Least and most distracting in-car infotainment systems revealed

BMW’s iDrive system best for ease of use while MG’s 8.0-in touchscreen most distracting on the move

Least and most distracting in-car infotainment systems revealed

The UK’s most and least distracting infotainment and air-con systems have been revealed, with BMW’s iDrive named as the easiest to use, as part of new research by What Car?. 

Twenty different in-car systems were tested that encompass the majority of the different types of infotainment systems and dashboard layouts on offer in the latest new cars.

What Car?’s testers performed six tasks that drivers frequently do while on the move, including changing the temperature, zooming out on a set sat-nav route and changing from one radio station to another, with each action timed.

Distracted driving accounted for 15 per cent of all road accidents in 2018, compared to 13 per cent in 2016 and 14 per cent in 2017, according to Department for Transport data.

In fatal collisions, distracted driving was a contributory factor in 25 per cent of incidents.

Every second spent looking away can be dangerous, as a vehicle moving at 30mph will travel 13.5m every second.  

The research demonstrates that systems with physical buttons are much less distracting to use on the move than those that can only be altered using a touchscreen. 

It took twice as long to adjust heating controls on some cars with touchscreen controls rather than physical dials.

And it took up to four times longer to zoom out of the sat-nav map to view a pre-programmed route using a touchscreen than it did using a rotary dial controller.

Top ten least-distracting infotainment systems

  1. BMW 3 Series with ‘Live Cockpit Professional’
  2. Mercedes-Benz CLA with 10.25in touchscreen
  3. Porsche Panamera E-Hybrid with ‘Connect Plus’ and ‘Porsche Communication Management’
  4. Audi Q3 Sportback with ‘Virtual Cockpit Plus’
  5. Mazda 3 with 8.8in colour display and ‘Mazda Connect’
  6. Volkswagen Passat GTE with 8.0in ‘Composition Media’ system
  7. Ford Fiesta with Sync 3 navigation and ‘FordPass Connect’
  8. Hyundai Ioniq with 10.25in touchscreen and ‘Bluelink’ connectivity
  9. Vauxhall Corsa with 10.0in ‘Multimedia Navi Pro’
  10. Skoda Kamiq with 9.2in touchscreen, voice control and ‘Amundsen sat-nav’

The easiest systems for adjusting the sat-nav map were Audi’s Virtual Cockpit Plus and BMW’s iDrive, while the most fiddly was the Lexus 12.3in multimedia display.   

The tests also highlighted the benefits of having a range of different ways of doing a task, so the driver can choose the most convenient for each situation.

The best systems let drivers use physical buttons, the touchscreen or voice control to do a wide range of commands. 

The systems in the Audi, BMW and Mercedes-Benz all recognise natural speech, so you can activate them by talking and then ask them to carry out your desired task and hardly take your eyes off the road at all.

However, not all voice control systems are as intuitive or fast to respond; What Car?’s testers were looking away from the road for more than twice as long in cars with the worst systems. 

Steve Huntingford, editor of What Car?, said: “Distracted drivers are a factor in a growing number of road accidents, so it’s important to choose a car with controls that are responsive and easy to use while you drive.

“The best systems provide physical buttons and voice control, while those that are most distracting have sluggish touchscreens and require too many steps to carry out commands.”

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