Kia Sonet Official Image

Kia Sonet Could Bring Clutchless Manual iMT With Turbo Hybrid – Reading Between The Lines

Kia had announced at the 2020 Auto Expo that the Sonet will get a clutchless manual transmission. They call it the iMT – as in, Intelligent Manual Transmission. Now let’s try and figure out how it’s going to work. But, before we do that, let’s first understand how a clutchless manual transmission works.

As the name suggests, you let the computer and a motor handle the clutch while you manage the gear. So, it leaves complete control of gear selection up to the driver.

Also Read: The Highway Problem Of Electric Cars

Auto Clutch by AutoMate

Pune-based AutoMate is already making it and they have over a decade worth of experience making auto clutches. You can probably find a couple more brands offering aftermarket auto-clutch systems. For now, let’s take the Auto Clutch to understand how it works.

Click here to know more about their Auto Clutch.

On the gear lever, you have On/Off toggle switch and a touch sensor. With the switch, you can enable or disable the system. This way, you can use it in traffic and enjoy shifting through the gears in the hills as you would with a standard MT.

When you touch the sensors on the gear lever, the clutch disengages (goes inside). To change the gear, release the accelerator pedal, touch the sensor on the gear lever, shift it and release it. Then accelerate as usual. It also monitors the tachometer and disengages the clutch if the RPMs drop too low.

The entire muscle (motors) and the brains (logic board and silicon) sits under the driver’s seat. It’s transferable to another car. When you upgrade, you can take it out and install it again in the next car. That is a good way to increase the value of the system. Because it costs about Rs. 40-45,000, it ought to offer better value than an AMT.

For instance, you can get an AMT automatic transmission in the Renault Triber for Rs. 40,000. The Renault Kwid automatic is Rs. 30,000 more expensive than its manual counterpart. When you put these prices in perspective, you see that an aftermarket auto-clutch system is quite expensive. For a similar or lower price, you can even automate the gear changes. Not to mention, you get the complete multi-year manufacturer warranty on the entire AMT system.

Kia Sonet iMT (Intelligent Manual Transmission) Clutchless Manual Transmission

Now, here’s the juicy part: Kia Sonet will get the 1.0-litre turbo petrol engine with 48V mild-hybrid tech and iMT. How do we know that? Well, let’s break it down.

2020 Kia Sonet Front Auto Expo
2020 Kia Sonet Front Auto Expo

Kia Sonet iMT

Let’s get this fact out of the way that the Sonet will get the iMT or the clutchless manual transmission. Kia have already announced it at the 2020 Auto Expo.

2020 Hyundai Elite i20 Turbo Hybrid iMT (Clutchless Manual Transmission)

We know that Hyundai are also bringing the next-gen Elite i20 to India very soon. Perhaps early in 2021. Some of the details about the 2020 Elite i20 are already out. Check the engine specs in following sections.

How Kia Sonet’s iMT Works?

In the AutoClutch example, we found out that it engages and disengages based on 2 factors – engine RPM and touch sensor input.

Hyundai have already confirmed how the iMT clutch will engage or disengage. The Sonet’s iMT clutch will work based on the accelerator input and RPM. If the revs drop below a certain point, it’ll disengage to prevent stalling. It’ll also monitor the accelerator pedal input and disengage when you take your foot off the pedal. This will put it in coasting mode, which will give it good fuel efficiency. Shifting gears in the Kia Sonet iMT will work just like a normal manual transmission – minus the clutch. There’s no need to worry about slipping off a touch sensor on the shifter lever mid-way during a gear change.

Here’s a video of the upcoming Elite i20 with a small detail about the iMT. Jump to 3:00 to hear about powertrain and transmission details.

Hypermilers already know that you can coast for longer if you take the engine braking out. Their iMT does just that as mentioned by the Hyundai rep in the video. It disengages the clutch when the driver takes the foot off the gas pedal. This way, the battery could recharge faster and you get far better real-world fuel efficiency. The Sonet’s iMT with 1.0-litre turbo-hybrid will not just be a powerful and convenient engine option, but also the most fuel-efficient.

2020 Hyundai Elite i20 Engine Options

Here are the engine and transmission options for the new i20 in the European market:

2020 Hyundai Elite i20 Engine Transmission Options

1.2-litre

1.0-litre Turbo

1.0-litre Turbo Hybrid

1.0-litre Turbo Hybrid

84PS

100PS

100PS

120PS

118Nm

172Nm

172Nm

172Nm

5-speed MT

6-speed MT

6-speed iMT

6-speed iMT

7-speed DCT

7-speed DCT

7-speed DCT

As you can see, the iMT is only available with the hybrid tech. Sonet should be no exception.

