Kia will introduce a new six-speed automatic gearbox later this year as part of its efforts to trim the fuel consumption and carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions of its larger models.
It has been jointly developed with parent company Hyundai to work with transverse engines, which means it is suitable for front- and four-wheel-drive models.
The first UK-bound Kia to get the gearbox will be the all-new Sorento SUV at the beginning of next year. Kia's large MPV, the Sedona, will also use it. Hyundai's i40 the replacement for the Sonata saloon and the Santa Fe SUV are also expected to benefit.
Although it outwardly appears to be behind the times alongside Mercedes' seven-speed automatic and the eight-speed unit developed by ZF as a customer gearbox, Kia says it is extremely advanced. It's also smaller and lighter than their current five-speed auto and has fewer moving parts.
If both gearboxes were to be installed in two-wheel-drive Sorentos powered by the new Hyundai-Kia 2.2-litre diesel engine that will appear later this year, Kia claims that the six-speed model would be 10% better on fuel, 14% faster from 0-62mph and 24% quicker in the 37-62mph (60-100kph) overtaking burst.
Other claimed benefits are a smoother ride during high-speed driving because there would be less 'hunting' between ratios to maintain momentum. Kia says that only Toyota and General Motors/Ford (in a joint venture) have a six-speed automatic gearbox with such an advanced specification. The Korean firm has filed 300 patents during its development.