These Are the Cars With the Best Infotainment Systems, According to J.D. Power

Matt Posky
by Matt Posky
these are the cars with the best infotainment systems according to j d power

J.D. Power and Associates is supremely interested in multimedia systems these days. In fact, in now incorporates audio, communication, entertainment, and navigation (ACEN) into its initial quality study. If an automaker wants one of J.D. Power’s tombstone-shaped awards, it now has to ensure its multimedia equipment isn’t vexing to consumers. Unfortunately, ACEN has proven the most problematic category for new vehicle owners since its addition to the annual survey three years ago.

The research and marketing firm recently decided to break out its ACEN scores to see which vehicles had the best infotainment systems. However, in this instance, what constitutes superior hardware is simply a lack of customer complaints. For J.D. Power, multimedia system quality is determined by the number of problems experienced per 100 vehicles over the first 90 days of ownership.

Since potential problems include everything from technical failures and overall features to how well the system was explained by the dealer and plain general satisfaction, decoding what makes a particular system truly bad is difficult. But a lower frequency of complains always means a better product. Which models shined the brightest?

It might surprise you, but the 2018 Ford Mustang possessed the “lowest” score of any vehicle. With just 7.3 reported issues out of 100 units, the Stang easily bested every other vehicle on the survey. Interestingly, J.D. Power decided to place it in the “midsize” category — which also credited the Kia Sorento and Nissan Frontier for possessing vastly superior infotainment systems.

The Kia Rio walked away with top honors in its class. With only 9.3 problems reported over 100 vehicles, Kia’s subcompact had the best overall score of any pint-sized mainstream model. In J.D. Power’s small car segment, its score kept it just ahead of the Chevrolet Bolt and Kia Sportage.

The small premium segment fared much worse, likely due to the complexities of the interface. Luxury vehicles typically contain additional features and digital options that mainstream vehicles lack, resulting in a harder-to-navigate multimedia system. Leading the pack for fancy shmancy small vehicles was the BMW 2 Series, with 16.7 reported issues out of 100 vehicles. It was pursued by the slow-selling Acura ILX and more-popular BMW X1.

J.D.’s “compact segment” showed the Kia Forte as the best for in-car infotainment. The Forte managed an impressive 10.2 problems out of 100 cars. The Chevrolet Cruze was runner up, with the Hyundai Ioniq and Volkswagen Beetle tied for third at 12.3 issues per 100 units. For the compact premium cars, Porsche’s 718 matched the Kia Rio as the auto with one of the least problematic infotainment system on the market (at least according to this survey). It was followed by the Porsche Macan and Lincoln MKC.

For large vehicles, Ford’s Taurus narrowly beat out the burly Expedition with 12.5 reported issues. They were tailed by the Chevrolet Silverado, which had 13.1 problems per 100 vehicles. Meanwhile, the BMW 7 Series bested the rest of the premium large vehicle segment by a wide margin. It managed just 10.5 reported problems out of 100 cars while the Genesis G90 and Cadillac Escalade saw 15.1 and 16.1 issues, respectively.

Other than J.D. Power’s complete inability to effectively categorize automobiles, the takeaway from this study should be that mainstream models have easier to use infotainment systems. Ford, Kia, and Hyundai consistently performed well using the outlet’s ACEN assessment. On the luxury side of things, Porsche and BMW seemed to walk away with more victories than the rest.

However, why is another question. Hyundai Group definitely has ease of use down pat without culling functions, but an automaker like BMW is more complicated. While iDrive has become easier to manage in its later incarnations, it’s a more complicated system then what you’d find on your average Kia. BMW’s Motion controls are cute but also a little clumsy. And there’s loads of menus. Still, there are also a few alternative ways to navigate the brand’s infotainment systems. Perhaps BMW has simply struck a decent balance between heaps of features and the various ways you can tackle them. Don’t like motion controls? Use the touch screen. Don’t like the touch screen? Use the iDrive knob.

