CVT gearboxes, are they really that bad? - badbusdriver

Hi everybody, i am new to this forum and have a query regarding cars fitted with cvt gearboxes.

My wife gets a motability car and when we got our last car, just under 3 years ago, after years of 'struggling' with manual gearboxes (she has problems with her legs), i finally persuaded her to go for an automatic. We decided to go for a Hyundai i30 turbo diesel, this was partly due to the choices on offer from motablity at the time, and also because the Hyundai has a 'proper' torque converter automatic. After having read plenty of horror stories regarding the reliability of dual clutch gearboxes, and automated manual gearboxes leaving their drivers stranded in busy junctions/roundabouts due to the delays between pressing the accelerator pedal and anything happening!. As i suspected, she has found the hyundai much more pleasant and easier to drive than a manual gearbox.

Now we are nearing the point where we have to choose another car and i have found myself in a quandary.The first problem is that 6 moths ago we moved to a part of town which was an old fishing village and the street is very narrow. So i wanted to find a car which was usefully narrower than the hyundai, but was still spacious enough to meet our needs as a family. Next point was seat height. Much as we like driving the hyundai, it has been a bit of a struggle at times getting out (especialy on to the keb) after years of cars with higher than normal seating positions. So we were looking for something with a higher seating position. Last issue was the gearbox, as i still read plenty of stories to put me off either dual clutch or automated manual gearboxes.

What this brought me to, after extensive research, was the honda jazz and toyota yaris. But both of these have cvt gearboxes, and very little i have ever read in motoring press about cvt gearboxes has ever been anything other than negative!. I am hoping to test drive versions of both cars, but in the mean time, i thought i would reach out to anyone on this forum who has experience of this type of gearbox, preferably in either the current jazz or yaris. Are they really as awful as the motoring press would have me believe, or is it, as i suspect, simply a case of getting used to it, and perhaps changing my driving to suit?.

Many thanks in advance!


PS, i am aware than honest johns test of the yaris describes the automatic in glowing terms, but nobody else does!

CVT gearboxes, are they really that bad? - RobJP

To start with, largely ignore most 'professional reviews' from motoring journalists about these sort of cars fitted with CVT gearboxes. Basically, the journalist is annoyed that they got given such a car, and will slag it off as much as possible. If it doesn't shred tyres and corner like it's on rails, then it's going to get panned. And neither of these cars is ever going to do that.

HJ's site is different in that respect. It's written not from that viewpoint, but looks at what a car is really like, in general motoring. He's also not afraid to really pan a brand or group if the long-term reliability falls short (VAG take note), and to point out a lot of the really stupid things manufacturers foist on us all.

A friend of mine has the old-version Jazz, and loves it. As reliable as a rock. Her husband has a Yaris. Again, boringly reliable - both of those cars are manual box though.

CVT gearboxes aren't as bad as they used to be 20-30 years ago, but tell a motoring journo that a car has a CVT fitted and it'll instantly get sneered at.

CVT gearboxes, are they really that bad? - Falkirk Bairn

Nissan appear to have on going "CVT issues".

Yet the same gearbox in other makes do not!

CVT gearboxes, are they really that bad? - corax

Hyundai ix20, Kia Venga is a Jazz alternative and conventional auto.

A poster on here (madf) is very pleased with his automatic Jazz after having the same concerns as you.

Edited by corax on 07/02/2017 at 12:44

CVT gearboxes, are they really that bad? - madf

I have a 2112 Jazz with CVT: owned since 6 months old.

The CVT is superb for town driving. Seamless changes and no delays .

When acclerating hard, the box changes down - and you get lots of revs. Peak power on the Jazz is over 4,000 - I believe it's at 5,000 you NEED lots of revs to go faster.. Not an issue to me. The idea that you can acclerate quickly in a small petrol car at 3,000 rpm (as suggested by the reviwers' comments ) is ludicrous..

It has a torque convertor so there should be no issues of internal clutch wear - as in the Mark1

Easy to drive and park, takes lots of rubbish (4 beehives full of bees).. and cheap to run.

Nothing has gone wrong in 5 years.

Edited by madf on 07/02/2017 at 12:51

CVT gearboxes, are they really that bad? - Vitesse6

Will second the comments on the Jazz. We have had a Mk1 and now have a Mk2 both with CVT and have never had any problems. I think the issue from a lot of reviewers is that they don't sound like a 'normal' car. If that doesn't bother you, have no fear of one.

