To CVT or not CVT: That is the Question!

Thanks to the excellent feedback here, I’m narrowing down my choice of a new car purchase to the Honda CRV or Suburu Outback. I’m concerned about some of the reviews I’ve read about the CVT. Should I be concerned? Should I opt out of cars that come equipped with the CVT? Thoughts?

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I would add the Mazda CX-5 to the list, it has a regular 6 speed AT. How long do you expect to own it?

probably until “death do us part…”

I have a Subi with a CVT. I like it’s performance, but reliability is an unknown. Only 20k on it.

I’d get the Forester over the Outback, I like the high seating position. And the large amount of room for driver and passengers.

Either If those two Marques with a CVT should be fine. Subaru has been using them for quite a while, and Honda doesn’t use a new technology until it is well proven in testing.

I agree with the CX-5 suggestion. My daughter has a CX-5 with the 2L engine. Power is adequate, even with this smaller engine. It also gets great gas mileage, handles well, and is comfortable. Drive them all and choose the one you like best. On the test drive, do both surface street and highway driving to get a good feel for the CVT. Some people just don’t like the way CVTs feel. You have to decide that for yourself.

Well, if the cvt’s start failing at crazy rate than the manufacturers will offer an extended warranty for a known defect.

The CRV’s CVT was known to cause some vibration issues in the 1st productions. I think they fixed it but check on crvowners forum.

The RAV4 has a regular automatic and probably a quieter ride. The Mazda is a great car but my problem with Mazda has been the low sales numbers leading to shortage of aftermarket parts and in some cases even the dealer doesn’t have regular maintenance parts in stock (in my case, a serpentine belt for a Mazda CX-9). I also like to scan forums for common problems and DIY hints but there aren’t that many Mazda owners so their forum is relatively dead.

Overall though there seems to be a problem with new technology creeping in all new cars, from Direct injection to turbo to CVT and dual clutch transmissions, most of the new cars you want to buy today will have one or more of these.

My wife drove a Nissan Sentra equipped with a CVT for 2 years and had no problems with it. Back problems forced her to get an SUV that was easier to get in and out of on a daily basis. The one thing that did shine about the little car was that it drove very well in the snow. I attributed that to the way the CVT shifted. There was no spinning when the car took off in the snow.

As I mentioned, I have had a Forester with CVT for two years. Great MPG, 30-40 on the highway, 20-30 city.

When I bought my 2011 Outback, I ordered the optional six cylinder engine for three reasons:

It is routed through a “conventional” 5 speed automatic, and I was a bit leery of CVTs at the time.
It uses a timing chain, rather than a timing belt. (A year or two later, Subaru began using timing chains even in their 4 cylinder engines, so that would no longer be an issue.)
You will never say, “Gee, I wish that I didn’t have this much power!”. :wink:

At this point, all Subaru automatics are CVTs, and as I understand it, they held-off on adapting them to their larger engines until they had a good assurance of their reliability with the 4 cylinder engines. And, if you check the reliability ratings of 2011/12 Outbacks in Consumer Reports, you will see a slightly better rating for the models with a CVT, as compared to those with the “conventional” automatic. While I have had no problems with my “conventional” 5 speed automatic, it looks like my fears about the CVT were unfounded.

In fact, just the other day, when I had my car in the shop for maintenance, I was chatting for a few minutes with the service manager. He wanted to know how I liked the Impreza wagon that they had given me as a loaner car, and I mentioned that I was pleasantly surprised at how nicely the CVT performed. I also mentioned that I had been fearful of the reliability of a CVT when I had ordered my car. His response was, “When I was with Nissan, we had a LOT of problems with the CVTs, but I was surprised to see that Subaru’s CVT seems to hold up very well–especially as compared to the Nissan design.”


You DO realize that the Subaru service manager is not going to talk negatively about their products . . . ?

Even if he knows for a fact that there are a lot of “issues” with the product, he’s not exactly going to “confide” in you

BTW . . . I’m not at all implying that Subaru has any bad products. I’m just saying that the service manager wouldn’t be the one to go to for that kind of information

It’s not surprising he said his products are more reliable than the competition

Call me jaded if you like

I prefer to think of myself as more of a realist :trollface:

Seriously, it’s an individual decision that ends up be based on your tolerance for risk… and how much you like the vehicle. The CVT is only one little piece of an entire decision.

Yes, it is entirely possible that you are correct, however, I am on a first name basis with the folks at that dealership as a result of a “relationship” with them that goes back to 1996. I think that he would be less likely to try to BS me than he would some other folks, but–yes–it is possible that you are correct.

However, if you take a look at CR’s reliability ratings for the Outback’s 2011/12 models , you will see that what I said is correct about the CVTs (4 cylinder models) having a slightly better reliability rating for their transmissions than the “conventional” automatics (6 cylinder models).

Great information! Thank you! Assuming that I’m going with Honda, Suburu or something in the same league, should I hold out until the 2017 models come in and buy newest model, or wait until they’re getting rid of their 2016 inventory and by that at a lower price…at least I’m assuming that would be the case. My understanding is that the Suburu won’t be making any major changes until 2018, while Honda is slated to debut a revised CRV for 2017…

“Honda is slated to debut a revised CRV for 2017”

That could be a good thing or it could–at least initially–to be a bad thing.
As good as Hondas are overall, they have displayed a lot more automatic transmission problems over the years than most other makes, and as a result, I would be hesitant to buy a 2017 Honda if that is the first year of a new-design transmission.

Anything that is brand-new is likely going to be more prone to problems than something that has been in production–with running changes–for several years.

…just something to think about…

Yes…VDC… that was my concern… wait until they get the bugs out!

If you wait until all the bugs are out you will never buy anything.

We bought a 2016 outback 6 cylinder and I was really surprised how smooth the cvt is. I was against them in the beginning but we are happy and the fuel mileage is pretty good too.

I wouldn’t decline to purchase a car b/c it sported a CVT. But I’d also realize CVT’s are newer technology and therefore less proven to be reliable than say a 5 speed manual transmission, which has been used for 20 years or more in that same line of car and therefore road-test proved to be very reliable. If the comparison is between a CVT and a 9 speed automatic, I’d have more questions about the reliability of the 9 speed automatic than the CVT. Still, I wouldn’t be overly worried about either. If I bought the CVT or the 9 speed, I might save up a little extra each month in case it needed repairs down the line is all.

I am in the lease it for 3 years fo $200 a month, then repeat. I do not need to care about cvt, or gdi, under warranty if anything goes wrong, repeat. No worries about brakes transmissions or whatever, sure some say it costs more, and you have a life of never ending payments, but sure better than more per month over all and ending up with a crapped out van after 11 years