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February 10, 2020

The Kia Seltos's Intelligent Variable Transmission Restores My Faith in CVTs

We’re currently resting up in Baler, Aurora giving the 2020 Kia Seltos its first out-of-town shakedown. Oh, and before you ask, yes, we’ll be coming up with our initial impressions soon, and yes, we’ll also be doing a full-fledged review too. But before all that, let’s talk all about the IVT because, holy shit, it blew my mind.

See, Continuously Variable Transmission or CVT is typically the bane of any car enthusiast. With its artificial feel and rubber band-like sensation, it can turn any good car into a mere so-so one; and for some, it’s an immediate turn off (yes, Subaru, we’re looking at you). Half the time, it’s neutering the performance of the engine, and the half, it’s like staving off a horny dog from humping your leg—it doesn’t know what “middle ground” means.

Well, Kia seems to have found that magical “middle ground,” and it’s called the Intelligent Variable Transmission or IVT. Admittedly, this system isn’t groundbreaking or anything, but it’s funny how few manufacturers could do it so well.

Kia’s IVT combines a CVT’s lightness and simplicity, throws in a chain-link-type belt, and sprinkles in an adaptive shift logic. In short, it mimics a conventional automatic transmission with none of the drawbacks (potential shift shock, etc.).

In their internal tests, Kia says the IVT transmission is good for a 1.27 km/L jump in fuel economy (combined city and highway) compared to a conventional 6-speed automatic. True enough, comparing the Kona and the Seltos (essentially mechanical twins), the Hyundai did a fuel economy rating of 12.82 km/L, while the Kia did 13.5 km/L—within the promised level of increase.

More than just better fuel economy, the Seltos drives much better, hands down. It’s more responsive, confident, and torque-y than the Kona, especially in gunnit mode. Plus, it’s got none of the slipping, drone-like sound that plagues the Honda HR-V so much.

This small improvement, we’d say, is enough for the Seltos to overtake its sibling from another mother, the Kona, in terms of mechanical polish. We can’t wait to drive it some more (through some twisty roads tomorrow, we believe) to get a fuller picture of where this new sub-compact SUV stands.


  1. The front fascia looks like the grill didn't fit. There's a gap below. Kia needs to redesign the grill fast.

  2. isn't the chain link for the 1st gear or so something in toyota cvts?

    1. Yup. That's why this tech isn't exclusive to Kia, but they've executed it very well.

  3. What could be better than the best of both worlds? Leaving the early 1900's clunk and go "it feels like the car is shifting gears" where it belongs, in the 1900s. It's sad that auto makers have to engineer such an archaic option into modern technology. Why not have a completely seamless transition between engine and wheels without any sudden changes of force?


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