As a new-car reviewer, it’s my job to drive a new car pretty much every week. Sometimes it’s more than one a week. Over the course of a year, I can experience scores of different automotive navigation systems.
Some are good, some are horrible, and some are somewhere in between. Yet what I consistently find is that none are as easy to use as Google Maps on my iPhone. Until recently, the only advantage the factory-installed navigation systems had was the built-in screen.
But that’s all changing now. Some manufacturers are getting savvy and realizing that it’s better to offer infotainment systems that can work with your smartphone to provide navigation instead of selling you a more expensive navigation system.
The two best systems currently on the market are available as part of cars from two cost-effective makers, Chevrolet and Hyundai.
Before delving into which infotainment systems integrate smartphones most effectively, let’s tackle why you would want to use a smartphone instead of a built-in system. A couple of reasons come to mind, the first being that you should always be up to date with a smartphone (assuming you do the upgrades). It can be difficult to update a factory-installed navigation unit without a trip to the dealer.
The second reason is money. Why pay to duplicate in your car something that’s already in your pocket? Later on I’ll praise the Hyundai Elantra for its Display Audio system, but for now I’ll pan the fact that it costs $2,500 to have navigation added. Sure, there are other features included, and Display Audio costs $800 (again with additional features).
Hyundai Display Audio
With Hyundai’s Display Audio you can run either Apple CarPlay or Android Auto and bring a lot of the functionality of your smartphone to your car’s head unit. And, as I said above, it should always be up to date.
Sure, the screen is a tad smaller at 7 inches vs. 8, but that’s not a deal breaker. The Display Audio in the 2017 Hyundai Elantra provides pretty seamless operation of the most commonly used smartphone functions, including app-based navigation, streaming audio, voice-controlled search capabilities, plus any approved smartphone apps.
The only downside to this system? It’s not Bluetooth enabled yet, but at least Hyundai offers you a direct USB port to plug your phone in as well as an additional port for charging. It’s a little touch that’s very handy.
Chevrolet’s MyLink system
Like with the Hyundai system, Chevrolet’s 7-inch MyLink infotainment system gives owners a simple way to access both Android Auto and Apple CarPlay. The 8-inch version of MyLink will be compatible only with Apple CarPlay at the beginning of the 2016 model year.
Chevy’s Android Auto is built around Google Maps, Google Now, and the ability to talk to Google, as well as a growing audio and messaging-app ecosystem that includes WhatsApp, Skype, Google Play Music, Spotify, and podcast players.
Apple CarPlay takes the iPhone features you’d want to access while driving the Chevy and puts them on the vehicle’s display in a smart, simple manner. Supported apps include Phone, Messages, Maps, Music, and compatible third-party apps.
Chevy offers a variety of 7-inch and 8-inch screens across its lineup, including in its most popular car, the 2016 Chevrolet Cruze. Just like the Hyundai system, you’ll also need to plug your phone into a USB port for the system to work.
Keep these particular infotainment systems in mind if you’re out new-car shopping. Granted, you’re probably not going to buy a car solely for its smartphone integration, but in this day and age, it’s becoming an important factor to consider.
By the way, are you going to see factory-installed nav systems go away? Probably not for at least 5 years. They are still big profit centers for the car companies. Heck, a lot of companies still install CD players. What does that tell you?
Shopping for a new or new-to-you vehicle this weekend?
Bring along CarGurus’ mobile app to help check prices, find good deals, and research cars on your smartphone.