The 2021 Perodua D55L is Perodua’s first-ever model to be fitted with a CVT-type automatic. Now, before you throw a tantrum at the mere mention of CVT, the one fitted to the D55L is very different from CVTs of yore.
You see, the Perodua D55L's Dual-mode CVT (D-CVT) features a combination of steel chains and gear set, vastly different from regular CVTs that utilizes only belts or chains.
Mechanically, the D-CVT is similar but not identical to Toyota's vaunted Direct Shift CVT, despite both units featuring a combination of steel chains and gear set. Actual operation between the two units is vastly different.
What is Toyota's Direct Shift CVT?
The Toyota Direct Shift CVT is Toyota's latest innovation when it comes to CVT technology, promising DCT-like shift performance whilst maintaining CVT-level smoothness and efficiency.
It is used in Toyota models like the TNGA-B-based Toyota Yaris and Toyota Yaris Cross, as well as the TNGA-K-based Toyota RAV4 and Toyota Harrier. Even the Lexus UX gets this fancy CVT.
The Direct Shift CVT from Toyota utilizes a launch gear from a dead stop, which effectively solves the sluggish feeling associated with regular CVTs.
The launch gear works just like the first gear in a regular torque converter automatic or manual transmission, thus giving a more direct feeling that regular CVT belts just can't.
As the vehicle speed increases, the launch gear disengages and the transmission switches back and work normally as a CVT. Even when the speed goes down again, the launch gear will not re-engage, until the car comes to a complete stop.
In short, it combines the familiarity of a regular automatic/manual transmission with the fuel efficiency of a CVT-type automatic.
Why isn't the Toyota Direct Shift CVT fitted to the Perodua D55L?
Good question, the simplest reason why Perodua didn’t fit the D55L with the Toyota Direct Shift CVT is because that particular CVT can only be paired to Toyota’s Dynamic Force range of engines.
Recall that the Perodua Ativa, together with its Japanese donor cars, the Daihatsu Rocky and Toyota Raize, use a turbocharged 1-litre three-cylinder 1KR-VET petrol engine from Toyota’s KR-family of engines, not Toyota’s Dynamic Force range of engines.
As such, instead of the Toyota Direct Shift CVT, these little SUVs instead get the Dual-mode CVT (D-CVT).
Toyota's Direct Shift CVT is also not cheap
The D-CVT is typically found on budget Toyota/Daihatsu models such as the Toyota Raize and Daihatsu Rocky.
But the same cannot be said for Toyota Direct Shift CVT, as it is generally found on more expensive Toyota models, such as TNGA-B-based Toyota Yaris and Toyota Yaris Cross. It is also found on selected variants of the TNGA-K-based Toyota RAV4, Toyota Harrier, and Lexus UX.
Conclusion – D-CVT is still an impressive little unit
While the Dual-mode CVT may not appear to be as sophisticated as the Toyota Direct Shift CVT, that’s quite far from the truth.
Having sampled the 2021 Perodua D55L on Perodua’s test circuit a couple of days ago, we were rather impressed with it, as it is miles ahead of Proton’s Punch-sourced CVT, which needs no introduction.
Even when compared to Toyota's own CVT found in the Toyota Vios and Toyota Yaris, which are already among the best for B-segment models, the D-CVT in the D55L feels a bit more refined and responsive, especially when accelerating at triple-digit highway speeds.
Although Perodua may be late to the CVT game, the D-CVT is definitely a step in the right direction.