test-drove the car a couple of weeks ago over a mix of city roads and short highway stretches. And here are my first impressions.

Powertrain

The engine is the same 1.2-litre Kappa petrol engine with the dual VTVT tech that is being offered with the manual transmission variant too. The i20 can also be chosen with the 1.4-litre U2 CRDi diesel engine, though the CVT is not being offered with this oil burner. The 1.2 Kappa (1,197cc) engine with the CVT pairing also continues to offer the same 83 PS of peak power and 115Nm of peak torque, which is the output in the 5-speed manual transmission variant.

This dual variable valve timing tech engine is one of the most refined mills in the segment and it continues to be nearly vibration-free, just purring with gradual acceleration. The cabin is well insulated and the average noise level in it stays low. Under hard acceleration the engine noise tends to become a little annoying mostly when driving in full automatic mode.

CVTs are inherently tuned for delivering high mileage in city driving conditions. The technology, which intrinsically provides for the possibility of an infinite or undefined number of gears (hence the name) based on driving conditions and driver input, focuses on optimising efficiency. Thankfully, there is the option of manual gear selection in the new i20 CVT by slipping the stick to the right and going through a plus/minus pattern with a fixed range of six gear slots.

Manual option

There is a bit of predictable behaviour even with the i20 CVT, with the rubber-band effect that is typical with CVTs. The mild lag post-throttle input and the sudden delivery of power and torque later from CVTs is certainly not as annoying as the very physical effects of the shift shocks that are typical of AMTs. But it can still be an irritant if you were to be faced with a tight overtake manoeuvre on the highway and you are sitting in full auto mode.

The trouble is, mostly, the feedback from the powertrain. Sitting behind the wheel and listening to an engine that is straining without an appropriate response from the gearbox can be very annoying and with a CVT too that can be a problem despite their being loaded with much better tech than AMTs. Thankfully, in the Elite i20 CVT, there is a manual gear selection option which one can easily slip into and elicit a quicker response from the powertrain.

The new 2018 Elite i20 is one of the most affordable CVTs in the premium hatch segment. It is being offered in two trim variants — Magna Executive and Asta, which are priced at ₹7.05 lakh and ₹8.23 lakh respectively.

 

Face-lifted front

 

The front fascia of the Elite i20’s model year 2018 gets some premium upgrades and the CVT version benefits from it too.

The new high-gloss, cascade design front grille and the additional strip of LEDs for the daytime running lights positioned near the fog lamps are the easiest to catch. The vents that behave like air curtains hiding behind the fog lamps and the dual tone for the front bumper may be the new bits that one may overlook.

 

 

There is a dual-tone exterior colour theme which is also relatively new, with new matching cabin colour choices.

The new 16-inch alloy wheels also go well with the i20’s design. Projector headlamps and the positioning and cornering lamps combo is also an i20 speciality

 

Aerodynamic design

 

The 2018 Elite i20 is still one of the most elegant premium hatches in the market. Its aerodynamic design is best captured from the side profile.

 

 

The design continues to be fresh today though it’s been in the market for many years. The addition of front air curtains in the refreshed i20 improves its aerodynamism by guiding airflow across the front wheels to reduce wind turbulence while driving at high speeds.

The new alloy wheels also stand out. The ride quality of the i20 was always a highlight, and the new 2018 model continues to be outstanding in this department.

There is no harshness or worrisome shake or rattle when the Elite i20 goes through even the nastiest potholes on the road.

That steady refined calm on bad roads was what has endeared the i20 to a lot of buyers over the years.

 

Plush and connected

 

The most visible change to the 2018 i20’s cabin is the auto gearbox shift stick, with its standard P, N, R and D slots. Unlike AMTs, CVTs are auto trannies that include the addition of an electronic parking brake.

 

 

The cabin is otherwise very similar to last year’s model. The i20’s cabin definitely felt more plush in its finish quality and choice of materials.

The 17.77cm touchscreen infotainment and multiple connectivity options are features that make the cabin driver-friendly. The new 2018 i20 offers another way to stay connected, called Hyundai Auto Link.

At the click of a button, one gets updates on vehicle health check, driving information, roadside assistance, driving history, eco driving and vehicle health history check

 

Great-looking rear

 

The rear of the 2018 i20 also gets a fair share of changes. The tailgate design has been marginally altered for a cleaner finish. The rear bumper also gets the dual-tone treatment.

 

 

The tail-lamps now feature a new combination with the addition of what looks like horizontal LED tubes for brake lights. Glossy C-pillar treatment also goes well with the i20’s side profile.

There is no mention anywhere that the Elite i20 I was driving was a CVT. The only badging was that of the variant, with the tailgate carrying the Asta badge.

The night-time LED signature of the i20’s rear is especially attractive now, with the triple LED tube brake light configuration.

 

 

Published on July 12, 2018

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