The Kia Sonet will be offered to the public in the Indian market by August, and this compact SUV is notable for a number of things. Its elegant aesthetic, practically taken from the original concept version, is certainly futuristic.
The interior fittings are well suited for a generation currently absorbed in technology, with a 10.25-inch infotainment touchscreen, automatic climate control and a premium Bose audio system. But particularly noteworthy is the inclusion of a clutchless manual transmission in the vehicle’s powertrain.
To be precise, the Sonet will debut with Kia’s Intelligent Manual Transmission (IMT). Clutchless manuals (also known as automated manual transmissions or AMTs) aren’t new, but Kia can be on to something by introducing the technology to a mass vehicle.
As the name suggests, a clutchless manual eliminates the need for the bulky clutch pedal when performing gear changes. In its place is a set of sensors and processors that complement the hydraulics, pneumatics, and actuators to make gear changes effortless and less tedious for the operator.
Gear changes are made via a lever on the gearshift console, or gearshift paddles and buttons on a steering wheel. Note that unlike the H-model on a typical manual transmission, clutchless manuals shift through the forward gears in sequence – there is no option to skip a gear.
And unlike conventional automations, clutchless manuals do not use a torque converter. This has several advantages, from simplifying the powertrain design to reducing power loss and increasing fuel economy. It also allows the transmission to withstand the output torque of high performance engines.
In the case of Kia, sources say the IMT will have a manual shifter following the standard H-model, although there are only two pedals (throttle and brake).
Kia says that with the driver’s left foot unoccupied, coping with heavy traffic behind the wheel won’t be a problem. More enthusiastic drivers can enjoy the feel of manual gear changes without having to time them with the clutch pedal.
We’ll have to wait until the Indian launch is over to see if Kia’s IMT is well received by the public. Is this something you would like to see offered on cars in our market?