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Do You Despise the CVT Transmission? Blame it on the Subaru Justy

Do you remember the Subaru Justy? The Justy was the first car in the world equipped with 4WD and ECVT.

If you dislike the CVT transmission, you can blame it on the Subaru Justy. In 1989 the Justy became the first production car in the US to offer CVT (Continuously Variable Transmission) technology. The mini car from Subaru is celebrating a big day today. It was first released on November 1, 1988. So today, can also be remembered as CVT day around the world thanks to the Justy.

The Justy was the first car in the world to come equipped with 4WD and ECVT. It was a big thing for Subaru and Justy was the car to introduce the world to the new transmission that was a cross between an automatic and manual transmission. The CVT is fuel efficient and that’s why automakers continue to use it today. But many loathe the way it works.

Why many despise the CVT

The drawbacks are obvious to anyone who has driven one. In technical terms, a CVT transmission uses a pair of adjustable pulleys and a segmented metal drive belt to deliver engine power to the drive wheels. The metal belt or steel pulley gives off a whining noise when you push on the gas pedal. The sound is similar to the noise jet engines make when the pilot gives the plane full throttle for takeoff. A low pitched continuous whine that can be annoying.

Subaru offered the CVT as an option in its mini 1989 Justy after having tested it for two years in cars sold in Japan. Subaru added electronic control to the system and therefore the ECVT billing. The Justy was fuel efficient and the EPA rating with ECVT was 34 mpg city. It also came standard with 4WD making it a practical all-weather vehicle.

The Subaru Justy was the first car in the U.S. to feature the new fuel-efficient CVT automatic. Now, all automakers use the automatic CVT for its fuel-efficiency. So if you despise the Continuously Variable Transmission, blame it on Subaru and the mini Justy.

Source: Subaru Global

Photo: Subaru


Marc Stern    November 1, 2016 - 9:51AM

I remember the first Justy I drove for my column about 20 years ago. As I remember it, it was a nice concept, but --- lots of buts -- the engine was underpowered, the ECVT seemed like it was one big elastic band and finally the AWD feature, while, nice kind of wrecked the engine's output. Still, it was an interesting ride and the Justy did have its proponents. I worked with a chap who just loved his. I think he was the only motorist in the area with one, but he wouldn't part with it. Guess it takes all kinds and that was just my own take on the vehicle at the time -- like a DAF with an anchor. :)