Among the four types of car transmissions, Continuously Variable Transmission stands out as being unique because it doesn’t have gears at all. It uses a set of pulleys and belts to create a range of ratios for different driving situations. While it may seem like your type of car since you won’t be bothering with gears driving this car, some car brands, such as Mazda, are avoiding CVT. But is Mazda avoiding CVTs because they’re bad transmissions?
How a CVT works
How does CVT control the speed of a car without the use of gears? Well, the CVT system consists of pulleys and cones connected by a chain belt. These cones move closer or further apart raise or lower the diameter at which the belt is operating. By so doing, the engine can shift smoothly into the right gear ratio. You may love this type of transmission because it works just like an automatic engine. But you have to remember that it does not shift gears like the traditional gearbox under the hood of a traditional car.
The pros of a CVT
Fuel economy: Compared to other transmissions, CVTs are more fuel efficient because the system automatically adjusts engine speed in response to the power requirements of the vehicle at that time, as Engineering Explained explains in the embedded video. If you drive a CVT-equipped car at steady freeway speeds, you will realize that the tachometer stays low, which is good for fuel economy.
Optimal power delivery: According to Autoguide.com, this type of transmission ensures that your car is always in the right gear. Consequently, the engine speed of a CVT car is always at par with its optimal power needs. Driving this vehicle, you won’t need to keep your eye on the tachometer while accelerating.
Seamless shifting: CVTs save you the trouble of having to reach out for the gear lever while stepping on the clutch to change gears in a manual transmission vehicle because it has no gears. All you have to do is to step on the accelerator and the CVT will move smoothly from idle to peak power.
The cons of a CVT
Expensive to maintain: Despite the unmatched fuel efficiency of CVTs, you may not enjoy a smooth ride for long. Repairing a CVT can be quite expensive because its parts may not be readily available and are expensive to replace. It may also be challenging to find a CVT expert to do the repairs for you.
They are noisy: No driver welcomes extra noise unless they are cruising on a powerful engine. CVTs have the tendency to hang at high rpm, which causes the engine to rev wildly under acceleration. Even if you chose CVT cars programmed to emulate stepped up gears, the noisy operation of the CVT just won’t go away.
Poor feel: You won’t feel it when the CVT vehicle shifts gears because it has no gears in the first place. It may give you the feeling that something is wrong somewhere and you may misjudge its normal operations to be a sign of unreliability. However, CVT manufacturers have attempted to overcome this problem by simulating a stepped up gear system.
All images provided by the manufacturer unless otherwise noted.