Which Continuously-Variable Transmissions Are the Best?

Which Continuously-Variable Transmissions Are the Best?

Exploring the world of CVTs

Transmissions play a big part in how your car drives, especially when it comes to fuel efficiency. Fuel efficient vehicles tend to use continuously variable transmissions, but they still aren’t universally praised.

Instead, CVTs are often criticized for causing a droning sound by holding the engine at a constant RPM or remind drivers of a slipping (broken) clutch. But not all CVTs are bad. Some act like modern automatics, while others are simply fantastic at sipping fuel. But why waste time testing them all when AutoGuide.com can narrow the list to five? Here’s our take on the cars with the best CVTs available in the market today.

SEE ALSO: Should You Buy a Car With a CVT?

These were chosen because they improve the cars fuel economy significantly, enhance the feeling of the car or offer unique traits that other cars and transmissions don’t have.

  • Disqus11111

    They all stink

  • Shiratori90

    Keep living in the past, luddite……..

  • Shiratori90

    Not surprised at all by this list. Honda and Subaru clearly have the best CVTs within the industry. Glad to see that they are quickly eliminating the stigma and uncertainty associated with the transmissions.

  • Tim

    Well some people like to have fun, ie., drive a manual. In those people’s opinions, any automatic is boring. But if i HAD to buy an automatic, i would probably opt for a honda with a cvt depending on what i needed. But as of right now, i will only buy manuals.

  • Jeff T

    Driven one from Nissan and Mitsubishi. HATED them both! I wish they had a “sport” button that maybe let it rev a little higher. Trying to climb a hill with 1300 rpm is painful and it won’t rev! They just always seem so desperate for fuel economy. Now I would like to try it on a more powerful v6 motor to see and I probably tolerate them then. Also I wonder what towing a boat would be like with them.

  • Shiratori90

    Good luck with your ever-shrinking list of car choices then…….

  • jenny

    My Prius has great CVT. I had a Nissan Versa, I used to think that was great, but my prius outshines it.

  • Jonny_Vancouver

    Great article! ty for writing it :) I’ve been keeping my eye on CVT’s since they became available and I think they have a lot of potential. It’s true the different manufactures make different versions, and that’s very interesting. I’ve driven stick for years, dual clutch, 5 and 6 speed autos, but I prefer the CVT for around town. I’m all for greater fuel efficiency with gas prices being what they are, and these cool little transmissions just keep getting better! Soon I hope there will be one for everyone’s need/want.

  • Richard Joash Tan

    that means that I move on a bit

  • Richard Joash Tan

    I will buy a Subaru soon

  • Moto

    I’ve got a 2014 forester xt. Before that all of my car had been manual (including a 2005 WRX). I’ve been fairly impressed with the CVT most of the time. The article doesn’t lie about keeping the power in the right spot. From a role my gray mom car is able to out pull stock WRXs 2007 and older. After about 70 that the WRX has a better sized turbo and they walk away, but not loosing any time shifting/changing the power band really helps. I don’t use sport sharp mode too often, but sport sharp+ manual mode will let you abuse the engine nearly as bad as driving a true manual. I do wish the paddle shifters were in a fixed position. Downshifting into a corner can be a little tricky if it is long corner that tightens. If subaru had used a slightly larger turbo the forester would be near perfect for my tastes. Anyway… if you live in a rural area or deal with ice covered hill very often it’s hard to go wrong with a subaru.

  • greg

    2009 Nissan Altima Coupe V6. 270 Horses. CVT is very smooth.

  • Jim Beam

    Subaru FTW!!!

  • Corolla Sedan

    Cvt is cheap manufacturing.Personally I do not bite for cvt fuel efficiency,you may save $100 in fuel a year,thats $500 in five years,would you get new cvt gearbox for that money,and are new one available or they throw away gearboxes??? Had 40 years old Holden with same automatic gear box.I did not need another car,but when I find out that 2013 is last year with with automatic gearboxes I jump and bought Corolla,it is a dream to drive it and good on fuel.Leonardo Da Vinci designed cvt gearbox from wood and pulleys,Ducth car maker Daft try to manufacture cvt with no success as durable material technology was not around that time.My gut feeling is after warranty expires there would be lot off sorry customers,but nothing to worry as private car ownership is about to expire with driverless cars in near future as NWO creeps in.

