2021 Kia Rio facelift

It looks like Kia Motors wants to keep the manual transmission alive as the South Korean automaker has released its new intelligent Manual Transmission (iMT). The new gearbox has been designed to fit a wide range of vehicles that the automaker offers. This includes vehicles such as mild-hybrid electric vehicles as well as for diesel-powered models. 

The transmission is already in use today as it was recently implemented in the 2020 Hyundai i30 and in the recently facelift Kia Rio. It is important to note that Hyundai and Kia are sister companies and as such they share certain technologies with one another.

Kia imt

What separates the Kia’s iMT from other manual transmissions is that it features a “clutch-by-wire” system. Unlike conventional manual gearboxes that utilize a mechanical linkage, the clutch in the Kia system is operated in a similar fashion to that of “drive-by-wire” or “brake-by-wire” systems. The iMT is also integrated with a 48V MHEV powertrain that works with the brand’s mild-hybrid starter-generator. The result is that the vehicle’s engine can be shut-off earlier than the stop-start-system. This in turn allows for a longer period of engineless coasting. Kia says that with this new technology users can expect reduced emissions as well as improved fuel economy by about 3%. 

Kia IMT clutch system

The unique advantage that Kia’s iMT gives is that even though the engine is turned off while coasting the gear remains engaged and the clutch opens. This allows the motor to easily restart once the driver steps on the accelerator. In order to avoid shift shock from happening the 48V will kick in and will correct the speeds of both the engine and transmission so that both systems lock together in a smooth and near seamless manner. If the vehicle detects that it has slowed down and cannot resume from the same gear the gearbox will automatically be shifted into neutral. From this point onwards the driver will need to shift the vehicle into the correct gear and the system is ready to go again. 

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.

While the iMT system may seem complicated the benefits it brings with it can spur new life into the manual transmission as the shift it yourself gearbox is slowly losing interest in the automotive market as automatic transmissions get smarter and shift quicker. While not yet confirmed this new technological advancement would be an interesting addition to Kia Philippines’ local lineup. 

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