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Kia studies dual-clutch gearbox rollout

Automatic choice: Kia’s Pro_Cee’d GT is an accomplished package but struggles in Australia without the option of an automatic gearbox.

No automatic for Pro_Cee’d GT yet, but Kia weighing up DCT for future lines

Kia logo6 Apr 2015

By DANIEL GARDNER in NEW YORK

KIA is evaluating the potential of dual-clutch transmissions across a broad model range, with a seven-speed DCT and 1.6-litre turbo engine combination in the new Optima mid-size sedan – currently restricted to the US market – potentially paving the way for more combinations and a broader market rollout.

The South Korean car-maker is waiting to gauge customer and engineering responses to the entry-level Optima variant, but if feedback is positive, DCTs will spread throughout the brand’s smaller model portfolio.

Until evaluation has been completed, Kia will not commit to offering any other model with the DCT, including the fizzy Pro_Cee’d GT hatchback, which is restricted in Australia due to its manual-only configuration.

However, if the 1.6-litre DCT Optima performs well in the US, positive feedback could eventually lead to the double-clutch gearbox driving the feisty front-driver.

Speaking at the launch of the 2015 Optima in New York last week, Kia Motors America product planning vice-president Orth Hedrick told Australian media the 1.6-litre turbo Optima was providing an active development test-bed for the seven-speed DCT.

“We want to get some experience with it to see how it does because we don’t know much about it,” he said. “For us the durability of a DCT – we would want to have that in market to see before we start expanding it.”

The same DCT is already in use in sister brand Hyundai’s vehicles, but while the two car-makers are both part of the same automotive group, Mr Hedrick revealed the companies behave as “competitors” and development information is not shared.

“It’s in the Hyundai Veloster already and in their Sonata,” he said. “Hyundai and Kia do not share information we are competitors so we don’t know what kind of experience they are having with the DCT.”

The seven-speed transmission is limited to a maximum of 1.8-litre turbocharged torque and power output applications, which would limit use of the dual-clutch unit to smaller models in the Kia line-up.

Kia is working on a second DCT transmission which could cope with higher-performance engines such as the 2.0-litre turbo on its way to Australian shores under the bonnet of the new Optima late this year.

For the time being, the 2.0 turbo is equipped with a more conventional torque-converter-type six-speed automatic transmission, as are other Kia models in the range.

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