Renault’s attractive new Scala (basically a Nissan Sunny in new clothes) is currently garnering lots of attention and interest. Powered by a peppy 1.5 petrol and an efficient 1.5 diesel, it slots into a section of the market that has been seeing considerable interest of late. And there’s something even more interesting around the corner - automatic-gearbox-equipped petrol variant coming in the next two to three months.
Also sold as the Nissan Versa in the US market, the automatic Renault Scala will however not use a traditional, and somewhat inefficient, torque-convertor-type automatic gearbox. The Scala instead will come equipped with a belt and pulley equipped Continuously Variable Transmission or CVT.
Now CVTs have always been something of a double-edged sword. Yes, on the one hand they are clearly more efficient than torque-convertor-equipped gearboxes, but on the other, they don’t really drive as well as traditionally-equipped gearboxes. The problem is that CVTs don’t have individual gears, and make do instead with moving belts and pulleys. So when you accelerate, the engine holds onto an ‘optimum’ engine speed, the belts and pulleys vary the gearing and you experience an odd delay in acceleration known as a ‘rubber-band-effect’.
As a result CVTs have never really taken hold. Honda tried a CVT on the earlier-generation City, but went back to a traditional automatic on this City and so have others. Renault-Nissan and Audi however are among the companies that have stuck to CVT and improved it considerably over the years. Audi use a type of CVT on the new A4, Nissan use it on the Teana and Renault’s Fluence and Koleos both use CVTs as well.
The good news is that the Scala will get further improved Continuously Variable Transmission known as the Xtronic CVT. Using a metallic belt and an additional auxiliary gearbox that uses a planetary gear set to perform the job of a traditional torque convertor, this new gearbox also uses a really wide ‘gearing’ range. The result is less ‘rubber band effect’, reduced friction and even better fuel efficiency (upto 10 percent better).
The Renault Scala CVT will compete with the likes of the Honda City, Hyundai Verna, Volkswagen Vento and Skoda Rapid. More efficient than a traditional automatic but better to drive than a traditional CVT, the Scala automatic promises a lot. Definitely a car to watch out for.