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.
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.