By on May 6, 2019

2018 Accent

For the 2020 model year, Hyundai’s subcompact Accent and compact Elantra ditch their six-speed automatics in favor of a continuously variable unit — a move that’s not likely to elicit too many cries of protest.

Honestly, given the models’ modest torque figures, a traditional slushbox hardly amounts to motoring bliss, and drivers stand to gain faster manual shifts with a CVT. They also stand to gain a significant bump in fuel economy.

For 2020, the Environmental Protection Agency rates the CVT-equipped Accent sedan at 33 mpg city, 41 mpg highway, and 36 mpg combined. Who needs a pricier hybrid? Compare these figures (first noticed by The Car Connection) to that of last year’s model, which carries a 28 city/38 highway/32 combined figure.

Interestingly, fuel economy rises for the manual transmission model, too, though not as noticeably. The three-pedal Accent’s MPG rating rises to 29 city/39 highway/33 combined for 2020, up from 2019’s 28/37/31. We’re waiting for word from Hyundai as to the reason for the improvement. While Hyundai has a family of “Smartstream” four-cylinders in the works, we weren’t aware that the 2020 Accent stood to gain one of these units.

2018 Accent

Hyundai’s Smartstream engines boost fuel economy by optimizing thermal efficiency; a member of this family appears in the front-drive Venue crossover revealed at the New York Auto show.

As for the Elantra, ditching the six-speed auto spells a combined improvement of 2 mpg in models equipped with the 2.0-liter four-cylinder. Maximum combined fuel economy rises to 35 mpg in the Elantra SE, with other CVT-equipped 2.0L models rated at 34 mpg.

Currently, the EPA’s roster of tested 2020 Elantras is meager, with no word on the thirstiness of the Elantra GT or manual-transmission models.

[Image: Hyundai]

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29 Comments on “Ditched Automatic Means MPG Boost for Hyundai Accent, Elantra...”


  • avatar
    Pig_Iron

    I bought my Accent specifically because it had a real automatic in order to tow a utility trailer. CVTs are garbage.
    :-/

    • 0 avatar
      Featherston

      Agreed, Pig_Iron. The ’19 Elantra has one of the very few port injection/torque converter automatic drivetrains left on the North American market, so it’s a shame to see it go. (From what I can tell via internet chatter, Hyundai/Kia has been reasonably successful in implementing DI-friendly PCV set-ups. How’s your Accent been vis-a-vis carbon buildup?)

      “and drivers stand to gain faster manual shifts with a CVT” I’m honestly not sure if Steph is trolling here.
      – The manual shifts undermine the whole point of the CVT, which is seeking out optimal RPM as the situation demands.
      – Who other than journos cares about manually shifting a CVT or a slushbox and whether or not one is faster than the other. 99.9% of people don’t care about this, nor should they.
      – The data won’t be in for a few years, but I’d say it’s 99% likely the current Elantra slushbox will have better longevity than the incoming CVT. That, people should care about.

      • 0 avatar
        Kenn

        “Hyundai/Kia has been reasonably successful in implementing DI-friendly PCV set-ups.”
        Relatively-friendly or not, I’m happy to have read that Hyundai/Kia, for 2020, is reverting to port injection for the 2.0 liter. I would gladly sacrifice a small MPG reduction for lower long-term maintenance and repair costs.

        • 0 avatar
          Featherston

          @ Kenn, agreed.

          And to clarify: They’ll be retaining the 2.0, not reverting to it. The current Elantra 2.0 is port injected. (I’m not on their configurator, but I think a DI turbo comes on, maybe, the eco and performance variants. The other ones have the PI 2.0.) The quirk of the 2.0–and it’s not a bad one, IMO, for non-enthusiast drivers–is that it runs in a (pseudo) Atkinson cycle rather than an Otto cycle.

          Essentially, the ’20 Elantra is adopting the ’19 Forte’s drivetrain: retaining the PI 2.0 (good) and swapping out the 6A for a CVT (bad).

