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I'm stuck between choosing a car available in both automatic transmission (CVT) and Manual transmission (6 speed). I wanted to know which one will perform better in the following aspects (considering the fact that all the other factors are the same only the transmission system is different):

  • Acceleration
  • Fuel economy
  • Maintenance

PS. I know the difference between normal AT and CVT my question is about CVT and MT.

PS2. The cars I want to buy is Renault Fluence 2.0 CVT

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The difference comes down to the driver. While automatic racing gearboxes can beat a driver when it comes to performance, for the type of vehicle you describe, a manual can perform significantly higher than an automatic if the driver knows how to use it. But then if you really wanted high acceleration you would choose a different car.

Maintenance is much cheaper on manual gearboxes as they are much less complex, but if the driver doesn't know what they are doing then they can chew up clutches.

Fuel economy is close between the two - am automatic can be consistent at saving fuel by short shifting in situations where acceleration is not needed, but again, a good driver can always change at the most appropriate point for what is coming, so can be in the correct great at all times - which can save mileage.

TL/DR it depends. If you are experienced with a manual, get a manual.

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    "Short shifting in automatic" doesn't apply here as the OP is talking about CVT. With CVT, you can , theoretically, outperform a manual transmission, for both performance and mileage. It's just an infinite extrapolation of fixed gears. If more gears are better, infinite is awesome. – chilljeet Apr 17 '16 at 20:17
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    Unfortunately that doesn't work though, as automatics, whether CVT or not, never know what you are about to do. Automatic transmissions have higher losses too. – Rory Alsop Apr 17 '16 at 20:35
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    You're right about the vehicle's ability to understand intent. But they can get pretty close, and it's getting better. With CVT, there's no doubt that on an MPG test, they consistently fare better. – chilljeet Apr 18 '16 at 8:12
  • I should also add that with a manual transmission, the driver can chew up synchronizers, which is a far worse problem than chewing up clutches. I am experienced with a manual, and I selected a Toyota hybrid electric CVT transmission (not a traditional CVT but an electrically controlled planetary gearset), which I believe is today the best transmission choice when considering performance, mileage, repair costs and their probability, etc. Of course, the purchase price is higher. – juhist Dec 17 '16 at 12:48
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I will answer the question in simple terms.

Acceleration: CVT Does not have a gears and are usually single speed, so if you want to abruptly accelerate the CVT will not be as efficient as a manual transmission, the most common problem of CVT is the rubber-band effect where you push the accelerator and after a pause and acceleration increases suddenly. Ergo, a CVT will not outrun a manual transmission at all. Manual is by far a better option.

Fuel Economy: In the hands of 90% of the public the CVT will generally be more efficient than the manual transmission , this is the reason we are seeing a lot of CVTs now a days, they offer better gas mileage and hassle free driving with the disadvantage in acceleration and performance which is just about the normal requirements of a daily commuter. Now in the hands of a seasoned manual driver, he can extract as much or even more gas mileage than the CVT but its generally not worth the effort.

Maintenance: Obviously the manual will be the best , fewer parts fewer wear and tear and fewer maintenance. Plus any wear on a manual gearbox will cost very less when compared to repairs on a CVT.

CVT only provides really two things: Good Economy and the joy of a automatic transmission in bumper to bumper traffic, so if the purpose of the car is strictly going to be commute in the city then the CVT is the better option but in every other aspect the manual is the best also the manual gearbox weighs a little bit less reducing the overall weight of the car.

Note: IF most of your driving is going to be on the express way/highway then save yourself some money and get a manual because in the express way manual can give equal or even better gas mileage and you wont have to worry about constantly shifting.

Also, A CVT variant of the car will also cost more upfront.

  • Dude, where you been? Hope all is well. – DucatiKiller May 26 '16 at 10:38
  • I don't believe that manual is the best for maintenance. Yes, there are fewer parts, but the driver can cause clutch and/or synchronizer wear, so being best for maintenance applies only to careful drivers. I would rate Toyota's hybrid eCVT the best, traditional torque converter automatics the second best, and then there is the hard choice between belt-type CVT, two-clutch robot transmission (eg. VW's DSG), and manual transmission. The clear loser is one-clutch robot transmission (eg. Toyota's MMT). However, I agree that for highway driving manual is the overall best choice. – juhist Dec 17 '16 at 12:54
  • @juhist For a manual to get damaged, it will take A LOT of years and a lot more of bad shifts, for instance, my friend Owns a Fiat Uno and I think around 7 to 8 people learned to drive on that car, it's a FIAT and it's still working, the owner has done some servicing but still its been there for 20+ years. Can't tell the same story for an automatic(not sure what type of auto), there was a Hyundai one with my cousin and it leaked and was a pain and he sold it after like 6 to 7 years. So I think it depends but still a manual is FAR more reliable. – Shobin P Dec 17 '16 at 16:19

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