The most and least distraction car infotainment systems revealed

Tuesday, 21st April 2020, 4:00 pm
Updated Tuesday, 21st April 2020, 4:00 pm

The most and least distracting car infotainment systems have been revealed by new testing that found some systems require a driver's attention for four times longer than others to complete simple tasks.

Research by What Car? named BMW’s iDrive system the easiest to use while MG’s in-car media and navigation setup was rated the worst.

Distracted driving accounted for 15 per cent of all road accidents and was a contributory factor in 25 per cent of all fatal crashes in 2018. Every second spent looking away can be dangerous, as a vehicle moving at 30mph will travel 13.5m every second.

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To determine the least and most distracting systems, What Car? tested 20 different in-car systems that encompass the majority of the different types of infotainment systems and dashboard layouts on offer.

Testers performed six common tasks including changing the temperature, zooming out on a set sat-nav route and changing from one radio station to another, with each action timed.

The testing found that systems with physical buttons are much less distracting to use on the move than those that are purely touchscreen controlled, with those combined touch, physical and voice controls found to be best.

The testers found that 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. 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 12.3-inch multimedia display.

Overall, BMW’s iDrive in the 3 Series was found to be the least distracting to use thanks to a combination of physical controls, natural voice recognition and a touchscreen. Similar systems in the Mercedes-Benz CLA, Porsche Panamera and Audi Q3 also performed well while the Mazda3’s system, controlled by a rotary dial, was ranked fifth.

At the opposite end of the table the media and HVAC system of the MG ZS was found to be the worst, with the Fiat 500X's touchscreen and the Skoda Citigo's mobile phone-based system also poor performers.

While voice control was found to be the least distracting method for many of the tasks, the research found that the worst systems still distracted the driver for twice as long as the best.

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.”

The most and least distracting in-car control systems  

Make, model and infotainment name   Score out of 30
1. BMW 3 Series with Live Cockpit Professional 28
2. Mercedes-Benz CLA with 10.25in touchscreen 27
3. Porsche Panamera E-Hybrid with Connect Plus and Porsche Communication Management 27
4. Audi Q3 Sportback with Virtual Cockpit Plus 26
5. Mazda 3 with 8.8in colour display and Mazda Connect 25
6. Volkswagen Passat GTE with 8.0in Composition Media system 24
7. Ford Fiesta with Sync 3 navigation and FordPass Connect 23
8. Hyundai Ioniq with 10.25in touchscreen and Bluelink connectivity 22
9. Vauxhall Corsa with 10.0in Multimedia Navi Pro 22
10. Skoda Kamiq with 9.2in touchscreen, voice control and Amundsen sat-nav 21
11. Jaguar XE with 10.0in Touch Pro Duo system 21
12. Volvo S60 with Sensus 20
13. Toyota Corolla with Touch 2 media system and Apple CarPlay and Android Auto 20
14. Nissan Juke with Nissan Connect 19
15. Honda CR-V with 7.0in touchscreen, Honda Connect and Garmin navigation 18
16. Lexus RX with 12.3in multimedia display 18
17. Peugeot 508 SW with 10.0in Connected 3D Navigation and voice recognition 17
18. Skoda Citigo-e iV with colour screen and phone holder 16
19. Fiat 500X with 7.0in touchscreen and Uconnect Live 14
20. MG ZS with 8.0in touchscreen 12