There is a saying in the US that if you want to deter thieves from stealing your car, you better buy a manual car. The average American knows to drive only automatics and who would steal a car one cannot drive? The situation could soon become true in India and especially in Kerala, where automatics are becoming very popular.
Unlike the traditional automatics, AMTs or Automatic Manual Transmission cars are becoming a rage in the state. It is believed that Maruti's AMT models sell the most in Kerala. About 60 per cent of the sales of Maruti Celerio comprise AMT models.
In AMTs, manual gears are converted into automatic transmission, which translates to better fuel efficiency, lower maintenance costs due to the simple operation and lower costs compared to fully automatic transmission cars. While engineers in Japan and India were trying to develop this technology for a long time, it entails mimicking manual transmission using sensors, hydraulics and computers.
In real life, the car senses the RPM of the engine and does all that is needed to take you forward. All you need to do is relax your left leg, start the engine, shift to drive mode from neutral and accelerate. You can in fact feel the vehicle slotting in to the right gear at the appropriate speed. You of course are spared the hassle of changing gears, which gives you the space to enjoy the scenery or the traffic.
Four popular models from the Maruti stables carry AMT. They are Alto K10, Celerio, Wagon R and Dezire. Except for Dezire, all others are petrol versions. The mileage they offer is astonishing. While Dezire is claimed to offer about 26 kms per litre, Celerio promises about 23 kms. Alto offers 24 kms, while Wagon R returns 20 kms. Compared to this, all blue blood automatics offer less than 10 kms to the litre.
Coming to the driving part, it could take some time to get used to the AMTs, but once you are used to it, driving becomes a lot more easier. When you feel you need more power, you can shift to manual mode and enjoy clutch-less downshifts or upshifts.
Since the car would automatically shift to lower gears if the speed falls, and not vice versa, you can juice up the engine when overtaking or when you need some thrill on the road. Those with a light foot on the gas pedal need to make a habit of flooring it to get some response from the engine. Well, that will become a habit when you buy an AMT, automatically.