Hyundai Venue iMT: Artificially intelligent

S. Muralidhar | Updated on: Sep 24, 2020
The iMT is innovation driven by keeping a good ear to the ground

The iMT is innovation driven by keeping a good ear to the ground

The iMT is innovation driven by keeping a good ear to the ground

The iMT is innovation driven by keeping a good ear to the ground

1-litre Kappa Turbo GDi petrol engine generates the same 120PS of peak power

1-litre Kappa Turbo GDi petrol engine generates the same 120PS of peak power

Gear selection in iMT must be done manually  Pics: S Muralidhar

Gear selection in iMT must be done manually Pics: S Muralidhar

Not as laborious as a manual, not as boring as an automatic — Hyundai’s iMT is a good match for its sub-compact SUV

Indian car buyers are picky. There are a number of automobile companies which have discovered that on both ends of the spectrum, with cars that have been flop shows and those that have been successful. We want cars to be fast, yet fuel efficient, small enough to fit crowded parking lots, yet spacious enough to fit our extended family, and loaded with features, yet extremely affordable. And, after all those boxes have been ticked, the car shouldn’t look like it has been built to a price.

In the past, Hyundai’s choices for the Indian market have largely been apt and have even predicted changes in buyer preferences. One key metric all through has been delivering more value, and that is something that is always appreciated by us. Hyundai’s most recent innovation that could soon lead to other manufacturers following suit is the intelligent manual transmission (iMT).

What is it?

Automatic transmissions are fast becoming popular now, due largely to the extended stop-and-go traffic conditions on our city’s roads. From being less than 4 per cent a few years ago, the number of autos has been steadily climbing and is now more than 10 per cent of the market. Torque converter and dual-clutch automatics are expensive and the cost of the technology can add up to 15-20 per cent to the price of a hatchback, worse, fuel efficiency would also take a hit. The automated manual transmission (AMT) was a good solution to this problem. AMTs are inexpensive and deliver the same fuel efficiency as the manual transmission variant; in fact, in some cases possibly even a higher than average mileage.

But, there is a large section of the car buying population that genuinely misses driving a manual transmission car. And for these buyers, the chore of engaging the clutch ever so often, while inching forward during their daily commute, is the biggest pain point. Apparently, the task of shifting gears itself is still pleasurable. Again, I suppose, it also comes back to us Indians wanting every possible convenience in our cars. No wonder we are considered the most demanding customers in the world.

The iMT gearbox can help meet these two expectations that are seemingly at opposite ends — offer the clutchless convenience of an automatic and yet also the personal engagement that a manual gearbox can bring to the mix.

How does this work?

My test mule, seen in these pictures, was the Hyundai Venue iMT with the one-litre turbo engine. The vehicle looks most identical to the other top-trim variants of Venue with the red badging at the rear identifying the turbo engine. The only distinction comes in the form of a chrome iMT badge that sits on the front right side panel. Inside the cabin too, it would be difficult to differentiate the iMT variant until you observe that the clutch pedal is missing and the gear stick is still that of a manual gearbox.

Hidden away underneath the centre console and below the gated-6-speed manual gear stick of the iMT is the same hydraulic mechanism that we have seen in AMTs. The hydraulic actuator and shifter combination does the job of engaging the clutch the moment you shift to drive in an AMT. Later, based on inputs from a bunch of sensors including the engine rpm, throttle position and speed, the gear shifts actuator selects the next gear. In the iMT, the gear selection has to be done manually. So, while in neutral, the engine is idling and the clutch hasn’t been engaged. Shift into the first gear slot like you would in a manual and the clutch is engaged by the actuator, thanks to what’s been named an intention sensor. Essentially, a sensor that sits below the gate and detects the gear stick making a selection.

The gating for the gear stick is exactly like in a manual and there are an initial few minutes when it feels a bit weird to not be kicking down on a clutch pedal. Shifting up and down the transmission’s six gears is also just like in a manual with the exception, of course, of needing to engage the clutch. But despite the clutch pedal being absent, it doesn’t behave like an automatic gearbox either. This then means that if you stay in a gear and rev all the way to the red line, it will bounce off the rev-limiter. There is a visual suggestion on the instrument cluster MID urging me to shift up when the revs cross a combination threshold. On the contrary, there is both an audible warning and a suggestion on the MID asking me to shift down to the right gear when the revs drop below 1,500rpm and I continue to stay in a higher slot.

The algorithm that must have been fed into the engine management for an AMT would have been different compared to the iMT, because the former would attempt delivering performance with an efficiency bias. In the iMT, however, it is inherently a manual and will be more likely to deliver performance that is dependent on your personal driving style. Hyundai’s AMTs had already ironed out much of the shift shock associated with this transmission type, the iMT is not very different.

There are some simple but effective safeguards that have been built into the iMT to enable it offer features like hillhold (while in gear), as also disengaging the clutch if you were to stay in a higher gear and let the revs drop to idling level; so there is no risk of the car stalling.

Bottom line

The iMT will take just a bit of getting used to; I had to remind myself of the missing clutch pedal particularly after stopping at red lights after coasting a short distance in neutral.

But, there is no doubt that the iMT has the potential to quickly become popular.

And now it is available on the Sonet too — sister brand Kia’s sub-compact SUV too. The iMT is the indicator of an innovation that has been driven by keeping a good ear to the ground.

The Venue iMT is offered only with the 1-litre Kappa Turbo GDI petrol engine and in two trim variants — SX and SX(O).

Prices start at about ₹10 lakh (ex-showroom, Delhi).

Published on September 24, 2020
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