The introduction of a new seven-speed dual-clutch transmission for the Kia Optima range in the North American market has showcased the technology before it heads to Australia in future Kia models.
The question of which Kia models are initially set to get the DCT remains unconfirmed with Kia Australia opting not to take the 1.6-litre turbo petrol Optima.
Kia unveiled the seven-speed DCT in Europe’s cee’d GT at this year’s Geneva motor show. In the cee’d application it’s coupled to a 1.6-litre CRDi diesel engine.
The gearbox itself is capable of handling torque outputs of up to 300Nm.
Sister company Hyundai will launch the first of the seven-speed DCT cars with the updated i30 diesel this month, followed by the i40 diesel in addition to the Veloster Turbo and then the Tuscon (ix35 replacement), both with a 1.6-litre petrol turbo.
In the past, the six-speed DCT used in the Veloster has been available in Australia, but it was torque limited and used only in low output petrol engines.
Considering the engineering similarities between Hyundai and Kia, it’s possible that we will first see the seven-speed DCT in the updated Kia Cerato next year, followed by the new Sportage.
It would be most logically placed in the Kia Pro_Cee’d GT, which is in dire needs of an automatic transmission, however given the hot hatch’s European roots, it would seem unlikely for the time being.
More importantly though, the introduction of the new seven-speed unit in the North American market is allowing Kia to test the gearbox's durability.
Speaking to the Australian media at today’s New York auto show, Kia Motors America vice president of product planning, Orth Hedrick, admitted that Kia was still keen to see the durability of the seven-speed dual clutch transmission used in the 1.6-litre turbo Optima before it expands the drivetrain to other models.
“We want to get some experience with it because we don’t know much about it, [and want] to see how it does. I think for us the durability of DCT… we want to have it in market to see before we start expanding it [to other models].”
“Hyundai and Kia do not share information because we are kind of competitors, so we don’t know what kind of experience they are having with the DCT but I can only imagine as we are tied at the hip in terms of engineering that if there were any problems they wouldn’t be giving it to us.”
Dual-clutch transmissions have had an arguably checkered past in Australia, with Volkswagen’s pioneering work in the field many years ago leaving some customers unsatisfied.
In the U.S. the powerful J.D. Power's Initial Quality Study put Kia as the sixth most reliable brand (Hyundai ranked fourth) for 2014.