          • 0 avatar
            Kenn

            @Featherston – Got it! I had been thinking of the Kia Soul, in which the 2019’s 2.0 with direct injection is reverting to port injection for ’20. Interestingly, H/K’s new CVT – at least, in the new Soul – has been described as the best yet for responsiveness, bettering the newest Toyota’s with its physical 1st gear (according to the very credible Savage Geese youtube review). Good enough for us? That remains to be seen.

        • 0 avatar
          bd2

          The 2.0L will be replaced by the new Theta III 2.5L and the Smartstream engines are both DI and multi-port.

          33 combined MPG is pretty good, but there should be a good leap in fuel economy when the Accent gets the lighter next gen platform and the Smartstream engine(s) (possibly tied to a 48v mild hybrid system) , along w/ the IVT (CVT).

      • 0 avatar
        Garrett

        I actually care about manually selecting gears in my car from time to time, as I find having eight gears means way too much hunting and waiting for the proper kickdown when I need it now.

  • avatar
    sportyaccordy

    I’ve been saying this for years. With enough horsepower nearly any modern transmission is decent, including CVTs.

    Only real advantage regular transmissions have over CVTs is gear spread. But there are ways around that too.

    • 0 avatar
      bullnuke

      I believe that we are at the beginning of the Grief Process for the replacement of the common geared automatic transmission by CVT’s. As time goes on we’ll be hearing more and more wailing and gnashing of teeth over the crazy and unreasonable rise of the CVT over the “clearly superior” geared unit with it’s multiple clutches and complexities. I guess we’re going to see several years of this similar to the rending of garments and expressed sadness of the loss of the manual transmission option. I’m old enough to remember folks many years ago with the fear of failures and extra maintenance of automatic trannies (quite a bit of which was true)and some pushback to purchasing a vehicle with one. Ahh, the only constant in the world is change.

      • 0 avatar
        stuki

        If you are going to be stuck with a slushbox anyway, may as well make it a properly slushy one. Objectively, CVTs are unbeatable, within their power handling ability. They’re slowly but surely creeping down from the highest end, to mere high end, tractors too big and power demanding for hydrostatics. Just as they have long since all but taken over the market for practical city transportation, in the form of scooters.

        • 0 avatar
          SoCalMikester

          over the past 33 years, ive owned 8 scooters with CVTs including honda, suzuki and yamaha. all have been relatively bulletproof and extremely easy to service and maintain. that said, whatever i drive is going to likely have a stickshift.im not convinced CVTs are the best way to go for cars.

      • 0 avatar
        Featherston

        Torque converter automatics are weird in that they’re Rube Goldberg devices, but they’re proven and robust Rube Goldberg devices at this point.

        It’s an interesting market right now in that CVTs, torque converter automatics, and dual clutch automatics all are viable to one degree or another. At the present time, I’ll take the longevity of a torque converter automatic over the (rather slight, in practice) efficiency and performance advantages of the other two types. If you keep your car less than five years or so, which seems to be the case for a lot of people, the longevity aspect is less of an issue.

      • 0 avatar
        nvinen

        Good torque converter autos are extremely robust. The ZF 6HP26 in my car is rated for 600Nm (440ft-lbs) but is handling 900Nm (660ft-lbs)/550kW (750ish hp) just fine with no modifications. And it provides high gearing in 1st while allowing speeds above 300km/h (180mph) in 6th. What CVT can do that?

        And I like it’s versatility; in “D” it has excellent smooth low speed control and the engine revs depend on throttle position and remain more or less constant as I accelerate, similar to a CVT. But in “D-per” mode, the torque converter locks up quickly in all gears and the changes are very fast, much like a dual clutch gearbox. And I can use the tiptronic style lever to select any gear 1-6 manually and it will stay in that gear as long as the revs remain above idle. What’s not to like?

  • avatar
    FormerFF

    Provided it is tuned properly, I’d rather have a CVT than a conventional automatic, they’re smoother.

