It's been just four months since Renault launched the Scala and they've already got the automatic version ready for sale. As you can see from the pictures it's identical to the manual Scala apart from the 'CVT' badging at the rear. The interiors are also a dead ringer for the manual except for the new shifter.
The engine is the same 1498cc Nissan engine (remember the Scala is based on the Sunny) that's good for 99PS and 134Nm of torque. The gearbox is a CVT unit that Renault calls the X-tronic. The French company acknowledges the fact that it excels at manufacturing diesel manuals while partner Nissan is well versed with petrol automatics. This gearbox is taken off the Sunny that is sold as the Versa or Almera overseas. Renault officials stressed on the smoothness of the gearbox at the pre launch conference. But they were even more excited by the fact that ARAI test figures (17.97kmpl) suggest that the automatic is more efficient than the manual.
While we haven't had the chance to ratify the fuel efficiency claims just yet we can tell you that this is indeed a very smooth gear box. Right from idle the box engages quickly and smoothly launching you forward without any hesitation or jerks. It is smooth and quiet without too much whine that you normally associate with a CVT. The only downside is the issue that all CVTs face the rubber band effect. This is essentially the buildup of your engine revs as you accelerate hard. CVT boxes use belts to keep the engine at an optimum high rpm as the speeds build up. It's like the noise a Kinetic Honda scooter used to make under hard acceleration. Hearing this continuous high rpm under aggressive driving is a bit of a turn off and we preferred driving the car sedately.
The gearbox will definitely come at a cost and we expect the automatic variants (RXL and RXZ) to be priced about Rs 1 lakh more than their manual counterparts. The question is whether the addition of an automatic gearbox to the Scala's USP of space and comfort make it the perfect self driven family car for the city? We'll have the answer soon enough.