Superhero movies on a tight budget are like automatic transmission cars on a tight budget. You have to make do with a lot of compromises for some mindless entertainment or for the sheer convenience of not using your left foot when driving. The gear shifts in a cheap automatic vary from ponderous to vague and slow. Even the best ones are deeply and rather unnecessarily contemplative. We, for one, have always believed a bad manual transmission is much better than an average automatic.
But then, stop-go traffic is a reality. And when you’d rather just drive than keep shifting your left foot and left arm in the endless cycle of clutch-neutral-first-second-first-neutral-clutch, and you don’t want to bother spending too much money, a cheap automatic is what you need.
And a cheap automatic is what the Kwid Automated Manual Transmission (AMT) is. Essentially one of last year’s better built-to-a-price car gets an equally built-to-a-price automatic. It doesn’t form a link to your mind.
It doesn’t learn or unlearn your driving habits. It doesn’t connect to your GPS to understand whether you are on a track or a winding road or in the city and re-alter gearing accordingly. It has five speeds. One reverse gear. And is not exactly a byword of immediacy. What it is thoughts a solid performer. Things seem a bit rough around the edges at first. But give the throttle a fair bit of poke, tune your senses to a light steering and about as light brakes and this Kwid AMT is like an affable, cute Panda You can always feel it shift gears with the momentary pause in the engine note.
Quite the same way when you engage clutch and up shift in a manual. Quite entertainingly, when you floor the throttle, the engine lets out a soft, quick growl and starts the ascend towards a whole lot of momentum. The 1.0-litre engine with this transmission takes some time getting to speed, but once there, the chassis does quite a good job of keeping things fast, stable and planted. On some closed stretches of road, the Kwid AMT crossed an indicated 160kph. It does get rather noisy, but this car at the bottom of the automatic transmission food chain remains rather planted. And has a wonderful air-conditioning unit. Issues? Noise and harshness.
The good thing is it comes with in-built Bluetooth for handsfree calls. The bad thing is you can’t have a conversation if you are travelling above 60kph. While the rest of the interiors are rather bare-bones and something that’s understandable, Renault could have given this car at least manually-operated toggles for the side mirrors instead of having to roll down the windows and adjusting the mirror with your hands. Inconvenient and leaves a trail of finger print smudge. But all things considered, this is an automatic that won’t have you wishing for a manual. Even on the highway.