First big task after moving back from US was to buy a car. After seeing the crowded and chaotic traffic at Bangalore, I knew it had to be an automatic. Vote for automatic was clinched after I decided to count the number of times I shifted gears on JP Nagar to Whitefield drive. Guess? I stopped counting after 200, and I had only hit Sarjapur Road junction by then.
I assumed I would have a few models to choose from. OK, No automatic M800, Alto or Indica, but how about the rest of the bigger cars? Surprisingly, there were only two realistic options less than Rs 10 lakhs (roughly US $ 20000). Hyundai Santro and Honda City!
When I went to the Honda dealer, I asked how many CVTs they sold. I was told 1 in 9 they sell is a CVT. CVT stands for continuous variable transmission, a new type of automatic transmission.
Agreed, its not as if the rest of the world – even developed world – has completely switched away from manual transmission. “In 2002, 10 percent of vehicles sold in the United States and Canada were equipped with manual gearboxes”. However, Europe is far behind. “In the United Kingdom, automatic transmission installations are on pace to reach 15 percent of all models, up from 13.5 percent five years ago, according to the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders.”
Automatic means driving comfort, and I assumed guys paying more than Rs 6-7 Lakhs for a car will be looking to pay and get it. Of course I made wrong assumptions there.
The most important consideration for indian car buyers is mileage. Even when one buys a car for 10 lakhs here! Next, buyers of relatively expensive cars are most likely to be sitting in the backseat. Why spend the extra money on an automatic when the driver is going to have all the fun? And third, there is this word around here that automatic transmission is prone to maintenance problems. My CVT is only an year old (I have written a review here), so I am yet to know if this is true.
Whatever. I enjoy driving a the CVT. Its simply the best city car available in India. Bit underpowered, bit tight on suspension – let me save the details for a review – but still, comfortable to be in.
PS1: Yes, Maruti makes a few automatic models, but those have bad outdated auto boxes. I suspect they may have helped these anti-automatic feelings.
PS2: A very similar discussion on team-bhp, a must-see forum if you are seeking info on cars in India.
PS3: I have since written a review of City CVT.