CVT gearboxes, are they really that bad? - SLO76
The latest CVT boxes are certainly better than ever and Honda has learned from its mistakes on the earlier two generations of Jazz so you should have nothing to worry about. It's a very well made, practical car with a vastly better ride than the previous model. We recently had one for a coupe of days when our CRV was in for work and it compared very well with my mothers Mk II Jazz 1.2 which was a very disappointing wee car to drive. The ride and handling in particular are a huge improvement.

The issue with CVT's receiving negative reviews in the motoring press is down to the Top Gear effect as I call it. They test every car as if it's a hot hatch or some other high performance flying machine then mark it down if it doesn't handle on rails. A small automatic supermini is never going to appeal to them especially a CVT which can be a quite unrefined if driven hard. Floor it and it goes straight to maximum revs and stays there until your speed catches up but drive it gently and they're fine and substantially better on fuel than a traditional autobox.

They're generally reliable in the medium term but as with any car the more complex it is the more likely it will go wrong as it ages but I doubt you'll see any issues in the three years you'll have it and even if you did you'll be under warranty anyway. If we were talking about a ten year old example I'd steer you away though.
CVT gearboxes, are they really that bad? - Ethan Edwards

I owned a Yaris with a CVT. Superb vehicle quiet refined economical. Go drive one and I think you'll love it.

Not sure the seat height on the Yaris will be raised enough for your purposes. Might be better off in say a Nissan Juke.

Hope it works out for you.

CVT gearboxes, are they really that bad? - skidpan

I hate autos in small cars, end of story but dad had 2 Honda autos several years ago and quite liked them, only went back to manuals when mother decided she did not want to drive any more and decided manual was both cheaper and nicer.

So when he bought the Jazz in 2003 he thought getting an auto again and getting mum back on the road would be a good idea, better 2 drivers in the house should any one become unable to drive for whatever reason. So he tried the CVT Jazz and instantly hated it. It was all revs and no action, the 2 Honda auto's he had previously were no rocket ships but way nicer than the Jazz.

But he liked the Jazz and bought a manual. No arguement from mother, she hated driving.

You need a good long test drive in a CVT. Its probably fair to say that in an urban environment they are OK but once out of town they are not all all pleasant and once you get some load in the car they actually get worse, yet more revs and even less action.

CVT gearboxes, are they really that bad? - badbusdriver

Thanks for the replies everyone, its much appreciated, and i now feel a bit more confident that either the jazz or yaris would be fine, though i will still be aiming to get a proper test drive before commiting. Problem is that many dealers do not keep automatic small cars as demonstrators, but fingers crossed!.

With regards to seat heights, fortunately the motability website has this info on most cars. For the record, our hyundai i30 has a seat height of 57.4cm, the jazz is 63.3cm and the yaris 63.2cm. I know there are cars out there available with higher seats, but i cant go too high as my wife has short legs!. We have considered the nissan juke, but my wife doesnt like the looks, and also, it, and the venga/ix20 are about the same width as our i30 and i am looking at getting something slimmer to hopefully prevent scrapes on our narrow street!.

CVT gearboxes, are they really that bad? - daveyjp

All Yaris Hybrids are CVT so testing one to get a feel for the gearbox type shouldn't be an issue.

CVT gearboxes, are they really that bad? - concrete

Good advice here again chaps. My neighbour is delighted with his Jazz and it is his second one. The motoring 'press' have a lot to answer for. RobJP is correct with his analysis. When I got my Honda Accord 2.0i the 'press' were less than kind in their reviews. They said it was dull. It was a superb car. easy to drive, powerful, quick, roomy, comfortable and reliable. If dull is never breaking down and having a quiet laugh at Mondeo/Vectra man in their better handling machines which were broken down by the roadside, then give me dull every time. What good is 0-60, or so called superior handling if the thing is never out of the workshop? Stick with Honda or Toyota for your small auto and you will not be disappointed.

Cheers Concrete

CVT gearboxes, are they really that bad? - nortones2

Hybrid Toyotas/Lexus don't use a CVT in the sense of rubber or steel bands driving cones. Similar outcome, but without the wear items.

Edited by nortones2 on 07/02/2017 at 18:01

CVT gearboxes, are they really that bad? - SLO76
Not sure if things have changed or not, it's been almost 18yrs since I last sold a car via motability but certainly back then we didn't get a penny from signing one up and thus few sales staff were interested in offering demonstrations to customers. It did count towards our monthly bonus so was worth spending time on but we weren't willing to put a lot of time into it as you rarely seen any reward. It was basically here's the car. Do you want it?

