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Kia has released details of its new eight-speed automatic transmission for front-wheel drive vehicles, marking a first for the Korean car maker.

The company says its new shifter has been engineered to offer “a high level of mechanical efficiency”, taking up the same space as a conventional six-speed auto while weighing 3.5 kilograms less.

Kia has already developed an eight-speed automatic for rear-wheel drive models – like the large K900 – which is mounted longitudinally, sending power to the rear axle.

However, applying the same concept to a front-wheel drive car is difficult due to limited space under the bonnet and the requirement to mount it transversely.

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The company has been working on the new automatic since 2012 – but, while it isn’t saying, this is likely the same unit that Hyundai debuted last year.

The development program resulted in the filing of 143 new technology patents, with each new design element claimed to help ensure a high level of performance and efficiency in a more compact structure.

Kia’s new transmission boasts the smallest oil pump of any production transmission of its type, meaning it uses less hydraulic oil.

Incorporating an additional clutch and gear over Kia’s existing six-speed auto, the new transmission features an increased ratio between the top gear and lowest gear by 34 per cent, resulting in better fuel economy and improved noise, vibration, harshness (NVH) levels in higher gears.

The new eight-speed also incorporates a direct control valve body to allow solenoid control of the clutch directly, rather than via several control valves, allowing the company to reduce the number of control valves from 20 to 12, resulting in quicker gear shifts

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Thanks to the increased ratio the eight-speed transmission also offers faster acceleration and climbing performance in lower gears.

Kia’s new automatic will make its debut in the 2017 Kia Cadenza, which isn’t offered in Australia.

The Cadenza sits above the Optima in terms of size, sharing its Type-N front-wheel drive platform with the Hyundai Azera – which is the current version of the Grandeur that used to be sold in Australia.

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Above: Kia Cadenza/K7

Australia

Kia Australia told CarAdvice today the company’s local arm has no details of whether the new eight-speed auto will be rolled out here.

Since the Cadenza isn’t offered here, the Optima, Sorento and Carnival are the most logical candidates to introduce the new shifter Down Under, though it could be a while before we see these models offer the transmission here.

Expect mid-life updates of each to be the first chance for an eight-speed debut. But, with all three still brand-new on the local market, that could be a few years away yet.

Watch the above video for more information about the new Kia eight-speed automatic transmission

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