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
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
1.0-litre Turbo Hybrid
1.0-litre Turbo Hybrid
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 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.