Kia's next generation of mainstream passenger vehicles will feature turbocharged engines and dual-clutch transmissions similar to those offered by its European rivals.
Hyundai Motor Europe Technical Centre powertrain manager Michael Winkler confirmed downsized turbo petrol engines were a major focus of the work currently being conducted by his team, which develops powertrains for both Kia and Hyundai.
Kia unveiled a turbocharged 1.0-litre three-cylinder petrol engine at last year’s Geneva motor show, and this year debuted its seven-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission (DCT) that will make its way into production cars in 2015.
Volkswagen and Ford are two of the strongest subscribers to the strategy of downsizing engines, applying turbochargers and using DCTs to enhance the performance and fuel efficiency of their cars, and the South Korean car maker is almost ready to join them on the bandwagon.
Winkler explained an upper torque limit meant Kia’s seven-speed DCT would be best suited to petrol and diesel engines up to two litres in capacity, with conventional torque-converter automatics remaining the best option for higher-displacement engines for the foreseeable future.
The new transmission is understood to be compact and versatile enough to fit almost all vehicle sizes, including the Rio city car.
Winkler said his team was aware of the criticism of the low-speed performance of the DCTs offered by some of its rivals, and said he was confident Kia’s system would not be plagued by similar issues.
“Of course we have observed all the journalists writing about our competitors, that is part of our job. We have to take care for items which are seen on our competitors as negatives,” Winkler said.
“We are confident [in our DCT]. You have to be convinced that the technology is sufficient enough to bring to the market.”
Winkler said the car maker had investigated a range of technologies including twin-turbocharging, supercharging and twin-charging (combining turbocharging and supercharging), but found the single-turbo system the best balance in terms of cost, performance and efficiency.
Some future models will also incorporate the brand’s new mild hybrid system (pictured above), which comprises a lead-carbon battery, a small electric motor, and in some applications an electric supercharger to both cut fuel consumption and emissions and boost power and torque outputs.
Winkler said his team was also currently investigating the effect of altering the compression ratios of its engines, following Mazda’s success in this area with its new Skyactiv petrol and diesel powerplants.