Final report: The i20 Turbo is leaving the Autocar India fleet and will be remembered most for its unconventional gearbox.
Think of that off beat movie that you really loved but couldn’t convince others to watch. The Hyundai i20 iMT is a bit like that. It’s unusual on account of its intelligent manual transmission that can be thought of as a gearbox where manual meets auto. The driver shifts gears via the lever as on a traditional manual with the job of clutch operation handled cleverly by the electronics; there’s no clutch pedal akin to a full automatic.
I’ve grown to love the convenience of the transmission over my time with the car. I’m quite alright with changing gears myself, but removing clutch modulation out of the equation has made my rush hour commutes vastly better.
Drivers used to a manual will find the switch to the well executed iMT very easy.
Thing is, not everyone at office sees the iMT in the same light. The ardent petrolheads simply haven’t bought into the idea of a manual without a clutch pedal. The convenience seekers, on the other hand, are happy without the clutch, but would much rather have a full automatic. To be honest, I too questioned my liking for the iMT when I sampled an i20 CVT. Unexpectedly, it was members of the bike testing team who came back full of praise every time they borrowed the car. I guess they viewed the iMT as a superbike-like quickshifter for cars. Hyundai, maybe bikers looking to add a car to their garage are a lucrative market for the iMT.
I did note greater awareness of the transmission over the i20 iMT’s time with us. In the initial days, I had to quickly run through the dos and don’ts of iMT driving with valets at malls and hotels before handing over the key. Nowadays, most valets and hired drivers have experienced one and know the drill. Not that it’s anything complex. Allyou need to be careful of is to be in the right gear for the speed. Drive in too high a gear and buzzers will remind you to downshift. Impressively, the electronics ensure the car doesn’t stall even if there’s a massive gear and speed mismatch. It’s fool proof in that sense. The short learning curve also makes it easy to switch from a traditional manual gearbox car.
i20’s hi-res rear view camera is better than many luxury cars’. Eases life in town.
After 20,000km on the odometer, gearshifts remain smooth as ever, but I have noticed a need to be gentler on the throttle when starting out. Hurried starts to make a short traffic light, for instance, result in a gasp-like break in power. Shifting up early to second gear is an easy workaround.
Otherwise, all’s well and I do still revel at the 1.0-litre turbo engine’s mid-range when an empty road presents itself. The suspension degradation I had written about in a previous report seems to have stalled, though the car doesn’t feel quite as tight as it did on day one. There’s also a squeak from near the parcel shelf. No issues on the electronics front. The tyre pressure monitor seems to have self healed, the Bose sound system is still punching hard, the reverse camera is crisp and the touchscreen is slick as ever too. On a related note, I must confess I haven’t used any of the i20’s eSIM-based connected car features. A breakdown would have been the ultimate test to see how well connected the car really is (buttons on the mirror connect you to service support), but thankfully, that’s something that didn’t happen. The only time I think I got close was when I had to negotiate a flooded patch. A gentle throttle in second gear did the job; first gear with its slight pauses could have had a different end.
The car’s suspension is showing signs of wear. It isn’t as absorbent as it once was.
Of the other things, I found the all-black interior tough to keep clean. The textured dash top is a dust magnet. A weekly interior wipe just doesn’t cut it.
Fuel economy has been decent for the driving conditions. The i20 iMT has averaged about 10.5kpl in Mumbai traffic. I got a best figure of 17kpl on a leisurely drive to Pune with 8kpl being the lowest indicated figure.
It’s easy to spot dust in all-black cabin. Textured dash top needs a frequent wipe to keep clean.
I’ve enjoyed my time with the i20 iMT and think the gearbox has merit. It’s a relatively affordable solution to going clutch-pedal free and one that doesn’t come across as compromised as the technologically superior AMT does. You’d still be best off with a CVT, DCT or torque converter auto, but I’d suggest you give the iMT a fair hearing too. As for me, its time to meet my nemesis, the clutch pedal, again.