CVT vs Automatic: Which Transmission is Right for You?

CVT vs Automatic Transmission at Germain Honda of Ann Arbor

When it comes to transmissions, most drivers are familiar with the differences between a manual and an automatic. Manual transmissions require inputs from the driver to choose the appropriate gear to achieve a desired speed. Automatic transmissions on the other hand offer greater convenience by automatically shifting gears based on inputs from the speed the vehicle is travelling at, throttle position, and the engine’s revolutions. In the past, automatics were viewed as a luxury feature since they made driving in situations like stop-and-go traffic much more pleasant compared to a manual.

Today, automatic transmissions are by far the most popular choice among drivers due to their ease of operation and comfort. Across the Honda lineup, you’ll find that virtually every model is equipped with a traditional automatic transmission or what’s known as a CVT. CVT stands for continuously variable transmission and operates in a similar fashion to a traditional automatic.

To help illustrate the key differences between a conventional automatic transmission and a CVT, Germain Honda of Ann Arbor has assembled this in-depth comparison to help clear up any confusion.

2019 Honda Civic Sedan Automatic Transmission

Differences Between CVT and Automatic Transmissions

Traditional Automatic Transmission – When you drive an automatic, all you need to do is select Park, Reverse, Neutral, or Drive and the transmission does all the work for you. Once your foot presses down on the pedal, the transmission matches engine and road speeds for you.

Manufacturers build these types of transmissions with a range of individual gears. In the past, they would have as few as three or four. Today’s modern automatic transmissions can contain up to 10 or even 11 individual gears. These ratios help the vehicle maximize fuel efficiency or deliver responsive performance depending on the application.

Continuously Variable Transmission (CVT) – Although a CVT operates in a similar fashion as a traditional automatic transmission, they are quite different in their construction. A CVT doesn’t use any gears at all.

Instead, they rely on two cone-shaped pulleys to transfer power from the engine, through the transmission, and to the drive wheels. These pulleys are able to vary their width depending on power inputs, hence the name Continuously Variable Transmission. Working in tandem, these pulleys allow a CVT to accelerate with both smoothness and strength.

2019 Honda Civic

Benefits of Driving a CVT or Automatic Transmission

Listed below are a few benefits of choosing each type of transmission. Depending on your driving style, you’ll learn which type of transmission is best suited to you.



  • Greater driver engagement and response through the use of individual gears
  • Greater serviceability and lower repair costs compared to CVTs
  • Genuine relationship between engine sound and speed traveled



  • Superior fuel economy compared to traditional automatics
  • Smaller size and lighter weight
  • Smooth acceleration with no “shift-shock”
  • Fewer components and lower cost to manufacture
2019 Honda Accord

Honda Models Available with CVT or eCVT

  • Civic Sedan

  • Civic Coupe

  • Civic Hatchback

  • Accord

  • Fit

  • HR-V

  • CR-V

  • Insight

  • Accord Hybrid

  • Clarity Plug-In Hybrid