Before I get to what you can do with this system and how well it performed, let’s talk about the layout of the touchscreen and the physical control buttons. Kia’s design is sharp, with buttons that are well-placed and easy to use, both on the dash and on the steering wheel. It’s not overly busy to the point of confusion, and you’re clear what everything will do after a short time in the vehicle.
You do get some redundancies between screen and physical buttons, which is a good thing because people have preferences either way. The touchscreen was responsive to input, and boasts a simple but effective layout with clear menus.
You also get a USB connection which you can use for charging, or to upload content to UVO system or download from it
You have a wide variety of entertainment sources offered in the Kia lineup: FM radio, AM radio, Satellite radio, Bluetooth Audio (it’s easy to pair your phone too); and also HD Radio
Satellite radio is one feature you will get used to quickly, and not want to go back to FM or AM and all the commercials. Also, the SiriusXM Travel Link feature offers weather, gas prices, sports updates, movie listings, and stock prices on the UVO screen.
The UVO eServices system offers Pandora integration; Just connect your phone and Pandora can be used in full from the touchscreen, including access to all your saved stations.
Both Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are available now on the Kia lineup of vehicles, so whichever type of phone you prefer, you are covered.
For those unaware; these programs are efforts by Google and Apple to become part of your routine in the car, and allow you to integrate your phone and its contents more fully into the vehicle’s touchscreen. There is no need to be playing with your phone while driving to make calls or send texts, or access your music. It’s all done through the touchscreen (or voice commands).
Speaking of apps, you can download the UVO eServices app to your smartphone, and do quite a few things, including finding addresses on Google Maps and sending to your UVO system for later use. It also has a Parking Minder feature to help you find your car in a parking lot, and tracks vehicle diagnostics.
There are also some cool tricks on the app for parents to watch how kids are using the car, though the kids will definitely hate it. You have Find my Car (locates vehicle); Geo Fence (tells you if vehicle leaves a set perimeter); Curfew limit (the car has a bedtime and you are alerted if it’s out past that time); and speed alert (you can get a notification if someone in the car is speeding past a set MPH).
The Nav system on the Sportage I drove worked well by voice, and understood what I said every time. By hand, though, it takes a bit longer to enter an address into the Nav system, as there is no auto-fill in the various parts of the address entry (street name, city, etc.). As far as getting you where you want to go in the quickest possible way, it delivered every time in my experience.
Whether it was “Call ____”; “Find address”; “FM 88.7”; or “Find grocery stores”, the system worked well in recognizing what I said. Also, it’s POI (points of interest) suggestions were solid and accurate.
Among other tech features that I found impressive in the Sportage were its rear-camera display, which was helpful and clear and made backing out a breeze even in tight situations.
The Parking Minder feature is also great, as it helps you find your vehicle in a crowded parking lot (via phone’s GPS). You can also get maintenance notifications, vehicle diagnostics and more from the vehicle. And you can use the eServices app or the in-car UVO system to schedule service appointments.
911 Connect makes sure a call goes to 911 if your airbag deploys after an accident.
Kia vehicles come with either basic UVO eServices system, or the upgraded system with Navigation. This includes the entire lineup, whether you’re looking at smaller vehicles like the Rio and Forte, or SUVs like the Sportage and Sorento.
Either way you go, it’s clear that Kia’s lineup has grown into a top contender in the area of in-car tech.
The UVO eServices system offered me none of the frustration that I’ve experienced with many of its rival automakers’ systems. That’s impressive, and puts it in contention with the best in the business.
And the fact that it’s keeping up with the trends (i.e. adding Apple CarPlay and Android Auto) shows that Kia cares about staying at or near the front of the pack when it comes to the in-car tech experience, as they know that’s a key part of the decision-making process for many buying vehicles these days.
Matt Myftiu can be found on Twitter @MattMyftiu.