Among the changes made to Malaysia’s favourite B-segment hatchback, the updated 3rd-generation 2022 Myvi (I was wrong) now gains the same D-CVT gearbox as was introduced last year in the Ativa, replacing the tried and true 4-speed automatic. Let’s dive into why….
First of all, the D-CVT acronym stands for Dual-Mode Continuously Variable Transmission. Those familiar with cars - especially smaller ones - from Honda, Subaru, and Toyota might already be familiar with how these differ, at least in terms of feel, to conventional automatics.
Speaking of which, a ‘torque converter-type’ automatic transmission is generally referred to simply as ‘the automatic’ as it was the first type of gearbox that dispensed with requiring human intervention to shift gears. This happened in the mid-20th century after the manual (or standard) transmission format - a clutch pedal and a centre stick shifter - had become an industry standard.
While it’s pretty clear that the D-CVT would eventually spread throughout the Perodua line up of vehicles, we were honestly not expecting it to show up in the 2022 Myvi until the next all-new version comes along, one that perhaps was underpinned by the DNGA platform used in the Ativa.
CVTs do not have fixed gear ratios (or speeds), or any gears at all for that matter. Instead, they use a pair of pulleys that can alter their respective diameters to vary the ratio of engine speed to wheel speed to and from an input shaft (from the engine) and an output shaft (to the wheels). This is why they are sometimes described as having “infinite ratios”.
If you think of it in terms of a fixed-gear bicycle, imagine if the pedal cog and the rear wheel cog could magically inflate or shrink at will to leverage the power and torque needs of the situation. It would no longer be a multi-gear bicycle, yet would work the same way.
Like its new D-CVT, the Myvi’s previous automatic transmission is also based on technology from Toyota’s gearbox subsidiary Aisin and, in this iteration, has been serving the 3rd-gen Myvi since its 2017 debut. However, despite being quite reliable, smooth, and fairly efficient, those attributes are further amplified by the inherent design of a CVT.
Without fixed gears, the CVT delivers an even smoother experience, especially during acceleration. When driving on highways, it can reduce engine speed to a minimum while maintaining a constant road speed, further reducing fuel consumption. This is where the ‘D’ in D-CVT comes in, by the way.
In short, they are able to keep a given engine operating at its optimal range for a longer period of time, be that for power or efficiency. They can also be packaged more compactly and tend to be lighter in weight than their alternatives. Already the 4-speed automatic seems outdated, even on paper.
CVTs do have downsides, of course. They are not suited for use in engines with high torque and are generally perceived to be noisier in operation as the engine is maintained at a certain RPM window while the car accelerates, but also due to the pulleys making certain whining noises while under stress.
Apart from this, they also suffer from friction-related energy loss more than normal automatics. They also do not deliver an engaging experience relative to automatic gearboxes with fixed ratios such as the aforementioned torque converter-type and dual-clutch units.
However, such trade-offs should be of little concern to the average Myvi driver, in which getting from point A to point B safely and fuss-free is the main objective.
Dual Mode What?
The slightly genius part of the D-CVT, and why it’s called ‘Dual Mode’, is the fact that it can actually use a fixed gear to counteract the general shortcomings of conventional CVTs. Under normal urban conditions, such as low-to-medium speed driving, it operates exactly like your typical CVT.
However, in higher speed driving where most CVTs can only reduce engine speed to a certain degree before its pulleys reach their respective limit of leverage, the D-CVT can switch to its second mode that has longer ratios, using a fixed gear to provide direct drive to bridge the gap between these two modes. Daihatsu, in its testing of the D-CVT, says that the overall ratio range has now expanded to something similar to an 8-speed automatic thanks to this split approach.
Better In The Myvi Than Ativa
You could argue that the Myvi is more suited to having the D-CVT sandwiched between its wheels and engine than the Ativa. The smoothness and fuel efficiency benefits alone will greatly improve the driving experience and ownership costs of such an urban-centric hatch.
The Ativa, on the other hand, intends to project a slightly different image. Though it will inevitably be driven around town just as much as the Myvi, there are situations where an owner might take it off the beaten track.
Uneven terrain and steep uphill climbs with cargo/people aboard are about the best places to expose a CVT’s weaknesses as the pulley system really isn’t suited to handle those kinds of drivetrain stresses, especially on a regular basis.
Still, being exclusively front-wheel drive, there’s little chance that even the most adventurous Ativa owner will be able to get him or herself far enough away from a smoothly paved road to find themselves in trouble.
For the Myvi, it’s clear skies for the D-CVT, which has so far proved itself in the Perodua SUV to be a robust, efficient, and refined gearbox and a most worthy successor to the 4-speed automatic that’s now been retired.