What is Kia Sportmatic® Shifting and How Does It Work?

Kia Sportage cockpit

If you want to spark a debate on online automotive forums, there are several topics on which you can take an extreme stance to do so. One of the community’s biggest debates is between automatic and manual transmission vehicles.

Typically, automotive enthusiasts prefer the engagement and control they get with manual shifting, while people who prefer driving luxury vehicles and enjoy automotive technology swear by a well-equipped automatic or dual-clutch transmission.

With their propensity for driver-focused innovation, Kia has given the market one of the most exciting automotive technologies available with Sportmatic®. Sportmatic® is the name given to Kia’s reliable and smooth manual shifting mode present on many of their automatic and dual-clutch gearboxes.

Why Use Auto-Manual Shifting on an Automatic Transmission?

Sportmatic® allows you to control the shifting on your automatic transmission. Why exactly might you want to do this? There are a couple of reasons. The first, if you’re somebody who grew up on a manual and loves the feeling of engaging a higher gear to reset the torque curve, Sportmatic® auto-manual mode gives you that feeling of engagement.

Secondly, and this one is especially true in our corner of the world, auto-manual shifting can be great for winter. While driving on snow and ice, losing torque due to a gear shift can be detrimental to traction. With auto-manual, you can keep the gear engaged longer and push your RPMs higher to get through a turn or accelerate without the fear of losing your grip on the road due to a jarring shift.

How Do I Use Sportmatic® Shifting on My Kia?

In Sportmatic®-equipped Kia models, you’ll notice an interesting thing about your gear shift lever. Next to the D for drive, you’ll see a smaller plus and minus symbol. This signifies the presence of auto-manual Sportmatic® mode.

To use this innovative feature, when you shift into drive, simply move the shift lever to the left on D. You’ll feel it pass through a small gate and now when you try and shift up and down, you’ll notice the shift knob doesn’t stay when you move it. Sportmatic® allows you to go up or down in your gearing, moving up for higher gears and down for lower gears.

To cancel Sportmatic®, and return your Kia vehicle back to the standard drive gear, simply move the gear shift knob away from you through the gate and place it back in the standard shifting order.

Can I Stall My Engine or Redline With Sportmatic®?

Sportmatic® isn’t a full manual mode, so you’re not able to stall out your engine or redline it by using Sportmatic®. Your Kia will automatically shift up or down if it is entering an unfavorable RPM range due to a lack of shifting on your part.

This means you really do get the benefits of a manual transmission – engagement and control over your gear progression – without any of the drawbacks like a clutch that can fail or anxiety over engine exertion.

Which 2018 Kia Models Have Sportmatic®?

With Sportmatic® being such a useful feature, engineers, packagers, and designers have included on nearly every model that features an automatic transmission. The following 2018 Kia models include Sportmatic®:

2018 Kia Cars with Sportmatic®

  • 2018 Kia Rio (Standard on S and EX trim levels. Available on LX)
  • 2018 Kia Rio 5-Door (Standard on S and EX trim levels. Available on LX)
  • 2018 Kia Forte (Standard on S and EX trim levels. Available on LX)
  • 2018 Kia Forte5
  • 2018 Kia Optima
  • 2018 Kia Cadenza (Uses paddle shifters)
  • 2018 Kia Stinger (Uses paddle shifters)
  • 2017 Kia K900 (Uses premium shift-by-wire system)

2018 Kia Crossovers, SUVs & Minivans With Sportmatic®

  • 2018 Kia Soul (Standard on + (Plus) and ! (Exclaim). Available on Base)
  • 2018 Kia Niro
  • 2018 Kia Niro Plug-In Hybrid (PHEV)
  • 2018 Kia Sportage
  • 2019 Kia Sorento
  • 2018 Kia Sedona

Most Kia vehicles see manual mode entered by moving the gear shift lever to the left through a gate. From there, moving it backward and forward will shift up or down.

Sporty models like the 2018 Kia Stinger GT and 2018 Kia Cadenza see the manual mode engaged with the use of paddle shifters on the steering column.

Try Out Sportmatic® Today with a Test Drive

Whether you’ve always driven manual vehicles, or are just coasting on a “fun driving” high from the latest Fast & Furious movie, Sportmatic® is more than just a fun toy. It’s practical also, allowing you to control your transmission during times where you want to minimize unnecessary and unpredictable shifting.

It’s a technology you really do have to try out to believe and we’d love to help you see for yourself just how Sportmatic® can transform your everyday driving experience.

Schedule a test drive with one of our Sportmatic®-equipped new Kia models. For more information on Sportmatic®, be sure to reach out to us today!

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