2020 Kia Sonet Rear Auto Expo
2020 Kia Sonet Rear Auto Expo

2020 Kia Sonet Engine Transmission USP

We believe the Sonet will introduce 48V mild-hybrid with the 120PS engine. To offer the iMT, they have to. With iMT and hybrid tech, Kia Sonet can challenge the Vitara Brezza hybrid with possibly better fuel efficiency and performance. With the coasting function, Kia’s clutchless manual transmission can handily beat the Brezza MT’s FE figures even if it gets hybrid tech. In case of the automatic transmission, the DCT is naturally more efficient than the torque converter. So, it should have no problem beating the Brezza hybrid’s figures.

The Maruti Suzuki Vitara Brezza’s petrol engine has an official fuel efficiency figure of 17.0kmpl with the manual transmission. The automatic transmission is a 4-speed torque converter and it also gets mild-hybrid tech. It has a fuel efficiency figure of 18.76kmpl.

Kia Sonet Launch Timeline

Kia recently confirmed that they are starting to retool and setup assembly line for the Sonet. Autocar India interacted with Kia officials and they say that the production of the Sonet is on schedule. However, any more interruptions because of the COVID situation could push the launch schedule further.

The Sonet is currently on track for August/September 2020 launch.

Disclaimer: This article contains personal opinions and should be consumed with a pinch of scepticism. We strive to maintain a clear distinction between reporting and opinion so that we don’t adulterate the objective info with the author’s subjective thoughts.

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Gone but not Forgotten Series – Škoda Octavia Mk1

Do read our earlier article in the ‘Gone but not Forgotten’ series – Toyota Qualis, Ford Fusion and Tata Nano.

Now you may want to understand on the reason why Octavia is being covered though its 3rd Generation is currently is sales in India. The reason is that the Octavia nameplate has been used confusingly by Škoda India. While the first generation (Mk1) was called Octavia itself; the company named the second generation ‘Laura’ (Mk2). Also when the ‘Laura’ name proved to be controversial; the OEM jumped back to the Octavia brand when it launched the 3rd Generation.

The reasons why Škoda Octavia Mk1 makes to the list is – 

  • Introduced to the market early in 2001, the Octavia was the first domestically built Škoda to be launched in India!
  • Škoda introduced the Octavia and targeted the premium segment of buyers.
  • The car was an instant hit among the Indian car customers due to its agility, handling, powerful engine and solid build quality.
  • Octavia was termed to be ‘built like a tank’ and won much appreciation from enthusiasts.
  • Its turbocharged direct injection (TDI) diesel engine version delivered a decent fuel efficiency and excellent power and torque, resulting in higher level of driveability when compared to existing available products.
  • The competition included Opel which sold the ageing Astra; Mitsubishi’s Lancer diesel was a segment lower and the Elantra simply wasn’t competent enough.
  • The Octavia at the time of launch boasted of unrivalled space, elegant design, high functionality, innovative safety and comfort systems.
  • To date the car has enjoyed cult status in India. It owes this to its perfect engineering, style as well as the combination of functionality and technology.
  • Do note that the Octavia Mk1 used to share the platform with the likes of Audi A3 Mk1 and even VW Jetta Mk4.
  • Octavia in a way help build Škoda a premium image for the brand. In India; Škoda is now considered to be much premium than its parent brand VW. While; the brand perception is quite the reverse in markets outside India.

Škoda Octavia Mk1 drove like a dream and the vRS version took it to altogether a different level. The Octavia vRS Mk1 came with a 1.8L turbo petrol was actually detuned for the Indian market and rolled out 148 bhp v/s to the euro-spec 177 bhp). It was still the fastest thing on four wheels at its time. The car had features that were unheard of in the segment, with shattering performance to match. Coupled to a 5-speed manual, the Škoda Octavia RS could cross 210 kmph with ease. Features like headlamp washers, ABS (Anti-lock Braking System) and dual front airbags were also a part of the standard equipment. Till this day, the Octavia vRS remains one of the best driver oriented cars sold in India!



