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Analysis of Hyundai Motor Group’s 2WD Traction Mode

2019-09-06

The Hyundai Venue and Kia Seltos are both FWDs with 2WD Traction Mode. They may not be off-road SUVs, but both pack more than enough rough-road driving capability for everyday use. Here, we take a closer look at that rough-road driving technology.

The SUV segment has been leading the auto market recently, with a notable increase in the variety of small SUVs. They have enjoyed great popularity due to its versatility with diverse lifestyles, as well as various capabilities and unique designs. Opinion is divided on whether small SUVs should be called CUVs (cross-over utility vehicles). 

There are various reasons for this. First is that the relative lack of size detracts from one of the leading practicalities of the SUV – size. 

Small SUVs aimed for urban use has little reason to use all-wheel drive

Another reason is that most small SUVs are oriented for urban driving. There is little reason to power all four wheels, and not many consumers desire it. 4WD systems may improve driving stability, but also increases weight and negatively impacts fuel economy, ultimately raising costs. Small SUVs rarely come with 4WD due to those reasons. 

The “standard” SUV with 4WD capabilities can do amazing things like this

However, there is always that “what if…?” question in the back of the mind. For instance, what if you take the small SUV out over suburban terrain, or even camping. You might encounter off-road conditions or heavy snow. SUV owners will not think twice about engaging all four wheels to get that juicy traction out of the mud or gravel pit, or slushy snow. For small SUV owners that only have FWD at their disposal, this is not a welcome scenario. 

Traction Mode solves 2WD limitations

Enter the Traction mode, based on multi-traction control which controls the driving force of the wheels according to what the situation requires. The key idea is to maximize traction and contact surface to minimize slippage under off-road conditions, using the Traction Control System(TCS). The system will take most small FWD SUVs through snow, mud, and sand terrain. 

Press the dial that reads ‘DRIVE/TRACTION’ then twist it left and right to active the 2WD Traction Mode.

The systems if far lighter than 4WD systems, weighing only about 80kgs (component weight in Seltos) and highly affordable. Of course, it is not the same as a full 4WD SUV’s ability to overcome rough conditions, but it does overcome some major shortcomings such as weight and cost for a very reasonable compromise.  

Previously, on the small SUVs in a limited number of European automakers featured this technology. Now, Hyundai and Kia have introduced a similar technology for small SUVs such as the Venue and Seltos, named ‘2WD Traction Mode’. 

Hyundai and Kia’s 2WD Traction Mode

Hyundai and Kia’s 2WD Traction Mode offer 3 modes: Snow, Mud, and Sand. The vehicle operator merely needs to identify the type of road condition, then turn the Drive Mode / 2WD Traction Mode dial to the left or right and the system finds the optimal performance option for the road surface. 

The technology works on the following principle: If the wheel is spinning faster than the detected speed of the vehicle, which occurs when the wheels are spinning without traction, the sensors control the engine and brakes to regain driving and braking power. When the wheel speed sensor detects slippage, the TCS adjusts engine output through continuous feedback, and also allows the brake control to distribute power and brakeage different between the left and right wheels. From slippage detection to wheel braking and differential only takes 0.3 seconds. 

Seltos’ FWD system Engine torque and differential braking can be done via TCS.

Hyundai and Kia’s 2WD Traction Mode is impressive in that it provides differentiated control of the vehicle’s driving power based on the road surface. For example, the Mud Mode spins the wheels more than 10kph faster than the speed of the car’s actual movement, providing extra traction. The rapid spinning wheels help remove the slippery mud on the tire’s surface, improving acceleration conditions even on muddy roads, and allows rapid forward movement in treacherously muddy conditions where ceasing movement can mean getting stuck. 

Select between Snow, Mud, and Sand conditions to use the 2WD Traction Mode

Putting the Traction Mode to ‘Snow’ will make the TCS monitor the driving surface to provide different schemes when over packed and unpacked snow. In other words, 2WD Traction Mode only has one Snow mode, but that one mode is managed by the TCS to be able to identify the state of snow on the road to adjust the wheel’s revolution.

On frozen snow where wheels are more likely to slide out, driving surface resistance and friction coefficient are low, so TCS lowers wheel revolution and minimizes braking, as fast turning wheels and sudden braking can cause the wheels to lose traction and slide. Conversely in deep snow, TCS controls the wheels to spin faster than the measured speed of the vehicle. The relatively higher road surface resistance of deeper snow can cause the vehicle to sink in deeper, so a higher rate of wheel revolutions can prevent sinking in. 

Light off-roading is no problem for the 2WD Traction Mode

A similar control system works for sandy road conditions, ramping up the wheel revolutions to avoid getting stuck in sand. The strong rotational force of the wheel can prevent the softer surface bogging down the vehicle.

Driving test was performed on a sand road. The true value of the 2WD Traction Mode

However, the 2WD  Traction Mode only activates at speeds of 80kph or lower, for safety reasons. It is unlikely for a vehicle to operate at speeds greater than that over rough terrain, and if the vehicle is in fact operating at high speeds, using Mud Mode or Sand Mode can make the vehicle unstable. If the operator selects Traction Mode at speeds exceeding 80km the system, simply continues to operate at normal mode.

Comparison of Traction Mode Performance

Compared to competing models, the Venue’s 2WD Traction Mode matches or outperforms them.

As seen above, the 2WD Traction Mode on the Venue and the Seltos is a great way to minimize disadvantages while maximizing the advantages of small SUVs without high costs. Hopefully the technology allows an ever-growing number of drivers great driving experiences in small SUVs.