    Last summer I had a Nissan Murano with a CVT, I thought the drivtrain worked very well. More recently I had a Rogue, that one felt like it was disconnected from the car. Even works was a Corolla I had two summers ago, a small pedal press resulted in a big increase in engine spee

  • avatar
    NiceCar

    I’ve come around on CVTs – well, most CVTs – at least from a performance/experience perspective. Still don’t know about long-term reliability Even the 2018 Altima I rented a few weeks back, I thought was fine, and Nissan’s are often marked as bad CVTs. Droned a little at times, but overall, I thought it was a real good ride – again, from a performance perspective. I don’t know about reliability, repairs, etc.

    • 0 avatar
      Featherston

      Agreed, I’m not against CVTs in terms of the way they drive. In fact I’d prefer a “traditional” CVT to stepped pseudo-gears, since logicially it’s the way a CVT ought to perform. Actually, a driver setting would be best.

      My experience with them is pretty limited:

      – Two rental B16 Sentras. The first one was totally fine. The car in general was too soft, but the transmission was fine. (I’ll note that that gen of Sentra was available in SE-R form, with 500cc of extra displacement and a sharper chassis.) The second one was fine except for one instance where it hesitated as I turned left at a major intersection (two lanes each way and a 45 mph speed limit, so potential for a bad collision). By “hesitate,” I don’t mean the “rubber band” effect that people who don’t understand CVTs complain about; I mean that the car was totally motionless for a good half to three-quarters of a second, analogous to if you’d put a torque converter automatic into N and forgotten to put it back into D – very unnerving.

      – A friend had an ’05-ish Murano and had good service from it. He traded it in as it approached 120,000 miles, which I think was the limit of its powertrain warranty.

      – An aunt had no issues with a GP(?) gen Crosstrek and traded it in with low miles (35,000ish) for the current gen one. That one’s only about nine months old, but it’s been fine too.

      I admit to being a longevity-focused outlier, which is my worry about CVTs.

      Scooter and snowmobile CVTs are not a great comp; they’re lighter duty and are much, much more readily serviceable. Hybrid eCVTs are a terrible comp since they’re an entirely different animal mechanically. I’ve heard several pundits project the Corolla CVT to be reliable based on the Prius’ eCVT. Even Scotty Kilmer initially said this; he’s since changed his tune on the Corolla.

      I’m not against them in theory. I’m just not on board with the durability/longevity aspect yet.

  • avatar
    volvo

    Does anyone have any recent information on the cost of CVT repair vs repair of conventional auto transmission? My understanding was that with the early CVTs replacement cost was so high that replacing the car made sense.

    I also prize long term reliability and ownership cost.

    • 0 avatar
      Pig_Iron

      Here’s what Scotty Kilmer says
      Why Most CVT Transmission Cars are Terrible

      • 0 avatar
        Pig_Iron

        Apparently you cannot post links any more, sorry.

      • 0 avatar
        ponchoman49

        LOL at Scotty Kilmore. In his world the only good car is a 1987 Toyota Celica. Nissan’s, all Subaru’s, anything FCA or GM should never be bought. Ditto Fiat, Land Rover, BMW, Mercedes and just about every other brand. He like certain year Civics and Mustangs but says to avoid Corolla’s unless they are stick. And to hear his cars to never buy list he generally gets a few correct but then seems to make it up as he goes based on one customer that needed 3 transmissions supposedly. i would take his car brand advice with a grain of salt and a smile.

  • avatar
    PandaBear

    Maybe CVT is finally getting reliable enough that they last 250k miles? I’m sure it has to do with who makes them as well as how much torque is applied / limited to it. Or maybe they realize the extra cost to strengthen the belt / pulleys is worth it.

  • avatar
    conundrum

    “drivers stand to gain faster manual shifts with a CVT”. Manual shift? If you mean that sloppy CVT slurring of ratios that say, Subaru touts, it’s no bowl of wonderfulness even when you play typewriter on the paddles. All CVTs have a torque converter in front of them as well, so ditching a proper ratio-shift automatic with its torque converter is hardly a driving boon. What CVTs are is cheaper to make and to hell with what’s best for the customer.

