In-car entertainment or ‘infotainment’ systems are becoming increasingly important in modern cars, with the latest models offering a vast range of technology, from familiar audio systems through to ‘sat-nav’ navigation aids and smartphone pairing. The infotainment system’s role is to make it simple for owners to get the most from their car’s technological offering, but some are more successful than others.
According to research by BookMyGarage.com, over 70% of British adults don’t know how to use the in-car entertainment set-ups in their cars. With such a large portion of the driving population currently clueless about their cars’ current technology, it could be argued that perhaps most people aren’t interested in what their vehicles have to offer. However, a figure from the same study shows that over 50% of those people actually bought their cars because those same systems were included.
What is the point in people filling their cars with the very latest in navigation, audio and connectivity tech just for it to go unused? Is it the case that they want all of the functionality but can’t use the control system because it’s not intuitive enough? Or is it the case that they simply like the idea when configuring their car, but in real life simply don’t need it?
We teamed up with Alphr.com to test all the main manufacturer fitted systems and see how intuitive they are. We tested the 10 most searched-for car brands, and broke our test down into five sections, rating infotainment systems on their usability, performance, connectivity, sat-nav, and, finally, their cost. Each car got a score out of five for each section of the test - here’s how we did it…
How quickly can the in-car entertainment system be used? Are the functions simple? How many steps does it take to change a setting? Driver distraction is a key factor in road accidents, with your risk of an accident increased 24-fold with every two seconds looking away from the road, so this is really important.
Is the interface simple but comprehensive? We tested the colour quality and brightness. As we all know, a slow system can be extremely irritating and distracting, so we tested the car’s internet speed and voice control system.
As most of us now consider our mobile devices to be an extension of ourselves, the option to connect these to the car is vital. We looked at how easy it is to link various phones to each system, also testing whether the device was remembered after being paired. We also tested any onboard apps or systems, such as Mirrorlink.
Sat-nav is one of the most used functions in modern cars, so we tested the same route across all the systems, looking for map quality, accuracy and ease of use.
The bottom line. How much does it all cost? We compared systems and various add-ons to see how far your money goes on each manufacturer’s set-up.
There were distinct winners and losers when taking each area of focus into consideration, but all of the infotainment systems we tested scored more than an average of 3 out of 5.
Nissan's CONNECT system scored the lowest score in our individual categories, with Performance only being rated 2 out of 5, while Mercedes' COMAND tech's high price tag meant it's cost score came in at 2.5 out of 5.
SEAT scored the biggest number of 5 out of 5 scores in the individual categories and had the highest overall score, with BMW, Audi and Vauxhall not far behind.
Do you find your car's infotainment system easy to use? Let us know in the comments section below...