Dacia Easy-R, A Brief Guide To Europe's Most Affordable Automated Gearbox

Dacia Easy-R gear selector 15 photos
Photo: Dacia
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Dacia introduced a new gearbox option in 2016, the Easy-R automated manual transmission. While an automated manual gearbox is no big deal for most automakers, it was a significant novelty for the affordable car brand from Romania.
Dacia still makes the most convenient cars in their segments, and this new gearbox option is surprisingly cheap to order - just 500 euros (around $563_ extra.

Other automakers charge almost double for their automatic transmission choices, and some carmakers ask even more, in the range of 2,000 euros (approx. $2,250). Naturally, they provide more advanced units, but Dacia's proposition is no slouch.

After our first drive in the Dacia models with the Easy-R automated manual gearbox, we decided to make a guide to explain how it operates.

We are not going to be too technical about it so that you can read ahead without too much engineering knowledge. The plan is to explain what kind of gearbox is the Easy-R, why is it different, and what you should know about it.

What is the Easy-R gearbox?

Dacia Easy\-R demonstration stand
Photo: Sebastian Toma
As we previously explained, the new gearbox option from Dacia is not an automatic unit per se. Instead, it is an “automated manual.” The term refers to a conventional manual transmission, which has ditched the control of the clutch from the driver and passed the shifting mechanism to a small robot.

PSA Peugeot-Citroen calls this technology a “piloted manual gearbox,” while others describe it as a “robotized gearbox.” Dacia just describes it as its “two pedal solution,” without being shy of its roots. There is nothing shameful about this kind of gearbox, as it is just a good old manual without a clutch pedal and conventional shifting mechanism.

Since it is a simpler solution, it does not require specific or specialized maintenance. This is a significant selling point for Dacia, a brand that focuses on providing value to its customers. Furthermore, the clutch mechanism is included in the vehicle’s warranty, something that the clients of manuals would never dream of, as it is seen as a consumable for those vehicles.

How does it work?

Dacia Easy\-R demonstration stand
Photo: Sebastian Toma
Just like any other automated manual gearbox, the Easy-R from Dacia has a small control unit. This is mated through CANBUS with the engine control unit, and communicates with the gear selector and pedals. Naturally, we are only talking about two pedals here, because the clutch pedal is no longer necessary. Depending on driving conditions and driving input, the gearbox decides its next action.

Let’s imagine a start-up. Right foot on the brake pedal, turn the key, the engine is started. At this point, the gearbox is in Neutral. The driver then moves the selector to the Reverse gear or the Drive mode, if they want to go forward.

When the selector is moved, an electronically-operated actuator disengages the clutch. At the same time, the robot controlling the shift mechanism selects the desired gear. Since the driver still has a foot on the brake, the car is still, but the clutch is disengaged. Once the parking brake is disengaged and the brake pedal released, the “crawl” mode is activated.

Some of you might be accustomed to the "crawl" term. In the case of this gearbox, it refers to when the car moves forward or backward after selecting a gear and releasing the brake. Notice no gas pedal is mentioned just yet, because the crawl mode works at small speeds, suitable for parking maneuvers or slowly moving in a queue.

Driving and shifting

Dacia Easy\-R demonstration stand
Photo: Sebastian Toma
Once the steps described above have been performed, imagine the vehicle has reached a clear stretch of road. At this point, the driver accelerates. If the crawl mode gathered sufficient speed, the clutch has been completely engaged. If not, it is once the gas pedal is pressed. This will avoid unnecessary wear for the clutch disc, but would be impossible to avoid in a conventional car.

The vehicle accelerates normally through 1st gear. Here comes the point when a shift is required. What does the driver do? If the Drive mode is activated, no further action is required. The gearbox will disengage the clutch, while the shifting mechanism selects the second gear. The clutch is then engaged back. It can be perceived while driving, but it is smoother than the average human driver, which forms the majority of customers for almost every automaker.

Second gear is on, and the car keeps accelerating. The actions mentioned above are repeated up until fifth gear. In the case of diesel engines, a sixth gear is also available. The gears are selected accordingly, just like a human driver would, but more economically and with extra comfort.

Once the third gear is reached, the shift to fourth becomes almost imperceivable, and the same goes for fifth and sixth. Quick hint from us: if you sense the moment the car is about to change gear, lift off the gas for a brief moment, then get back on the throttle smoothly. The result will bring a smoother gear change, and your passengers will approve this.

Manual Mode, Downshifting, And Kick-Down, What Happens?

Dacia Easy\-R gear selector
Photo: Sebastian Toma
At this point, you are wondering how the manual mode operates. Well, it is just like the automated one, with the only difference is that the driver must move the gearshift selector forward (towards the dash) for a lower gear, or backward (towards the back seats) for a superior gear. As explained above, lifting the right foot from the gas pedal is a good idea for smooth shifting, but not mandatory.

Downshifting operates just like the regular mode, but is activated when the driver has lifted their foot from the throttle for a prolonged enough period to make the vehicle slow down to a velocity requiring a downshift. This mode will also be activated if the brake pedal is pressed long enough to trigger the same decrease in speed.

Just like in the upshift scenario described above, the actuator briefly disengages the clutch, ensuring that the robot can operate the shift mechanism without grinding the gears, and then the clutch is engaged again.

In the case of a kick-down, the industry term for when the driver presses the gas pedal hard, the gearbox will quickly calculate which gear should be selected, and then promptly proceed to it. How?

First, the actuator (electrically operated on the TCe engines, and electro-hydraulically on dCi engines) disengages the clutch. The second step means selecting the appropriate gear, and the re-engaging the clutch. It is slower than a race car driver, but faster than the average human, as well as more comfortable.

Why is it special?

Dacia Easy\-R gear selector
Photo: Sebastian Toma
The Easy-R from Dacia is an exceptional product because it is a first for the Romanian brand. It is also unexpectedly affordable for a two-pedal solution, and it is surprisingly comfortable to drive. It is easy to understand that is is not a performance application, but having expectations of this kind from an affordable car is linked to fiction.

Still, Dacia’s new piloted manual gearbox option is not slow, but just not as fast as a dual-clutch unit or modern automatic gearbox. We are talking about units with more than six forward gears, as these tend to be faster.

When compared to the average driver, Dacia’s Easy-R gearbox is more economical, more comfortable, and possibly faster in some situations. The latter claim is a rough estimate on our part, by accounting for the fact that a human cannot shift as quickly every single time, when a machine can do this over and over.

The gearbox control system was co-developed with the specialists at ZF, and they are known to have vast expertise in the field.

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About the author: Sebastian Toma
Sebastian Toma profile photo

Sebastian's love for cars began at a young age. Little did he know that a career would emerge from this passion (and that it would not, sadly, involve being a professional racecar driver). In over fourteen years, he got behind the wheel of several hundred vehicles and in the offices of the most important car publications in his homeland.
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