Let us look at the Octavia Mk1 Sales Trend through its years of existence in the Indian market –

*includes Combi sales

  • The volumes of the Octavia nameplate steadily rose in the first 6 years of existence.
  • The Octavia Mk1 Sales peaked in 2006 when it sold 8,629 units.
  • Interestingly, Škoda introduced the 2nd generation Octavia (Mk2) in 2006. Unfortunately, they decided to sell the old and new generations side by side, simply badging the latest model as the Laura!
  • Infact; the decision to bring in the Laura was when the Octavia Mk1 sales were its peak. Also the Octavia still fared better than the Laura in the next couple of years. The sales comparison is as shown here –
YEAR Laura Octavia
Yr 2006 2,817 8,629
Yr 2007 3,455 7,728
Yr 2008 5,545 3,526
Yr 2009 4,068 2,715
Yr 2010 4,912 2,167
TOTAL 20,797 24,765

Škoda Octavia Mk1 redefined things for Škoda India and made the OEM gain a premium brand image in the Indian subcontinent. The sales figures are the best way to judge a performance – The Octavia Mk1 sold 51,108 units (2001-2010), Laura (Octavia Mk2) sold 31,594 units (2006-2014) and the latest generation Octavia has sold only 16,986 units (2013-till date). Octavia Mk1 gave the entry Škoda wanted in the Indian market and it also created several loyalists for the brand.








Gone but not Forgotten Series – Tata Nano

Do read our earlier article in the ‘Gone but not Forgotten’ series – Toyota Qualis and Ford Fusion.

In this post we shall cover India’s one of the most ‘iconic’ cars – Tata Nano. Dubbed as the ‘World’s Cheapest Car’; Tata Nano stirred up quite a storm when the model was unveiled at the Ninth Auto Expo in New Delhi in Jan’08. The world media was stunned by the announcement of $2,000 world’s most affordable production car and was being compared to the likes of VW Beetle or even Ford’s Model T. During the unveiling Tata’s head Mr. Ratan Tata said, “The car has 623 cc engine with mileage of over 20 km/litre.” Comparing it to Maruti 800 he said, “It is eight per cent smaller—bumper to bumper—and has 21 per cent larger seating capacity than Maruti 800.” The vehicle was also labelled as “The People’s Car“.

The idea of the world’s cheapest car was conceived by Mr. Ratan Tata on a rainy day after he saw a family of four on a bike. “The fact of unsafe travel was bothering me,” Tata, the erstwhile chairman of the Tata group recalled in an interview in March 2011. “What really motivated me…was constantly seeing Indian families riding on scooters, four or five on a scooter, maybe the child sandwiched between the mother and father…on slippery roads in the dark.”

At the launch of Nano, Mr.Ratan Tata stated “The journey started six years ago when we overtook what looked like just another business… a business to give Indian families an affordable transport means, a small car which was very low in cost. It is to the credit of the team what we have achieved today. Hopefully, we will be able to give young India a car which was not in their reach to make transport safer for them. I am pleased to say that our promise is kept today to provide a car at Rs 1-lakh. The basic car would be at Rs 1-lakh at the factory gate in Pantnagar,” said Tata.

Nano also altered the 34-year-old political history of West Bengal. The company decided to build its plant in Singur in 2006, which was about 50 kilometres from the state’s capital city – Kolkata. Tata Motors planned to invest up to ₹2,000 crore and turn Singur into an auto city. However; widespread protests broke out against the setup of the Tata’s manufacturing facility, leading to the ouster of the communists after over three decades in power. The state also got its first woman chief minister in Mamata Banerjee who had spearheaded the Nano protests. Due to the political turbulence in West Bengal, Tata Motors decided to shifted the Nano’s manufacturing facility to Sanand in Gujarat. It is said that Gujarat’s then chief minister Narendra Modi reportedly approved the project over just an SMS!

Tata Nano was introduced as a BS-III compliant vehicle and came with an all-new 2-cylinder aluminium MPFI 624cc petrol engine mated to a four-speed gearbox and was available in three variants. The 2-cylinder engine delivered 35 PS Power @ 5,250rpm and a torque of 48nm @ 3,000rpm. The top speed of the car was electronically limited to 105kmph. For good reasons. It’s not advisable to drive it at speeds above 80kmph. It also had an ARAI fuel efficiency of 23.6 kmpl, which was the highest for any petrol car in India! With a length of just 3.1 metres, a width of 1.5 metres and a height of 1.6 metres, the Tata Nano had the smallest footprint for a car in India!

We all drool after SUVs with high ground clearance and high seating position for better frontal visibility. The Nano had all of the above. Huge windows for phenomenal all-around visibility, high seating position, and SUV-like 180mm ground clearance.

