Kia has released fresh details of its new “intelligent” manual gearbox, which comes complete with an electronic rather than mechanical linkage for the clutch.

Created for use on models equipped with a mild-hybrid system, the Korean firm says the new “clutch-by-wire” arrangement will boost fuel efficiency and reduce emissions, while “retaining the driver engagement of a conventional manual transmission”.

So, how does it work? Well, instead of a mechanical linkage, the new cog-swapper’s clutch operates purely electronically, integrated “seamlessly” with a 48 V system.

The gearbox works with the mild-hybrid starter generator to switch off the engine earlier than usual when coasting to a halt. Interestingly, the chosen gear remains engaged even with the engine off.

Kia says the engine restarts in the same gear “as soon as the driver presses either the brake or accelerator pedals” thanks to the burst of power provided by the starter generator. The transmission restarts the engine in neutral (with an open clutch) if the driver pushes the clutch pedal to change gear, or if the vehicle speed is too low for the current engaged gear.

The firm says the new gearbox will debut in Europe in a version of the facelifted Rio, which will employ a new 1,0-litre T-GDi petrol mild-hybrid powertrain. The new transmission will furthermore be “adopted across a number of future Kia models”, with the brand set to introduce a range of new engines and mild-hybrid powertrains in Europe later in 2020.