The Hyundai Venue IMT is here, and I have had the chance to take it for a spin. So let me tell you right away that it is essentially exactly like driving a manual as far as gear changes go. Well - without the clutch! And that is the kicker! But I will also tell you straight away that it takes some getting used to. It is a new idea, and yet one that is simple and likely to catch on. You will understand why I say that, once you read on!
Driving an IMT
You may initially be lulled into thinking it is an auto or AMT (automated manual transmission) given the lack of the clutch pedal and your left leg having nothing to do. But you very quickly get alerted to realising you need to change the gears! The screen on the instrument cluster has a display that will keep kind of telling you to go up or down a gear - just like many cars have. But in this case, especially when you are getting used to an IMT for the first time, that really helps. And you do get used to changing gears by hand as you always did. What also helps is that if you stay in a higher gear, and forget to downshift, and even if you bring the car to a standstill, the engine does not stall. Instead an alarm or warning alert goes off, with the display asking you to downshift or bring the gearbox to neutral. So again - as you are getting used to it, having that failsafe is good.
How Does An IMT Work?
The IMT works by using a 6-Speed manual gearbox with a Transmission Control Unit or TCU. This, in turn, controls a hydraulic actuator, which operates the clutch. The TCU works with a sensor that activates as soon as it reads a driver's intent to change gears. The TCU then sends a signal to the actuator, which engages the clutch. Sounds simple? Well, it is not - but makes driving simpler for sure.
Is IMT Better than AMT?
Now a lot of people know I am not a fan of AMTs. Yes they are convenient and they serve a purpose, so I don't fault that. They are also cheaper than buying any conventional automatic transmission. But they are never fun to drive. The thing with IMT is that it gives you the near-convenience of an AMT and yet complete control. You don't feel that hesitation, or little pause that you get in an AMT. So it's like driving a manual, but with the convenience of an AMT or an automatic - I suppose that is the easier way to explain it! No use of the clutch, which means on long drives, your left knee and leg aren't going to feel any sort of pain or discomfort. You are not going to be uncomfortable or tired like you can sometimes be in a manual, especially in high traffic situations that involve a lot of gear changing. So it's almost the best of both worlds because you also get pretty good mileage too. So if you ask me, I would prefer a clutch-less manual to an AMT. But please understand - the IMT is not a substitute to an AMT or auto.
Also Read: Hyundai Venue Review
So will this become a revolutionary new thing in all cars? Maybe not. But those who do get used to driving an IMT will likely stay with it - unless they go automatic with a CVT or torque convertor. Carmakers have tried clutch-less manuals in several markets. In India, this is a first from Hyundai, and Kia will follow soon with the Sonet having an IMT as well. The Sonet IMT will get the same engine and gearbox as the Venue's. Choosing cars like the Venue as the first IMT model is smart because it is compact and has a sense of a nice sporty dynamic. That gets enhanced because of the IMT giving you the control of a manual. So good move Hyundai!
Venue's New Sport Trim
The Hyundai Venue blockbuster hit India in May 2019, and since then the subcompact SUV has proved to be a runaway success for the Korean carmaker. It leads the subcompact SUV segment and has sold over 112,000 units since launch. Interestingly, the turbo GDI petrol variants have seen maximum demand with 44,600 sold. And just last month Hyundai has brought in the same engine with a new gearbox option. The IMT or intelligent manual transmission as Hyundai calls it, is a clutch-less 6-Speed manual gearbox. It is now on offer with the 1.0 Turbo GDi engine only, and just in the top two trims. The same is also true of the new 'Sport' trim launched by the company. The Sport comes on the 1.5 diesel and the 1.0 Turbo GDi, but the petrol is only available in IMT or DCT. No regular manual. And that is smart.
Let me explain why. That is because the Sport is a better-looking variant that does away with all the excess chrome and gives you a more dynamic look. And so if it gets popular, so will IMT - by default. The Sport trim's only offered with this new grey and a white two-tone. The trim gets you a gloss black grille instead of all that chrome, red detail on the grille, wheel arches, red brake callipers, a red accent on the roof rail, and Sport badging on the C pillar. Inside it gets a flat-bottomed steering wheel with red stitching, new metal foot pedals, dark grey and red seats, red stitching and piping all round, red accents for the AC vents, and red surrounds for the climate control controls and screen. And it is done quite nicely.
The Hyundai Venue IMT is made available in 3 variants - SX, SX (Sport) and SX(O). With prices starting at ₹ 9.99 lakh and going all the way up to ₹ 11.13 lakh (ex-showroom India) the Intelligent Manual Transmission variant is ₹ 15,000 more expensive than its comparable 6-speed manual transmission variant.
Other Hyundais/Kias Will Get IMT
So, the game is on, and especially once the Sonet gets in. On that car the same 1.0 GDI Turbo will only have a DCT auto and IMT manual. No regular manual in any trim. So while it may be a gamble initially, eventually it could really pay off for both carmakers, especially with volumes models like the next-gen i20 around the corner.