Might be worthwhile searching for a nearly new auto and taking a lentgthy demo while posing as a cash buyer instead. You'll find the salesman or woman much more obliging than you will as a motability customer but obviously don't use the same garage when you want to sign on the dotted line.
CVT gearboxes, are they really that bad? - gordonbennet

It's not just top gear plus other motoring progs/mags, fifth gear lost me as a viewer some years ago when they ''tested'' some of the smaller cars such as Suzuki Wagon R, Kia Rio of the time that sort of thing, the sprt of cars bought often for pottering about, and for retirees to carry their friends about.

They had these cars on the track thrashing the living daylights trying their best to push the tyres off the rims, that was a comparison, apparently...yet again mods we need a face palm pop up here...what an utterly stupid pointless half witted childish waste of everyone's time.

As said, here you find a refreshingly different type of car appraisal suited to what the car will likely be used for complete with hat room check in the back..:-), and the good/bad section is a mine of useful info.

CVT gearboxes, are they really that bad? - Engineer Andy

I would go for the Jazz (tardis-like inside) - I'm not a fan of the looks (externally) of the latest model (much prefer the mk2 on that score), but make sure it is narrower than you i30 - the info on HJ looks to say otherwise, which I'm not sure is correct - one may include the mirrors, the other (i30) may not.

Shame the Mazda CX-3 isn't offered (I think) as a motability car, as it would do you nicely (not sure of your annual mileage, but has both petrol and diesels [only on 4x4 Sport] available with 'standard' torque-converter autos - I drove a 2ltr petrol and it was very nice to drive) in terms of the drive - higher up, reasonable boot space (350 ltr on all but the Sport model) and high quality generally. Not cheap though (why I'm holding off getting one at the moment).

Maybe worth considering one of the similar rivals if you occasionally need a bit more oomph for right turns etc into faster moving traffic, though I suspect they may turn out to be a bit wider than you might want. See if any of them have auto-folding wing mirrors if you need to get through a tight spot. If HJ himself chimes in with a comment, I wouldn't be at all surprised if he recommends his No.1 car at the moment, the Peugeot 2008 (latest version) 1.2 petrol 130ps auto (far better than the previous one apparently) with the infamous 'grip control', which you might find useful being in more rural parts. It may be too wide (again, not sure if the width stated includes wing mirrors or not) or may not be available as a motability car.

CVT gearboxes, are they really that bad? - daveyjp
My dad really wanted a new Jazz, he'd had an 08 or 09 reg for 6-7 years and it proved faultless.

The local dealer leant him one for an afternoon and he loved it, but he couldn't buy one as when he put it in his garage he couldn't get out, the new Jazz has become a seriously wide car.

Many years ago this garage housed a Nissan Bluebird with ease and no problem getting out!

He ended up with an end of line old shape model.
CVT gearboxes, are they really that bad? - badbusdriver

Hi Andy, thanks for that info. Re width, no worries there, found a useful website which gives all new car dimensions. The width is always stated exluding mirrors, and i can confirm the jazz is 1694mm, the yaris is 1695mm, and our i30 is 1780mm.

Re the 2008, i do quite like the look of it, and there is actually a Peugeot dealer in town, but unfortunately the motability deals change quarterly, and our current choice (unless i could afford to put down a £500 advance payment, which i cant!) would be limited to the n/a 81bhp 1.2. Also, i believe the auto 2008 has a dual clutch gearbox. I have not read up on the 2008 specifically, but in general, dual clutch gearboxes do seem to have a bit of a reputation for poor reliability.

Dave, i was a little confused by your post. one of the main reasons for looking at the jazz and yaris is that, unlike most current cars, whilst they have certainly got bigger in terms of interior accomodation, the current models have stayed around the same width. In fact the current jazz is actually 1mm(!) narrower than the previous model. And while cars in general have got much bigger class by class over the years, the Nissan bluebird mk2 is 1690mm wide (excluding mirrors), only 4mm narrower than the current jazz. So not sure how your Dad wouldnt be able to get out of his garage in a current jazz if he could in the bluebird or previous jazz?

CVT gearboxes, are they really that bad? - RobJP

The 'problem' isn't so much the width of the car, but the thickness of the doors, with all the crash protection built into them. So when you open the door, you've got considerably less room between the inside of the door and the B pillar to squeeze out.


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