Staff Writer - CheersandGears.com
September 20, 2013
For the past few years, Kia has become the brand that offers a lot of equipment for a very surprising price. Kia is now applying that idea into their infotainment systems. Last year, Kia introduced the next-generation of their UVO which brings forth a new layout, more features, and what Kia calls UVO eServices. I had the chance to play around with UVO in the 2014 Kia Cadenza I reviewed earlier this week.
First, a quick history on UVO. Introduced back in 2010, UVO was jointly developed by Kia and Microsoft. The system used a 4.3-inch color display and a advanced voice recognition system that allows drivers to take phone calls, send SMS messages, and access media through a variety of sources. Sadly, you couldn't get UVO if your Kia came equipped with navigation. The new version of UVO addresses that as you can get UVO with or without navigation. On certain Kia models, you have the choice of a 4.3-inch screen without navigation or an 8-inch screen with navigation. All Cadenzas come equipped with the 8-inch screen as standard.
Using UVO on a daily basis was a breeze thanks to a simple, yet elegant interface with large touch points. The system responded very quickly whenever I changed stations, inputs, or different functions. Not bad for a new infotainment system. Voice commands also worked pretty flawlessly. No matter what I spoke, the system was able to comprehend and perform the task. Whether it was to play a certain song off my iPod or making a phone, UVO did it.
The only real downside to using UVO deals with the button layout in the center stack. As I wrote in my Cadenza review, the buttons are too similar in size and shape. Add in the fact the buttons are mounted low in the center stack and you have someone taking their eyes of the road longer than necessary.
Now on to the star of the next-generation UVO system, eServices. UVO eServices is much like General Motor's OnStar where it offers a number of services for drivers in day-to-day use and in the event of an emergency. Where it differs from OnStar and number of other services is how it connects. With OnStar and other systems like it, they have a cellular connection in the vehicle to offer those services, hence why you have pay a fee to you use it. With UVO eServices, the system uses your cell phone to provide the connection via the Bluetooth system.
Once your phone is paired with the system, you can use eServices. The services available are;
- Roadside assist: Calls Kia's Roadside Assistance
- Vehicle diagnostics: Reports if there is anything wrong with the vehicle and allows a driver the option of to call a nearby dealer to schedule an appointment or call for roadside assistance.
- Parking minder: Sends coordinates of where the vehicle is parked to your smartphone via the UVO smartphone app.
- My POIs: Stores specific points of interest for quick recall; i.e. Your Home.
- eServices Guide: Walks users through some of eServices functions
- GPS Info: Displays coordinates of the GPS system.
Other features of eServices include automatic 911 notification if the airbags deploy, a UVO smartphone app that allows your iPhone or Android smartphone some connection to the vehicle, and MyUVO.com where you can get basic diagnostic information and can schedule a dealer appointment.
While I didn't get the chance to play around with all of the eServices, I can say Kia has a very impressive package here. UVO's eServices doesn't offer all of the services like OnStar, but it does cover the basics really well. Add in the fact that you don't have to pay an annual fee to use it only increases the value.
It's hard to believe that Kia could be one of the automakers leading the way with infotainment systems. But with the new UVO system and UVO eServices, Kia has a one-two punch that's places it at the top of the infotainment pile.