Kia UVO: Mainstream Infotainment In The 2012 Soul

UVO's Entertainment Features

As we mentioned in the intro, our 2012 Soul Exclaim's UVO system is all about music. Navigation isn't included, though Navigation with SiriusXM Traffic is part of the $2500 Premium Package. There are no Wi-Fi or telematics features. UVO simply emphasizes music playback, and is perfect for anyone looking to plug in a USB-based thumb drive or connect a Zune/iPod.

A connectivity hub resides at the bottom of the center stack, where it meets the center console. Kia proudly displays “Powered by Microsoft” right above a 3.5-mm analog input jack and USB port. The connectivity is fairly typical, and we like the flexibility of connecting any number of USB-based devices we have with audio on them, or plugging in something able to stream Internet radio.

Two 12 V power outlets are installed on each side of the connectivity hub, giving the driver and passenger their own sources. Each outlet can supply up to 120 W, which is sufficient for laptop and phone chargers. Just don't try to connect a 400 W power inverter. Rear passengers don't get any power outlets. However, there is a third one in the trunk for other accessories you might be lugging around. There’s also a pretty big storage area in front of the connectivity hub with room for a couple of phones, including the sizable Samsung Galaxy Nexus. That's a nice touch from Kia, in light of the seemingly-increasing size of smartphones.

HD Radio and SiriusXM

Kia includes HD Radio as part of the UVO package, which we quite enjoy and wished more manufacturers would make standard. Tuning is handled automatically, requiring only that you tune in to your favorite station. When you select a radio station, the analog signal is tuned first and then switched to HD when it's available. The transition from analog to HD is supposed to be transparent, but the change was quite noticeable in our testing for the brief second or so it takes.

Radio tagging is not available with UVO. So, if you hear a song you like, you need to write it down (not that we ever use radio tagging). 

A three-month trial of SiriusXM is included with all new Kia vehicles. UVO supports basic SiriusXM channel tuning with presets, category displays, and search. Time-shifting is not available, though, unlike SYNC with MyFord Touch. If you enjoy pausing and repeating songs on SiriusXM, then UVO isn’t for you. Missing the feature isn’t such a big deal, though. 

USB Connectivity

Kia supports USB-based attachment with Apple devices and Microsoft's Zune; Android users have to use Bluetooth-based streaming audio or the auxiliary audio input, as we had no luck connecting our Galaxy Nexus via USB (it kept reading and couldn’t find anything).

USB flash drives are our preferred music source. You don’t have to plug in a media player or phone every time you get into the car, and we found that Kia's UVO system is widely compatible with thumb drives loaded with MP3s and unprotected WMA files. When a drive with music is plugged in, UVO lets you search through its songs by artist, album, genre, and title, or, by folder if your content isn't tagged properly. Cover art is displayed if an image is placed in the music folder, but there is no Gracenote database support, unfortunately.

Some users have reported issues with UVO not remembering where to resume in a song on a playlist after the car is turned off. We tested playlists using our test vehicle and did not run into the aforementioned problem; playback resumed right where we left it every time. 

You're going to be disappointed if you prefer using Pandora, Spotify, or some other streaming music service with complete phone-based control. UVO doesn't support any type application link via USB. Of course, there's always Bluetooth streaming, but we aren't all that fond of the quality loss associated with that technology compared to simply using an auxiliary input.


UVO includes 700 MB of on-board flash-based music storage. Unfortunately we were only able to copy music files (cover art images are copied as well) to the internal repository; UVO will not rip CDs to MP3s. Nevertheless, the Jukebox playback functions are identical to USB-based media playback, with the addition of a Favorites button. 

Copying music to the internal Jukebox is a painful process. Unlike the Chrysler infotainment systems, UVO can only copy one song at a time, and the option only presents itself when you are listening to the song. UVO then pauses the music as it's copied. Such a shortcoming, coupled with a paltry 700 MB of storage, makes Kia's Jukebox feature only useful for creating mix tapes as you're listening to a more complete collection. If you only really like some of your library, and want to listen to those songs over and over again, use Jukebox for that.

  • sp0nger
    This seems super basic to me..

    I see what you did there kia, but as a reader of toms i would be much more interested in you inspecting the tech around more advanced systems in higher end cars
  • sp0nger
    On second thought i would love to see your break down of the new GTR those systems are insane, thats worthy of a 10 page read
  • tuanies
    Thanks for the input. We're working on bringing coverage of higher end vehicles and have a 2013 Hyundai Genesis Coupe 3.8 Track and Audi Q5 with NVIDIA Tegra and QNX in the pipeline.
  • ivyanev
    Isn't it strange that a smartphone can do all theese things(except for multichanel music maybe)
  • palladin9479
    9535232 said:
    Thanks for the input. We're working on bringing coverage of higher end vehicles and have a 2013 Hyundai Genesis Coupe 3.8 Track and Audi Q5 with NVIDIA Tegra and QNX in the pipeline.

    Genesis Coupe's are nice.

    Come on ya'll should do a Morning or Matiz. Or heck review a tricked out Daewoo Damas, just for kicks.
  • ZakTheEvil
    So the backup camera is there to compensate for the poor "style over function" body design that limits the rear view?
  • Parrdacc
    Amazing that car companies like Ford and KIA and others are just now doing this. Meanwhile all us car enthusiasts have had most of these capabilities for years now. I have had hondas with head units like JVC and Alpine that do the same thing. The current JVC I got four years back is running strong with Bluetooth connection to my phone with voice, GPS, Voice navigation and recognition, usb mp3 playback, ipod connection, which I do not use as I find just plugging in a usb to the front of the player just easier than the running a cable to the ipod.

    Well, welcome to the party Ford and KIA.
  • Parrdacc
    Oh, on more thing. A 4.3inch display. Really. I got a 7" display thats touchscreen and that was without any custom work done. The KIA appears to have a double din which should be more than capable of using a 7" inch touchscreen, or at least one that is larger than 4.3 inches, so why they went this route I do not know. A buddy of mine has got a Nissan with a factory radio and his display is about 6".
  • willard
    Ugh, Kia. I owned a Kia once. Took $5k in engine repairs over three years to keep it on the road. Blew two head gaskets, three thermostats went out, radiator failed once. The front end CV joints are bad about going out on most of their older cars as well (I went through three), and good luck if you need to replace a wheel bearing (which also like to go out on the front end). Need a special Kia service tool to do it, which they don't sell and no mechanic has except Kia dealerships. Enjoy your $400 repairs you could have done yourself for $50 if they just used standard tools.

    Kia costs less up front, but WAY more in maintenance. Buy a Hyundai if you're looking for a quality car on the cheap. They don't fall apart on you like Kias do.
  • CaedenV
    Picked up a Hyundai for my wife a few years ago and love it (well... for the price anyways... it is no VW). I am now looking for a commuter car for myself and am looking at KIA (which is the cheaper Hyundai brand). I had been wondering about their UVO system because I am thinking about a Rio5 which also has this as an option. It dosn't seem that great, but it is good to know that what is there works solid (other than the texting issues), so perhaps I will spring for it when the time comes to jump on it.

    Can you select a playlist instead of an individual song? or is it too basic for that?