Technology-wise, car interiors have come a long way in recent years.
The primitive digital displays and sat-navs of the early 21st century have been succeeded by systems that, by comparison, look and feel like supercomputers.
The latest digital infotainment systems don't just present passengers with navigation and access to the radio and Bluetooth media.
They now integrate internet services, intelligent journey planning and even car controls, removing the need for many buttons and controls.
Car interior digital systems come in many forms and with different intentions, depending on who made them, what type of car they're in and what the model's 'brand identity' is.
As far as the driver using them is concerned, modern infotainment systems can dramatically transform the character of a car and, no less significantly, whether a car is appealing to buy or not.
So, which infotainment systems are best?
What makes a good infotainment system?
Firstly, let's understand the basics of what an infotainment system should offer. They should:
This should go without saying. If they’re not built to last and start failing a few years into use, they run the very real risk of making the car all but useless – or unappealing to buy at the very least.
Most drivers will want a simple interface that’s a breeze to use while driving. It shouldn’t be like accessing a computer – a good system will be really easy to navigate and smartphone-responsive.
Have a clear screen
Chunky pixels or screens with glare are no good. A quality infotainment system has a screen that's sharp, well lit and visible from everywhere in the car.
The system isn’t standalone and will work alongside your smartphone, satellites, the internet, a DAB radio, your air-con system and a whole bunch of other components. It has to do all that quickly and seamlessly.
Our top six infotainment systems in cars right now:
You can control it either via the crystal-clear screen split into two displays stretched across the dash, by an excellent voice command function, by the steering wheel or even by a handily-placed touchpad.
The best (most odd) feature? The voice command function engages you in conversation – sort of.
It even tells the odd one-liner! Oh, and the sat-nav uses augmented reality to help illustrate commands clearly, which is useful.
Jaguar Land Rover Pivi Pro
Jaguar Land Rover (JLR) – which, as the company's name suggests, is the group in which Jaguar and Land Rover exist – made a big leap last year with the launch of its latest Pivi Pro infotainment system.
It's a sleek set-up that's integrated a swish curved touchscreen into its cars and a real focus on aesthetics.
The system is beautifully designed, the digital displays are sharp and clear, and the system reacts instantly to your commands.
JLR hasn't gone overboard with its in-car digitalisation, however, and has retained some manual controls that support the digital stuff. We like that.
BMW's iDrive system has evolved through several generations since the maker's first take on the system launched in 2001.
Like the JLR system mentioned above, the eighth version of BMW iDrive uses a curved touchscreen, mounted atop of the dashboard.
It features clean, nicely-designed displays and can be controlled either via direct touch or using BMW's rotary wheel, located just behind the gear selector.
It's ultra-intuitive to use, and the menu's design feels authentically BMW.
The ‘Multi-Media Interface’ from Audi is a dual touchscreen system that does all you’d expect via its two touchscreens, but also allows control via a satisfying click wheel.
Intuitive, plainly laid-out and fast, there’s nothing to dislike about this system.
One of our favourite features is the ‘haptic feedback’. That’s the fancy name for the little clicks, vibrations, pips and tones you get from technology to let you know you’ve selected an option – vital for when keeping your eyes on the road.
The beauty of Mazda's Connect system is in its simplicity. Everything you need is there and it’s easy to find and use.
It’s not loaded with options you’ll never use, and it can be learned in minutes.
The clickwheel by the gearstick is incredibly easy to use and isn’t distracting.
Even in the small Mazda MX-5, which by default of being a two-seater sports car is space-limited inside, the small screen presents all of the essentials and the small controllers can be used without much thought.
Fiat Chrysler Automobiles UConnect
The fourth generation of the Chrysler Automobile (the company in which Fiat, Dodge, Jeep, Alfa Romeo and more are contained) ‘UConnect’ system is Apple CarPlay- and Android Auto-compatible, and comes in a seven-inch or 8.4-inch touchscreen.
What stands out most for usability is the Uconnect system's pinch-and-zoom capability, which is a handy touch.
It’s clear, intuitive and simple to use, which is all you can ask for.
Honda e's infotainment system
Last but by no means least, is the Honda e's infotainment system.
We've listed it at the bottom of our list because this is a model-specific system for now, but it's a brilliant one nonetheless.
With a widescreen display that extends almost across the full width of the cabin, the digital tech displays driving information neatly and in a lounge TV-like manner, thanks to its wraparound shape.
The widescreen touchscreen, which is flanked by digital door mirror displays, even has a setting that turns the display into an aquarium – well, a digital one.
There's a reason the Honda e is one of the best small electric cars money can buy.
Now you know what to look out for in a good infotainment system, why not have a browse through our full range of cars and see what tickles your digital fancy?