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Kia shifts up with new eight-speed automatic

Published: 06 September 2016

 Kia launches new eight-speed automatic
 Same size as old 6spd unit, but 3.5kg lighter
 Destined for many mid- and large-sized Kias

Kia has unveiled its new eight-speed automatic transmission, which is designed for use in front-wheel drive cars.

The company already has experience with rear-drive eight-speed autos, but this is its first attempt at packaging and producing a similar torque converter-based transmission for transverse applications.

Why the need for more gears?

Having more gears makes it easier to keep the car’s engine in its optimium operating range, improving efficiency and performance.

Because there are more ratios in the transmission, it’s also easier to configure one or two of them to be tall overdrive ratios – without overly compromising overall performance.

These tall gears grant super-low RPM cruising at higher speeds, reducing noise, vibration and fuel consumption.

This has been done before, right?

Correct. Aisin AW, for example, produces an eight-speed automatic for transverse applications – including the BMW 2-series Active Tourer, Mini Clubman and Volvo V60.

So what are the highlights of Kia’s new transmission?

It’s the same size as its existing six-speed automatic, yet weighs 3.5kg less. That’s no mean feat, given that there’s two extra ratios crammed into the same-sized casing.

Because it has similar external dimensions to the existing six-speed, it’ll be easy for Kia to retrofit it to existing models, or integrate it into upcoming ones that were based around the old six-speed unit. 

Kia eight-speed automatic

The new gearbox is also reputed to offer a host of efficiency benefits. Kia states that it has designed the transmission in such a way that it only requires a simple valve body – effectively the transmission’s hydraulic brain – and a small oil pump, reducing pumping, heat and frictional losses. 

Kia says: ‘This new transmission enables smooth acceleration from standstill, as well as greater fuel efficiency, improved NVH characteristics, and more decisive acceleration at high speeds than an automatic transmission with fewer gears.’

Which Kias will it be offered in?

The new 8AT will be offered initially in the Kia Cadenza, which isn’t available in the UK. However, in the future, Kia says that the new gearbox will be fitted to ‘a number of mid-sized and larger front-wheel-drive models.’

Don’t expect the gear count to stop rising, though – even Kia has said that its new 8AT acts as ‘a stepping stone to the development of future advanced transmissions.’

Are any other manufacturers upping the ratio count?

Yes – it’s a trend you’ll spot throughout the industry, as every company strives to maximise the efficiency and performance potential of the internal combustion engine. Ford, for example, released its first ten-speed automatic this year.

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By Lewis Kingston

Formerly of this parish. Inveterate car buyer and seller; currently owner of a '68 Charger project car

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