Best and worst infotainment systems - Standard systems
The good news is that you don't need to buy a flagship model to get the best in-car features. The tricky bit is working out who offers the best deals. In reality, there probably isn't a single car manufacturer that gets it quite right across the range. Instead it's a case of picking out the gems.
If the Volkswagen Up is an example of how to do it right, Vauxhall's new Adam is another small car worthy of praise. It's also an interesting example of a new approach to providing in-car features. Available even with the most basic Adam is the new Intellilink system, yours for just £275. That buys you a seven-inch touch-screen, USB and Bluetooth connectivity, and app support via iPhone and Android mobile handsets. Intellilink also uses the GPS hardware in your mobile phone handset to power the BringGo navigation app.
Mercedes-Benz offers a similar feature in the new A-Class, known as Drive Kit Plus. Hook up an iPhone and you can drive a range of apps from navigation to social networking and internet radio. However, at £548 plus two hours' labour (it's actually a dealer-fit accessory), it's pretty steep for a technology that essentially allows you to access functionality you already have in your smartphone. You'll also need to option at least the Audio 20 system for £390 to provide a screen for Drive Kit Plus to do its stuff. Alternatively, you can combine it with the full £2100 Comand Online system and end up with two different infotainment and navigation platforms in a single car.
If that seems odd, it's symptomatic of the fact that the industry as a whole has a lot to work through before it settles on the best model for providing the latest in-car apps and services. BMW and its sub-brand Mini charge quite a lot for infotainment. A basic Mini 1.6 First hatch, yours for £11,870, comes with almost nothing as standard. Even Bluetooth and USB connectivity costs £295 - a lot for what, in reality, is less than £50 of electronics. Or you can go for the Tech Pack; for £895 you get that Bluetooth and USB kit, a multi-function steering wheel, a radio and CD player and passenger airbag deactivation - but no Mini Connected and no navigation.