Manual lovers rejoice.
It looks like the stick-shift transmission is here to stay with Kia. In fact, they have even upgraded their manual transmission with new technology.
The South Korean automaker recently revealed more details about their new intelligent Manual Transmission (iMT). This new gearbox is designed for a range of vehicles including the marque’s mild-hybrid electric vehicles (MHEVs) and diesel-powered models. For reference, the gearbox was first introduced into the market in the 2020 i30 and the facelifted Rio earlier this year.
What makes Kia’s iMT unique is that it features “clutch-by-wire” technology. Unlike a traditional manual transmission that uses a mechanical linkage, the clutch is operated purely electronically similar to “drive-by-wire” and “brake-by-wire”. The transmission is also integrated with a 48V MHEV powertrain and works with the mild-hybrid starter-generator (MHSG) unit. As a result, the engine can be shut-off earlier than the stop-start system, allowing for a longer period of engineless coasting. Kia says this results in reduced emissions and improves fuel economy by 3%.
What’s unique about iMT is that even though the engine has turned off, the chosen gear remains engaged and the clutch opens. This will allow the engine to seamlessly restart once the driver steps on the accelerator again. Meanwhile, the 48V system brings engine and transmission back to the correct speed. If the car slows down too much and cannot resume in the same gear, the engine is automatically restarted in neutral.
“We are always looking at new ways to improve powertrain efficiency and performance, and the iMT is one such innovation. An automatic or a dual-clutch transmission suits a lot of drivers, but European drivers in particular still love changing gear for themselves. Alongside the increasing demand for electrified models, the iMT is a result of us exploring ways to electrify the ‘classic’ manual transmission,” said Dr. Michael Winkler, Head of Powertrain at Hyundai Motor Europe Technical Centre.
Kia’s new iMT might be seen as complicated, to say the least. But, it does give us hope that the stick-shift transmission will still be available in future models, including hybrids. Hopefully, we get to see this gearbox in action when Kia Philippines launches new models in the future.