The three trim levels and their key features available at the launch were:

Tata Nano Standard (BSII* and BSIII*): The standard version, in three colour options, single-tone seats, and fold-down rear seat.

Tata Nano CX (BSII* and BSIII*): In five colour options, with heating and air-conditioning (HVAC), two-tone seats, parcel shelf, booster-assisted brakes, fold-down rear seat with nap rest.

Tata Nano LX (BSIII*): With the features of CX plus complete fabric seats, central locking, front power windows, body-coloured exteriors in three premium colours, fog lamps, electronic trip meter, cup holder in front console, mobile charger point, and rear spoiler. Many of these features are not available on current entry-level small cars in the country.

  • Tata had initially intended to maintain a production capacity of up to 2,50,000 units, should the need arise. However; unfortunately the Nano nameplate could sell only 2,98,011 units in its entire lifetime!
  • The initial hype around the car was so much that the sales of Nano’s closest competitor Maruti 800 fell by 20%, immediately following the unveiling of the Nano.
  • The Tata Nano had drawn over 2.03 lakh fully paid bookings amounting to nearly Rs.2,500 crores, in an encouraging response to the car launched on 23rd March.
  • The launch response was humongous – The Tata Nano website recorded an unprecedented 3 crore (30 million) hits from the date of launch of the car to the closure of the booking period (25th April 2009), nearly 1 million hits a day. About 14 lakh people walked into Tata Motors’ Showrooms, Croma and Westside stores across the country to catch a glimpse of the car. A total of 6.10 lakh forms were purchased from the booking centres. 70% of the 2.03 lakh bookings received were financed, while 30% of the applicants booked in cash by paying fully. About 4,000 cash bookings were made online through www.tatanano.com, a first for the auto industry in India at that time.
  • Tata had envisioned huge success for the Nano as India was primarily an entry-level hatch market. Rather India was one of the biggest markets in the world for entry-level hatches!
  • Tata registered the highest yearly sales of the Nano in 2012 and since then the model struggled to make an impact.




Primary reasons for Nano’s downfall were:

  1. Branding it the ‘World’s Cheapest Car’. “It became termed as a cheapest car by the public and, I am sorry to say, by ourselves, not by me, but the company when it was marketing it. I think that is unfortunate,” Mr. Tata later admitted himself.
  2. Safety Concerns – In 2010, a Nano caught fire in Mumbai and over the next few months, several such incidents were reported. However; the company denied that it was connected to the car’s design or its parts and blamed “foreign electrical equipment” found on top of the exhaust system.
  3. Elongated Initial Waiting Period. The consumers were not ready to wait and with the continuous branding of the marque as a “poor man’s vehicle” turned customers away.
  4. Build Quality. In 2014, Nano was crashed for NCAP by ADAC in Germany. Despite Tata’s claim that it was expecting 4 stars; the Nano actually got Zero stars for lack of adult protection and didn’t even meet basic UN safety requirements.

Irrespective of the journey of Tata’s Nano; it garnered tremendous adoration from the auto experts. Here are some of Nano’s accomplishments.

1. Nano In US’ Autoline After Hours Podcast Thumbnail

There’s a Nano along with other cars in their background placeholder image. They may stop using it if they found out that Tata is not making it anymore.

Tata Nano in Autoline Afterhours Podcast Banner Image
Tata Nano in Autoline Afterhours Podcast Banner Image

Check out their channel on YouTube at Autoline After Hours

2. Jalopnik’s review calls it ‘an engineering triumph’ and that Bugatti Chiron is an ‘engineering stunt’.

Tata Nano is Better Than Bugatti Chiron
Tata Nano is Better Than Bugatti Chiron

The author’s conclusive remarks were:
“… a true spiritual heir of what the original Volkswagen Beetle, Citroën 2Cv, BMC Mini, and Ford Model T strove to be. I can think of no higher praise than that.”
It’s a level of respect probably no other made-in-India car from an Indian carmaker will every earn.

