The Hyundai Venue is quite a popular sight on our roads. But Hyundai didn’t sit on its laurels, and despite already offering multiple powertrain options, the company added an eye-opening iteration; the intelligent manual transmission (iMT) that uses a 1.0-litre GDi turbo petrol motor. In a nutshell, this offers the undeniable comfort of a two-pedal setup (drops the clutch pedal) that’s mated to a six-speed manual gearbox! Surprising, isn’t it? Let’s get to the details.
Thankfully, the contemporary design which makes the Venue such a ‘looker’ hasn’t been touched in a major way. Nevertheless, the iMT versions that are available in the SX, SX (O), Sport SX, and Sport SX (O) can be easily spotted, thanks to some sporty red accents on the cladding, roof rails and the grille, along with the prominent Turbo badge on the boot. These traits, although subtle, make this form of the Venue stand out from the crowd.
Just like the subtle exterior touches, the interior of the Hyundai Venue iMT sees some changes too. What we have here is the Sport SX (O) variant which gets red seams on the seats, gear lever boot, and the flat-bottom steering wheel. Likewise, some red trim can be seen highlighting the climate control dials and the air-con vents too, which lends a sporty tinge to the cabin.
Other than this, the cabin largely remains the same as the regular car, for which, you can read our detailed review here. Briefly put though, while quality along with fit and finish is segment-leading, the ergonomics and cubby space is also spot-on for most requirements. The only gripe we had was the rear seating being inadequate for three occupants. Nonetheless, the 350-litre boot can easily swallow three medium suitcases and some soft bags at most.Some of the features that you get with this Sport SX (O) variant seen in the pictures are a digital MID with lots of information to display, a touch screen infotainment system with Blue Link connectivity, and a single-zone climate control system with rear AC vents. Then there’s the height-adjustable driver’s seat, push start button, a rear-view camera, wireless charging, six airbags, and ABS with EBD.
It’s finally time for what’s perhaps is the most interesting part of this Venue iMT. Power from the 118bhp/172Nm 1.0-litre turbo petrol engine drives the front wheels through what Hyundai calls a six-speed intelligent manual transmission (iMT). It’s just jargon for what’s otherwise a manual gearbox with a manual clutch pedal. Instead, the system uses a dual-pedal (accelerator-brake) experience to kill the chore of the clutch pedal.
For starters, like with automatic cars, you crank the motor by placing your foot on the brake pedal with the gear lever in neutral. Post which, getting off the line is as simple as slotting into first gear and letting go of the brake pedal. In fact, it doesn’t take too long for one to realise its benefits over a traditional automatic because you’re in full control of the throttle response since you slot into the necessary gears yourself. This is quite unlike some automatics that tend to shift whilst on a corner, which, not only upsets the vehicle balance but can also slow you down in the wrong driving situation. Otherwise, it’s a smooth ball. Going up and down the gears is as flush as its manual-clutched siblings; light and precise with no pauses (AMT head-nod) whatsoever. Nonetheless, testing it to its limits revealed that the system wouldn’t allow smooth shifting of gears at the rev-limit without easing off the throttle first; which is fine to save the internals. But what truly helps is that when you get off the throttle, there’s no coasting but some divine engine braking to keep things in control.
The true benefits of the iMT setup are in traffic snarls. In a normal manual vehicle, it would require constant accelerator and clutch inputs, and if it goes wrong, it could also stall the engine. This isn’t the case with the iMT because you don’t need any throttle input to get off the mark; just ease off the brake to the point where it starts rolling. And the best part (more for newbies) is that the engine doesn’t stall since there’s no clutch in the first place! After spending some quality time with the iMT, I began to feel that this is how manual cars should have always been.
As one steps out of the city and onto the highways, you’ll experience the enhanced response post 2,000rpm as the motor pulls linearly to the 5,500rpm rev limit. We noticed that driving at about 100kmph in the sixth gear keeps the revs low which should definitely be a plus in the efficiency department. Another important aspect of this iMT is that if you slow down profoundly in a higher gear or the opposite, the system will beep to remind you to shift gears. Neat!This brings us to the handling which is similar to the standard Venue. Briefly put, the steering is light with fewer turns from lock to lock, which makes easy work of manoeuvring it even in tight city confines. But on the downside, the steering feels vague around the dead centre. On the ride front, the Venue’s suspension absorbs most bumps without a fuss, however, there’s a lot of vertical movement in this compact SUV which you simply can’t dial down unless you drive over a perfectly flat stretch of tarmac; a rarity these days.
What works against the Venue iMT is the price tag that ranges from Rs 11.65 to 13.37 lakh (OTR Mumbai). Compare this to the DCTs (dual-clutch auto) that cost between Rs 11.26 to 13.81 lakh, or the regular clutched-manuals that retail from Rs 8.10 to 10.09 lakh, and you’ll get my drift. We feel that Hyundai needs to plug the iMT in the lower variants to make this enticing option more affordable, as it’s already creating waves of interest due to the increase in demand for automatic cars.
On the flipside, Hyundai’s iMT has made a very special case for itself. Not only by retaining the best qualities of a manual gearbox, be it driving dynamics or frugality, but by also holding on to the finest characteristic of an auto, which is the ease of driving. And in case you were wondering about the alternatives, there’s the Maruti Brezza AT, Kia Sonet iMT, Toyota Urban Cruiser AT, and the Tata Nexon AMT.
Pictures by Kapil Angane.