CVT Transmission Winter Driving: Some Thoughts

While most mainstream manufacturers continue bringing CVT transmissions into the market, one of LeaseCosts visitors reached out to make a few questions regarding its performance. As I use to do, all personal information remains anonymous and 


Considering a CVT and saw Jorge's article. Do CVT's have trouble on snow and ice? Do you need to find a car with manual mode, and do you need to manually shift into lower gear ratios for icy or snowy conditions? It's a big deal in my part of the world, even if I would like to stick with Toyota lines? Thank you for your suggestions.


Thanks for reaching out!

I've driven a Nissan Rogue CVT FWD for two winters in the Montreal area and it performed the same as an Automatic vehicle. The difference relies on an internal mechanical feature, but the vehicle behavior with the surface is the same on both.

Have a good one!


Thanks very much for getting back to me. One quick followup. I am in Halifax and live in a neighborhood with hills, ice, and slush. On the conventional Toyota automatics, I would use 1st or 2nd gear to climb steep icy streets. Should I use the Toyota CVT M drive option and gear down, or will normal drive on the CVT work sufficiently? I am not only going to have to get used to the CVT but also ABS, VSC, traction control, etc. which are all on this vehicle.

CVT Transmission Winter Driving: Toyota Corolla


I would say that in an ideal scenario, I wait for a good snowfall and get into a Toyota dealership near your home, test drive a Corolla, and take it for a good ride home. But probably you need your car earlier. 

Based on my experience with the Rogue CVT, when I pressed the gas, it felt like you were actually starting with 1st and then switching immediately to 2nd. Now, see the image I'm attaching. It is a 2019 Corolla stick photo. The D is the regular CVT driving position. The S (pulling it to the left) sets the CVT box to behave more like a 2nd - 3rd start. I remember using it for driving out of ice or with higher engine revolutions and then getting back to D after breaking the inertia. No idea about the B on Toyota...

So I would conclude CVT manufacturers know about this "common" case and have probably filled the gap with the "S"low solution. 


List of Vehicles with CVT Transmission

About the author

Jorge Diaz is a passionate car lover, winter driver & Software Engineer. For the last 10 years, he has built Online Solutions used by more than 5,000 companies across the globe. He founded LeaseCosts in 2016 with the purpose of simplifying and helping Canadians to better understand the complex market of car leasing in Canada. You can connect with Jorge at or send him a direct message.