Automatic vs Manual gear scooters – which is better?

There has been a tremendous increase in automatic scooter sales in the Indian two-wheeler market, much above bike sales, let alone manual scooters. This articles reviews the mechanics of the two types of scooters, concluding on the various reasons that could be responsible for the preference of automatic scooters over manual two-wheelers, bikes included.

The wind has shifted in favour of automatic transmission when it comes to scooter models popularly available in the market. The manufacturers are also improving the scooter designs to make them more lightweight, generally for the easy use of anyone above the legal driving age. However, has anyone ever wonder what do these words – "automatic transmission" and "manual transmission" – even mean? In this article we explore the very basic meaning of those terms, and derive conclusions about the pros and cons of vehicles employing each type of transmission mode.

Manual Transmission

Let us begin our discussion with manual transmission, because it came first. As the name suggest, manual transmission vehicles need the user to enable shifting the gears for torque transfer from the engine to the transmission. Why is it important to know that? Because that's what ultimately enables shifting of speeds in the vehicle. Now, different types of manual transmission include sequential manual transmission, non-synchronous transmission, preselector transmission.

Automatic Transmission

Automatic transmission is all about automatically changing the gear ratios while the vehicle is in motion, freeing the driver from having to shift gears manually. There is a definite gear range set in automatic transmission vehicles, with a torque converter to provide variable gearing of the engine to the wheels. In short, the machine self-sustains the gear ratio changes and shifts in speeds, enabling the driver to smoothly transition between velocities. Different types of automatic transmission include manumatic transmission (most popular type of automatic transmission), semi-automatic, electrohydraulic, saxomat and dual clutch transmission.

Without going into the detail of the range of manual and automatic transmissions in vehicles, especially scooters, we will limit the discussion of the article as to the advantages and disadvantages of manual transmission over and against automatic transmission, and why automatic scooters have suddenly gained a lot of popularity.

Advantages of Manual Transmission over Automatic Transmission

Fuel Economy

A rigid clutch couples the engine to the transmission in a manually transmitted vehicle, as opposed to a torque converted, as mentioned earlier, utilized in an automatically transmitted vehicle. The upside of this system is that the rigid clutch does not slip and holds the mechanism in place, while the torque converter has a natural liability to slip. Add to that the excess power consumption by automatic transmission's hydraulic pump undergoing losses, like some due to hysteria, and you have a manually transmitted scooter that saves up on fuel economy to come out favourable in the competition.

Performance and Control

It's easily discernable that manual transmission would offer better performance in terms of range of speed shifting because it offers a wider selection of gear ratios. Due to the increased space available in the transmission compartment, manual transmission is able to offer a vehicle 5 to 6-speed transmission (generally observed in cars and higher range bikes). In comparison, an automatic transmission requires certain extra peripherals which aide the self-shifting mechanism such as, torque converters and pumps. This reduces the space available for allowing greater variability in gear range. Thus, in manual transmission, the increased number gears makes better use of the engine's power band, improving the fuel economy by staying in the most fuel-efficient part of the power band, and along with it higher performance, by staying closer to the engine's peak power.

Disadvantages of Manual Transmission against Automatic Transmission

Handling complexity

This is where most manually transmitted scooters fail. The learning curve involved in getting used to the gear system and controlling it for a more efficient and smooth speed shift output. Majority of Indian drivers do not have access to sound professional training in handling of gears. As the market base widens, greater number of inexperienced drivers are brought into the equation. They prefer to opt for the models with automatic transmission for the simple ease of driving without having to fuss over mechanical details. It can be safely said that this is the foremost reason why automatic scooter sales have suddenly shot up exponentially.

Shifting Speed

With better technology, automatic transmission has been improved and upgraded upon to shift speeds faster and more smoothly than manual transmission. As a result, even those riders who preferred the heavyset manually transmitted scooters once for the power and performance, now feel more at ease with the automatic scooters.


As mentioned earlier, the manual transmission system involves a rigid clutch that couples the engine to the transmission. The greater and constant use of more number of mechanical parts in a manual system result in frequent wear and tear of the components, requiring regular maintenance, like, cable and gear shift adjustment works. In contrast, all that automatic transmission requires is a throttle, and the vehicle is in control of the rider.


Vehicles with automatic transmission tend to be more lightweight than manually transmitted scooters. This is mostly due to the reduction in need for heavy machine components to keep the system together and interlocked. All that an automatic transmission consists of are a belt, some weights and springs. A manual transmission system, on the other hand, occupies a lot of space with heavyset clutch system to keep the engine and transmission coupled well during speed shifting.


While a manual transmission system can improve important characteristics of a vehicle like its performance, fuel efficience, etc, automatic transmission vehicles are generally more practical for use in an economy where every member of the family needs personal mobility at all times, and under all traffic and road conditions. With advancements in technology, the day is not far when automatic scooters will reach performance levels matching up to those of manual transmission. It's no wonder that automatic scooters have shown exceptional competition in the Indian two-wheeler market.


Guest Author: Venkat30 Oct 2014


The new Honda activa claims to deliver 60kmpl. Of course the older versions used to give 40+. Whereas Hero, Bajaj or TVS 100-125cc bikes deliver 60-80kmpl comfortably. Do u think the 20kmpl FE difference between a Honda activa like scooter and Hero Splendor like bike is due to the transmission?

In cars the mileage difference would be 2kmpl due to difference in transmission....why do you think it is so high in 2 wheelers?

So, there should be other reasons for the differences in 2 wheelers right?


Guest Author: Soy Jo Mathew08 Nov 2017

In cars if we calculate the difference in % it will be almost same as two wheelers

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