“In-car multimedia has been a problematic category for automakers for several years, as ever-more elaborate navigation, voice recognition and entertainment systems have proliferated in vehicles of every type,” said Brent Gruber, Senior Director of Automotive Quality Practice for J.D. Power.

“While the area is still the leading cause of new-vehicle complaints — with voice recognition technology continuing to lead the way as the number one complaint for a sixth consecutive year — we are seeing some serious improvement across the board, with some manufacturers really raising the bar on delivering quality multimedia technology experiences for their customers.”

We’d still recommend actually interfacing with a vehicle’s multimedia display extensively before you buy, as you might find yourself more or less digitally inclined than your contemporaries. But it’s definitely worth taking these results for a mental lap before you start shopping.

[Images: Ford; Kia]

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3 of 48 comments
  • MBella MBella on Sep 19, 2018

    What's killing infotainment reliability are the phone interfaces. The phones update too frequently and the auto manufacturers can't keep up. It seems like every major phone update will prevent Android auto from working correctly. Then the customer blames the car. I started having issues in my Silverado. I thought it was the truck. Then I got a company car from my employer's brand and it had the same issue. A few months later, another major phone update and it started working. While I'm not a BMW fan, I give them credit for retaining the control knob. I hate touch controls in cars because you have to look at what you're doing. With the knob, it's detents allow for use without looking at the screen. I know most people like the touchscreens, so I'm happy they give you multiple options.

    • Groovypippin Groovypippin on Sep 19, 2018

      +1 - People get made at their infotainment systems when they should be getting made at smartphone operating system upgrades that cause a massive slew of problems.

  • Ion Ion on Sep 19, 2018

    Realistically I have SYNC3 in my 16. After the first update and swapping in the upgraded USB ports I mainly use apple carplay. The 18’s would have CarPlay standard so that’s probably what’s scoring them so high. That said sync3 is better and faster than the Microsoft Sync I had in my 13.

  • Analoggrotto I refuse to comment until Tassos comments.
  • Kendahl Fifteen years ago, the GTO was on my short list of automotive retirement presents to myself. It was just a bit too big and gas mileage sucked compared to the 6-speed Infiniti G37S coupe I bought after test driving several brands. It's a pity owners of cars that are collectible the day they are bought screw them up with aftermarket modifications they don't need. I'd offer they seller top price less what it would cost to put the car back to stock. (I just traded in the Infiniti, in mechanically excellent and cosmetically very good condition with 78k miles, for a 2023 Cadillac CT4-V Blackwing.)
  • EBFlex This should help Fords quality
  • Analoggrotto By the time any of Hyundai's Japanese competitors were this size and age, they produced iconic vehicles which are now highly desirable and going for good money used. But Hyundai/Kia have nothing to this point that anyone will care about in the future. Those 20k over MSRP Tellurides? Worn out junk sitting at the used car lot, worn beyond their actual age. Hyundai/Kia has not had anything comparable to the significance of CVCC, 240Z, Supra, Celica, AE86, RX-(7), 2000GT, Skyline, GT-R, WRX, Evo, Preludio, CRX, Si, Land Cruiser, NSX etc. All of this in those years where Detroiters and Teutonic prejudiced elitists were openly bashing the Japanese with racist derogatory language. Tiger Woods running off the road in a Genesis didn't open up a moment, and the Genesis Sedan featuring in Inception didn't matter any more than the Lincoln MKS showing up for a moment in Dark Knight. Hyundai/Kia are too busy attempting to re-invent others' history for themselves. But hey, they have to start somewhere and the N74 is very cool looking today in semi rendered pictures. Hyundai/Kia's biggest fans are auto Journalists who for almost 2 decades have been hyping them up to deafening volumes contributing further distrust in any media.
  • Bd2 Other way around.Giorgetto Giugiaro penned the Pony Coupe during the early 1970s and later used its wedge shape as the basis for the M1 and then the DMC-12.The 3G Supra was just one of many Japanese coupes to adopt the wedge shape (actually was one of the later ones).The Mitsubishi Starion, Nissan 300ZX, etc.