Honda’s refreshed 2014 Civic lineup will be fitted with continuously variable transmissions or CVT. Any automatic Civic model will now be equipped with a CVT. It is estimated that around 90 percent of the total Civic model mix in the United States are fitted with automatic transmissions, which means that Honda dealers will have to convince around 300,000 Civic buyers annually that a CVT is a good buy.
Jay Guzowski, Honda product planning manager, remarked that the CVT “will not interrupt the usual experience of a car.” Since CVT does not have fixed gear ratios, it does not suffer “shift shock” during acceleration. Guzowski said that a CVT allows for a wider “ratio range” and more linear acceleration feel than a transmission with fixed gears.
Likewise, a 2014 Civic with CVT will have 30/39 mpg fuel ratings compared to 28/39 mpg for a 2013 Civic with five-speed automatic gearbox. However, drivers may find the “rubber band” sensation of a CVT’s pulleys and cones disturbing like a slipping clutch.
Honda, however, is not alone in offering CVTs. Nissan is also offering CVTs on the Sentra, Altima, Murano and Cube while Toyota is featuring CVTs in nearly every trim level of the redesigned 2014 Toyota Corolla. While CVTs may offer some benefits, there is an issue on the longer-term durability and reliability of some units, particularly those paired to higher-horsepower engines.
Nissan chief executive Carlos Ghosn said recently that CVTs from Japanese supplier Jatco Corp. are prone to recalls. Volkswagen Group of America recently settled a class action lawsuit over failures of CVTs in 2002-2006 Audi A4 and A6 vehicles. Other issues involve limits on the amount of horsepower a CVT can handle as well as bigger parasitic losses.