Hyundai Introduces Manual Transmission Without a Clutch Pedal—Is It Really a Stick Shift?
It’s hard to understand exactly why driving a car with a manual transmission is so fun. Is it the control you feel when selecting your own gears, this visceral connection formed between man and machine? Is it the satisfaction of knowing that you do more work than 90% of other drivers on the road? Is it the challenge to gently put the clutch with your left foot and to modulate the accelerator when you go up in traffic from bumper to bumper with your right, knowing that a slip could stall your engine and invite ridiculous and embarrassed? For the passionate, perhaps – but for the non-passionate who is suspicious of the work in question, this last scenario is perhaps the most triggering. And Hyundai knows it.
The people at Hyundai Motor India have found a solution to the problem of the clutch pedal faced with hesitant drivers of manual transmission: removing the clutch pedal. Hyundai’s Indian subsidiary recently announced that the Venue subcompact SUV will launch there with an Intelligent Manual Transmission (iMT), a system that uses a conventional six-speed manual gear lever and a transmission that just lacks a third pedal for the clutch.
To change gears, grab the shift lever and place it in the desired gear position as you normally would, except with the Hyundai system, that’s all you need to do. The iMT uses an “intention sensor”, which detects and predicts when you will change. This sends a signal to the transmission control unit, which in turn initiates a hydraulic actuator to engage and disengage the clutch. The six-speed iMT is offered with the 1.0-liter turbocharged three-cylinder engine available in India. IMT will also be an option in the Indian Kia Sonet market.
It is not the first manual transmission with two pedals. Porsche toyed with the idea in the late 1960s, calling its system “Sportomatic”. Like the iMT, the Sportomatic had a traditional shifter but only four forward gears. The clutch was vacuum operated (a microswitch on the gear lever triggered the clutch action), and a torque converter was used in place of a flywheel to prevent the engine from stalling when the car was stopped. Volkswagen offered a similar system in the Beetle and Karmann Ghia called Automatic Stickshift, or “Autostick”. Surprisingly, Sportomatic lasted until 1980, but it was never a popular option on the 911 and remains a killer value among collectors. The main point to remember is the following: even if Porsche has continued to tinker with automated manuals, it has never seen the concept of shifting gear without clutch of Sportomatic.
So why is Hyundai taking such an odd path? In a statement, the automaker says the iMT will keep the “joy of driving” without having to constantly press the clutch pedal in traffic. Having shuttled with manual cars for years, we can say that the fatigue of the clutch foot is real, but it comes with the territory. Without it, and all the nuances of operation of a clutch pedal, are you really driving a manual? We are skeptical but open to discover for ourselves. Unfortunately, this would likely require a trip to India, as a Hyundai representative tells us that there are currently no plans to bring the iMT to the US market.
The Hyundai station has a manual transmission without a clutch pedal – is it really a gear shift? first appeared on MotorTrend.