Should we approach AMTs as manuals instead of automatics?

The usual complaint made against AMTs seems to be that it takes a whole second to shift.

BHPian rajushank84 recently shared this with other enthusiasts.

My background with transmissions:

Now, I don’t have much experience with AMTs, but I’ve always managed to steer clear (pun unintended). Except for small brief runs in a friend’s AMT Swift. I usually enjoy torque converters and currently drive one (Brio), and I especially love cars with ZF’s 8-speed AT (like the 3 series).

The other form of automatics I have driven a fair bit and never enjoyed is CVTs. The one in the Honda Accord (abroad) is not bad but still. I am not a fan of CVTs and how they feel.

But, about AMTs.

I observed, that most of the enthusiast community online seems to be against AMTs.

But I am looking at it from a different perspective, especially after looking at Hyundai’s (now discontinued) iMT.

So here’s the thing: Instead of looking at AMTs as “automatics” and judging them on the basis of how good they are as automatics, should we be using and looking at them as manuals?

From my perspective: If I own an AMT (which may happen soon), I think I will use it in manual mode most of the time.

If I understand right: In manual mode, a (say Maruti) AMT won’t upshift on its own, but it will downshift if the revs drop too much. That sounds like the best of both worlds, isn’t it?

When hitting packed traffic, leave it in auto mode, and everywhere else just use it in manual mode like a manual (which it is). What am I missing?

The usual complaint made against AMTs seems to be that it takes a whole second to shift in an AMT. But again, it is a manual. It certainly takes me about a second to clutch in, change gears, and clutch out in a clutched manual. Just that the same operation is easier in an AMT’s manual mode, the clutching is being done for me (and downshifting if I forget to).

So instead of judging AMTs as automatics, I wonder if we should really judge them as manuals with added convenience.

Personally, I like manuals in any situation that is not packed with traffic. Unfortunately though, packed traffic in Indian cities is an everyday thing. This sounds to me like the best of both worlds.

Again, I haven’t driven AMTs extensively so my view may be naive. But before I go take some test drives I want to get some BHPian perspectives. On the surface, it looks like they may be pretty bad as automatics, but not bad as manuals or semi-manuals.


Here’s what GTO had to say on the matter:

Interesting viewpoint, but if you have to use an AMT like a manual, then why not just buy an IMT from Hyundai? It is much, much smoother and cheaper too.

To me, AMTs suck, whatever way I look at them. They are jerky, slow and as reported on the forum, troublesome in the long run. I’d rather buy a used proper AT car instead of a new AMT.

Here’s what BHPian ram.iyer95 had to say on the matter:

I drive an AMT car (Hyundai i10 NIOS), and I see the technology exactly in the same way as you have described. A reasonably quick-shifting AMT, when used in manual mode, is a great compromise between both worlds (manual and automatic). I had never driven automatics before getting the NIOS, so maybe my expectations from it were pretty low. But if you have extensive experience with proper automatic transmissions, don’t evaluate an AMT as a competitor to those technologies. Just see it as a manual gearbox with a robot that does the hard part (clutching and de-clutching) for you, and evaluate it from that perspective.

The only caveat here is that the AMT itself has to be reasonably quick shifting, and not painfully slow; Hyundai and Maruti make pretty good ones. I had test-driven the NIOS, Ignis and Tigor AMTs, and chose the Nios just for its shift speed and smoothness.

Whenever I am in the driver’s seat, my car is always in manual mode. 2 years, 15k km and absolutely no regrets.

Here’s what BHPian DicKy had to say on the matter:

That is the correct way to look at it. Even the name is Automated Manual Transmission. Heck, I dare say in my books even DCTs are not fully automatic but automated manual transmissions. You trade the smoothness of torque converters for greater fuel efficiency. If you leave aside the time taken for the gearshift and jerks, AMTs give full manual control unlike say a CVT or most torque converters.

For AMT users:

  1. For People who have never driven automatics but want to, AMTs are a godsend without sacrificing fuel efficiency.
  2. For people who are used to proper automatics, but cannot afford one today or afford the running costs, it would be a compromise. But when you get used to it and master the lifting off the accelerator before an upshift, then AMTs will be smooth for most driving.
  3. For driving enthusiastically, AMTs are a big no, unless of course you manually change the gear. But then it is a no man’s land. You won’t get the mechanical feel of a manual transmission while trading in the comfort of an automatic. (Hmmm.. Hyundai’s iMT kinda makes sense now)
  4. For normal driving, I would happily recommend AMTs to first-time users, provided it has a decent creep function and hill hold.

Here’s what BHPian PrideRed had to say on the matter:

I have AMT, regular AT and MT too. There is no denying the fact that AMTs are jerky but if you make some changes to your driving style (which you get used to after some time) it’s just fine.

You cannot drive AMT like an AT where shifts are seamless. Once you understand when the shift happens in AMT, let go of the accelerator like you do in MT and shifts become quite smooth. This works 90% of the time when driving sedately and not having to press the clutch helps.

When driving aggressively, you may have to switch to manual mode and shift it like MT. In manual mode when paired with the nice engine is almost as fun as MT but with convenience. Again when shifting you have to let go of the accelerator.

I don’t know about iMT but AMT is somewhere in between MT and proper AT. You get the convenience but not the smooth shifts of AT. Modulate the accelerator like you do in MT and you should be fine.

Check out BHPian comments for more insights and information.

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