Nowadays, people require their new cars to offer much more than a comfortable and economical way of getting from one point to another. The cars need to let us make calls on the go, guide us to our destinations, and stream our favorite songs. Above all, they should not distract us when doing all this. This is not an easy thing to accomplish. So, how does Suzuki’s on-board infotainment suite measure up?
The system hardware
Just like several of the more expensive brands, Suzuki has gone with a touchscreen that is mounted on the dashboard. This can seem as a somewhat lazy approach when compared to some of the tidily integrated screens on the market. However, Suzuki might have followed the lead of luxurious brands such as Mercedes.
The screen has a black border and it comes with a glossy plastic finish. But it does not have the problem of glare and it does not collect fingerprints as easily as some other screens we have come across. We did no t experience problems due to brightness on a sunny day, and the screen dims well enough when the lights are switched on.
The system software
Many car makers come up with catchy names for their software- for instance COMAND, MMI or iDrive – but Suzuki chose a different route. It would appear that the designers were too occupied with refining the software because it is really very good.
Your home screen is split into four sections-audio, phone, navigation, and CarPlay. The right side of the screen comes with a haptic home button while the volume slider is located on the left. However, most of the hard work takes place on the seven-inch block in the midsection of the dashboard.
Car touchscreen interfaces are often criticized for lacking physical feedback. Buttons are stationary and they produce a positive click when pressed. In contrast, screen menus will often move, and this distracts the drivers from road as they search for what they need to press, and they also have to look again to verify that they have touched the right place.
Suzuki solves this problem by designing logical menus and ensuring that the things a driver touches regularly are comfortably big. In this way, even when the driver hits a bump while driving, they do not lose control if they are using the touchscreen at the same time. This is not a substitute for the more innovatively designed secondary physical control devices such as BMW’S rotary iDrive clicker or the even more effective HUD(heads-up display). HUDs are still mainly found on luxury cars, but they are gradually making their way into other car segments-for example Mazda has installed them in one of its compact cars-and getting vital information at eye level is a big deal when a driver is trying to concentrate on the road. Nonetheless, any wishlist comes at a cost, and the system designed by Suzuki is pretty effective considering its relatively affordable cost.
The built-in navigation is simple to use, with a basic menu layout and blockish graphics. But we would be defaulting to Google or Apple Maps whenever we could, particularly for the live traffic updates.
Phone connection can be done via Bluetooth or through USB for those people with Apple CarPlay. Using my iPhone 6S Plus, I was able to set up Bluetooth quickly and easily, and the system connected to the phone automatically and unfailingly. That is unless I switched off my Bluetooth in order to try and save the battery- something Suzuki cannot do much about.
Streaming music via Wireless is consistent without any crackling or dropouts, and the on-screen interface made it easy to scroll through the music library on the go. Even if it was possible to use the AUX plug, streaming was the easiest option as it allows you to control the music through the screen or steering wheel.
As advertised, Apple CarPlay works extremely well. Apple Maps still lags behind Google with respect to offering clear directions and on-the-go rerouting, but having the ability to control your phone, notifications and music using a familiar interface is priceless while on the road. It is great to note that CarPlay is increasingly becoming common, because it is a much smarter way to use one's iPhone than other third party apps. Android Auto works the same way, providing a clean interface that is recognizable to any Android user.
Voice control has been popular among marketers since its introduction in the early 2000s, but we are yet to come across a completely foolproof system. Fords SYNC3 is arguably the best around, but it can still find it hard to deal with issues such as full address inputs.It is also prone to mixing up names in the user’s phone book.
Suzuki’s system cannot rival the Ford SYNC system when it comes to voice inputs, but it works reasonably well for over 50 percent of the time. Simple commands such as 'call dad’ or 'change radio station’ worked well, but attempts to input a full address into the nav was a big flop. To retain your sanity, input your address using the screen before driving off.
When all is said and done, Suzuki has done a good job with its infotainment system. It might not be the most elegant on the market but its lack of flair is more than compensated for by its complete usability. Sometimes it pays to keep it simple.