Kia Australia reckons sales of the sporty hatchback could increase markedly, should a dual-clutch automatic gearbox be offered. And lo and behold, such a drivetrain exists.
In the Kia stable there is a new Sportage, which has a 1.6-litre turbocharged four-cylinder engine (1.6T GDI, for gasoline direct injection) that is slightly detuned for the SUV model – 130kW rather than 150kW – but still churns out 265Nm of torque. It is teamed to Hyundai-Kia’s new seven-speed dual-clutch transmission.
Could it spell an end to Kia Australia’s concerns that the Pro_cee’d may have to be put out to pasture because hardly anyone is buying manual models anymore? Potentially, according to Hyundai-Kia head of powertrain development, Dr Michael Winkler.
Speaking with CarAdvice at the 2015 Frankfurt motor show, Winkler suggested that an automatic version is understandably attractive to Australian buyers.
“First of all, we understand Europe is, more or less, the only market for manual transmissions,” Winkler said. “And we very well understand that as with Australia, Asia is mainly not a manual transmission market.
“I quite understand that you would like to combine the 1.6T GDI with the seven-speed DCT.
“In principal the combination is possible, as you see it in the Sportage. So there we are able to offer exactly that combination, 1.6T GDI with the seven-speed dual-clutch transmission.
“But it is not just combining an engine with a transmission: it also has to fit to the vehicle, to become integrated to the vehicle,” Winkler said.
“So we have to wait and see if this wish from you guys can be fulfilled or not. It’s definitely not time for me to say yes or to say no.”
Winkler made it clear that just because Australia wants it, and the combination is technically possible, does not mean that it will happen. The numbers must be crunched before something like that will occur.
“When you want to introduce the technology, you have to think about the market share globally,” he said.
“And so I think this is an item that needs to be addressed to the sales organisation and it is not something that can be discussed from the technical point of view.
“So this is more related to sales and marketing whether to produce this variant or not.”
Going on the sales of the manual model in Australia, things could be in better shape.
The Kia Pro_cee’d GT has managed just 295 sales this year (to the end of August), which is but a shadow of the sales of its sister model, the Hyundai Veloster (2238 YTD). And yes, the Veloster has an auto option.