  • Namakabrood Abrood

    You save in gas but pay for transmission repair. Just ask Mini Cooper owners who paid $6000-$7000 for transmission repair @ 60000 miles .

  • dj

    Don’t buy them there not as durable as the older transmission

  • http://xcelplus.com.au Michael Czajka

    Our 2006 Mitsubishi Colt with CVT has almost 500,000 Kms on the clock! The CVT is indestructable!

    We loved our Nissan Micra with the CVT. It got totalled in a crash.

    Also owned a series of scooters with CVT. In bikes the CVT is driven by a rubber belt. Most of them last at least as long as a chain (without any maintenance) and the better ones last many times longer than any chain. Our best experience to date was 51,000 Kms on a Spacy 250 (4-stroke). The Bolwell 110cc 2-stroke belts lasted about 12,000 kms.

    CVT’s are great!

    Wish Toyota would stick a CVT in the Aussie Yaris?

    PS. The dealer says the CVT’s in their Prius’ have got up to 500,000 Kms without failing. They don’t know how long they’ll last before they finally do go bang… but that’s already much longer than a traditional transmission.

  • captainmike

    I have 28,000 miles on my 2014 forester with CVT and it is a magnificent SUV
    I feel really sorry for all the people who don’t do their homework and buy that piece of garbage RAV4
    the RAV4 has not gotten a good review from any qualified review source.

  • captainmike

    and you are an auto expert ??????????????

  • captainmike

    Mini is rated #1 in worst reliability according to consumer reports

  • dj

    I have a 09 Nissan altima with a cvt tranny went out at 134000 mi had two other nissans late 90s early 2000s went over 200 thousandsmiles each one there lighter less durable better gas mileage though you can get if you are light driver heavy hwy driver don’t buy

  • Wu Wei Xu

    I’ve read many articles and comments about CVTs where they say the transmission dies at low mileage (100k miles approx) and repair can cost over $4,000. In addition, CVTs use very expensive transmission fluid, some costing $30 per quart and the transmission takes up 5 quarts. Do the math.

  • Wu Wei Xu

    Mini isn’t actually that bad according to JD Power, it ranks higher than Acura. Truth is, CVTs aren’t reliable. You might save a few hundred in fuel costs but spend thousands to repair the transmission once it dies.

  • tony

    The Rav4 V6 will outlast, outrun, outperform and leave the forester in its dust as usual…

  • tony

    Your correct, they are not very reliable and will not last anywhere near 500k.

  • tony

    So is forester. Toyota Rocks. That’s Rock Solid. GO ravV6.

  • tony

    Reviews are written by Bias writers…

  • Vince Toscano

    hahahahahahahaha thats funny

  • Aditya Ganesan

    i dont care about useless cars like these as im buying a Porsche 911 carrera S/GTS in a few years.

  • Scott

    We own a 2015 Subaru Forester. The cvt surges and bucks at low speed while engine is in cool range. Subaru factory people say it is normal and can’t be smoothed out. I consider Subaru to be a very bad investment. Should of kept the Kia.

  • GJ

    My 2014 Honda Accord Sport was horrible, I brought to Honda twice complaining about the transmission, they once kept it for 4 days and couldn’t find anything wrong of course. It almost got me in a wreck 4 times due to the hesitation that it has, I had planned on suing them but then I thought that I don’t have the time, I only got 6000 miles out of that junk and I got rid of it, I complained to corporate and spoke with several people from Honda and they just ignored me, I had previously bought 3 Hondas from the same dealership and never again will I buy a Honda as their customer service was terrible and wouldn’t help me


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