Tata Nano Design & Engineering
Tata Nano design showcasing Man-Maximum, Machine-Minimum principle executed to perfection – Jalopnik

The entire review is worth a read. Check it out over here: Jalopnik’s Review of First-Gen Tata Nano

3. Jay Leno has one

And he praises the Nano’s AC claiming that it’s better than his McLaren F1’s. Check out his review of the Tata Nano:

4. Tata Nano Could Become A Future Classic

In an Autocar India blog by Perseus Bandrawalla, the Nano has everything in it to become a future classic and a collectable. We agree with the logic. It’s a car with a sound intention that did its job well but failed. Now all that remains is a victory lap in the end and we have ourselves a story worthy of projecting on the big screen.
Here’s the Autocar blog: Power To The People

Second-Gen 2015 Tata Nano Automatic

In 2015, Tata gave it a thorough update. Here’s all that it got in 2015:

  • A fancier steering wheel – the one that’s also used in the pre-facelift Tata Nexon
  • Openable hatch for easier access to the boot and engine for maintenance
  • Better sound insulation
  • 5-speed AMT automatic, straight from the Tata Tigor
  • A comprehensive MID with real-time fuel and average efficiency readouts for each of the two trip meters, gear position indicator
  • Larger fuel tank (24 litres instead of 15 litres)
  • Improved paint quality
  • Smoked headlamps

But none of it could save the Nano from its demise. Due to the dwindling sales; Tata Motors decided to pull the plug on the Nano in 2018. There is no denying the fact that Nano was one of India’s most iconic cars, and will always remain in our hearts as the car that made the global automobile behemoths take note of India. If succeeded; it would have made Tata Motors a major automobile player not only in India but across the world too. Hence; even that the Nano is now gone – It is definitely not forgotten and will always be remembered!








Gone but not Forgotten Series – Ford Fusion

Do read our earlier article in the ‘Gone but not Forgotten’ series here.

Now you may wonder why Ford Fusion was considered in the series. Yes; Fusion sales numbers were dismal – But, as a model it was much ahead of its time. The Fusion for that matter can claim to be India’s first ‘crossover‘ car. Ford had termed it as an ‘Urban Activity Vehicle’. The Fusion nameplate referred to its combination of small hatchback, MPV and SUV design features. Also its economical operation from its B-class underpinnings; enhanced maneuverability from its four-meter footprint as well as enhanced roominess, accessibility, passenger and cargo volume from its tall configuration.

In the Indian market; there was no real competition for the Fusion back then barring estate versions of the Fiat Palio and Maruti Baleno Altura. The Fusion boasted a mix of 1.4 litre petrol and diesel engines and there was also the more powerful 1.6 litre gasoline option. The 1596cc 1.6L DOHC four cylinder four cylinder in-line Multi-Point Petrol Injection engine used to generate a maximum power of 99.6 bhp at 6500 rpm and a maximum torque of 146 Nm at 3400 rpm and was mated with a five speed manual gearbox. On the other hand, the 1399cc 1.4L TDCi SOHC four cylinder two cylinder in-line High Pressure Common Rail Diesel engine generated a maximum power of 68 bhp at 4000 rpm and a maximum torque of 160 Nm at 2000 rpm and was mated with a five speed manual gearbox.  Fusion was an extremely practical car and its ground clearance of 198 mm could rival some of the well-known SUVs too. Ford Fusion was available in four variants which were 1.4 TDCi Diesel (2007-2010), Diesel Plus (2009-2010), 1.6 DOHC Petrol (2004-2010) and Petrol Plus (2009-2010).

Ford marketed the Fusion as The-No-Nonsense-Car; going by its name, it was a very practical car way ahead of its time, and was popular mostly among enthusiasts. Let us see how the model fared in the years it existed in the Indian market –

  • Fusion registered its highest yearly sales in 2008. It was primarily due to the introduction of the diesel engine in 2007. The unavailability of the diesel engines initially was a big miss from Ford and had an impact on Fusion’s sales.
  • The model struggled in terms of sales throughout its lifetime. It averaged 162 units per month in a segment where the competition (hatches) were easily faring >1k units/mth average.
  • Ford’s positioning of the vehicle was questionable. The buyers termed the vehicle to be pricey as it was a ‘hatchback’. Fusion was fighting the likes of Swift and the i20 for volumes. But in reality; Fusion was way ahead in terms of practicality & value for money.
  • The model actually lost out in terms of the negative word of mouth pertaining to high maintenance cost, low mileage and bland looks.
  •  The feeble sales volumes meant that Ford had to let go the model and it was finally discontinued by end 2009 and the stocks were liquidated by 2010.
  • It wouldn’t be wrong to say that Fusion even led the way to the iconic ‘Ecosport’ which was launched in India by 2012.

There are some cars which try to create a segment of its own and have very special characteristics. Ford Fusion was definitely one of them and we can say that though it is now gone; but not forgotten for the attempt it did. – Auto Punditz