The user interface of Mazda's infotainment systems typically lacks refinement. What you get in the Mazda 6 and CX5 is terrible. However, the company debuted its new Connect system in the latest-generation Mazda 3, and it's truly fantastic, starting with a seven-inch display mounted high and center on the dashboard.
The navigation system sports a clean GUI, smooth transitions, and it's very responsive. Mazda supports streaming Internet radio services like Pandora, Stitcher, and Aha. Text messaging works as well, and the navigation function is quite good. The crown jewel of Connect is its control knob, though. It’s ergonomically placed between the shifter and cup holders, and has buttons for direct access to music, the home screen, navigation, favorites, and volume. Those cup holders are even recessed, so you can stick 32-ounce smoothies in both spots without sacrificing comfort or use of the knob. Clearly, Mazda put a lot of thought into ergonomics, and I appreciate it.
Mazda Connect doesn’t rely solely on the control knob. The seven-inch display still has touchscreen functionality, which works out well for typing text. Unfortunately, the knob doesn't have a corresponding rotary keyboard layout on-screen like the German manufacturers enable.
I really think that Mazda created the best infotainment system in its class. The Audi-like ergonomics, combined with a good graphical and physical interface, makes the Connect our benchmark for compact cars.