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SilverV:
Excellent write up........Yes, it is a different driving and learning curve to understand the CVT compared to the conventional automatic transmission. The key as you mentioned is to keep the RPM's in the sweet spot at or around the 1500rpm range. This seems to be the most efficient range where you can maximize the fuel economy to hit the 38mpg city and 45mpg highway. The driving habits were a little easier for me to convert from the 1.8L with standard automatic to the 1.6L CVT. I installed a Scangauge on my 1.8L to help me relearn how to maximize fuel economy using the TPC ( throttle positional sensor) gauge readout. It was more or less to feather the gas pedal to keep the number of the TPS as low as possible. When I started to drive the 1.6L with CVT, it was basicly feather the gas pedal to keep the RPM's in the sweet spot of 1500rpm.

As you said, don't mash the gas pedal. The car does not respond like a standard transmission. The CVT is not for everyone so I suggest test drive one and see if you like the response, otherwise stay with a standard transmission or fluid driven automatic.
 
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