    Furthermore, due to diameter size limitations for the CVT pulleys in a reasonable size transmission case while utilizing a chain big enough to transfer real torque, their ratio spread is not that great, supposedly their big deal for existing in the first place. Which is why Toyota added that separate first gear for a bit of actual oomph off the line. They could only do that because there was already a torque converter ahead of the transmission proper. Might as well have shoved a real transmission in while they were at it, but the Japanese are notorious for never admitting mistakes and carrying on as if they were deaf. Acura arrow grilles until they killed the brand, Lexus grilles that defy good taste, Honda and Toyota oil-burning or sludging engines, Subaru EJ25 SOHC head gaskets, present Honda 1.5t oil dilution issue. Japan Inc is a bureaucracy and no known bureaucrat ever cops to an error.

    The big power waster in any CVT is the hydraulic pump and pressure required to squash the two pulley halves together, both the drive and driven ones. They have to be pushed hard or the chain/belt will slip and ruin the coned surface. Rube Goldberg, some wag above says a regular automatic is – what and a CVT isn’t? It’s fine for the skidoo crowd with rubber belts. Leave these rotten contraptions off real cars – please. The reality doesn’t match the theory the PR staff push, but returns must be made on investment.

    • 0 avatar
      bullnuke

      conundrum: Could you share with us your personal experiences with the CVT you either own or have owned? I’m particularly interested in the poor fuel mileage you experience/have experienced due to the power wasted with the hydraulic pump that creates the pressure that squashes the pulley halves together – the parasitic power losses must be huge. It seems crazy that manufacturers would claim better MPG using a CVT vs a legacy auto tranny with such an inefficient design. Thanks.

  • avatar
    N8iveVA

    My bf’s Nissan CVT grenaded at 76K. So a couple years after replacing the CVT he went to replace the car and made sure to buy a car with a regular geared transmission. He bought a ’17 Elantra. He won’t be replacing it with another when he hears this.

    I’ve only driven a Nissan Rogue, Versa, and Hybrid Civic with CVT’s. I hated all of them because of the CVT. I haven’t tried the new CVT’s in the Toyotas and Hondas yet.

    • 0 avatar
      Featherston

      “My bf’s Nissan CVT grenaded at 76K.” This. Like a lot of car people, I tend to have a good handle one the collective fleet of my family and friends. Post-1980, I can’t recall a single one of them having an issue with a traditional automatic. Not a one. They’re complex devices, but engineers have done a fantastic job of improving them over the past ~80 years (or ~60 years if you want to start the clock from more modern examples like the TorqueFlite). Maybe the latest crop of CVTs will prove themselves, but the jury’s still out.

  • avatar
    don1967

    My daughter’s 8-year old Elantra is no rocket, but it’s peppy enough as the six-speed autobox delivers snappy shifts in between snorty bursts of exhaust note. It’s a pleasing little package.

    By comparison, the Nissan CVTs I’ve driven are droning commuter buckets whose only redeeming quality is that they’ll never jostle you out of your slumber in heavy stop-and-go traffic conditions. Maybe Hyundai can do it better than Nissan, but I doubt they will.

  • avatar
    ponchoman49

    I just spent the week with a 2019 Malibu LT and it’s new CVT as a rental. What was remarkable was how unremarkable this drive train was in every day use. With the throttle pinned it simulates a normal automatic with revs up to about 5600 RPM and then down 500 and then back up to 5600 RPM. In normal driving it was surprisingly refined. I stop watched timed this car at 8 seconds 0-60 which was for me adequate but could be better and another 15-20 horses would work wonders here. MPG was 33.4 overall combined which I thought was quite good. I ran a 100 mile all highway jaunt at 73 MPH and the readout stayed around 41 MPG besting the EPA’s rather low 36.

    Overall this one wasn’t bad as far as CVT’s go but reliability would be suspect until this new unit proves itself.

  • avatar
    Jeff S

    I am curious are the CVT transmissions lighter than an automatic with gears? If so could that be part of the reason they are more efficient and less expensive–less parts?


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