Kia's Microsoft-Powered UVO Infotainment System

KIA Optima Hybrid with UVO
Kia showed off its Optima Hybrid with the UVO system at CES 2012. Pop Culture Geek
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Kia's UVO Runs on "Your Voice"

KIA Optima Hybrid with UVO
Kia showed off its Optima Hybrid with the UVO system at CES 2012. Pop Culture Geek

Kia was somewhat late to the infotainment party, and the UVO system only started appearing in select vehicles for the 2011 model year. At CES 2012, Kia Motors America showed off an Optima Hybrid covered in UVO branding.

The Kia UVO system is built on Microsoft technology, and it's designed primarily as a media controller. The system controls the radio, CD player, and built-in digital music jukebox. It also capable of interfacing with Bluetooth-enabled phones. The primary selling feature of the system is voice control, which is activated by depressing a button.

Unlike most other infotainment systems, UVO doesn't include a navigation option. It does, however, have a built-in backup camera that can be viewed on the main touchscreen.

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Kia UVO System Controls

Kia UVO controls
UVO systems include both touchscreen and physical controls. Photo courtesy of Kia Motors America

UVO is designed around a touchscreen that can be used to control the system. However, the focus of the system is very much on voice commands. UVO uses Microsoft voice recognition technology, and it is capable of learning the voices of multiple people. The voice command system is activated by pressing a button on the steering wheel, which prevents UVO from accidentally picking up on conversations or other background noises.

In addition to the touchscreen and voice command technology, UVO also includes physical controls. Many of the functions can be accessed without removing your hands from the steering wheel, and all of the main options have large, clearly labeled buttons that frame the touchscreen.

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UVO's Radio and Jukebox

UVO's radio and music functionality
UVO includes an HD radio tuner, satellite radio tuner, and it can also play digital music files. Photo courtesy of Kia Motors America

The primary focus of the KIA UVO system is entertainment. It includes HD AM and FM tuners, but it also has built-in Sirius satellite radio functionality. All three have corresponding physical buttons, so it's simple to switch between them.

UVO also includes a music jukebox feature and a built-in hard drive. The 2012 version of UVO includes 700 megabytes of storage, and there is no way to increase the capacity. Music can be moved on and off the hard drive by means of a USB stick, and it's also possible to copy music from CDs.

However, the system isn't capable of burning and encoding songs from commercial discs. You'll have to do that on your computer and then burn the MP3 files to a CD. After you've done that, you can transfer the songs directly to the UVO hard drive.

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UVO's Bluetooth Functionality

UVO's phone options
After pairing with a smarphone, UVO gives you access to your contacts, text messages, and more. Photo courtesy of Kia Motors America

In addition to functioning as a music jukebox, UVO is also capable of pairing with Bluetooth-enabled phones. The system includes a physical button that allows you to access to phone options, but you can also do it through voice commands.

After you've paired a phone to a UVO system, you can access the contacts, text messages, recent calls, and also place calls.

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UVO's Phone Controls

Kia UVO phone controls
UVO provides both voice and touchscreen control over a paired phone. Photo courtesy of Kia Motors America

Paired phones can be dialed with voice commands, but the touchscreen also includes a numerical dial pad. The system also gives you privacy and mute functions.

You can also pair multiple phones to a single UVO system. If you do so, and both phones are in range at the same time, the system will default to whichever was given the highest priority. It also gives you the option of quickly toggling from one phone to another.

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UVO's USB Interface

UVO's USB screen
UVO's USB interface allows file transfer and firmware updates. Photo courtesy of Kia Motors America

The primary method of interfacing with UVO is a built-in USB port. The USB port can be used to transfer audio files to the embedded hard drive.

When UVO was introduced, Kia indicated that it would be possible to update the system firmware via the USB interface. Owners were advised to create a MYKia account in order to download upcoming firmware updates. Since then, MYKia has been rolled into MyUVO, and all mentions of firmware updates have been removed.

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Backup Camera, but No Navigation

kia uvo dash controls
UVO is an interesting system, but it's tailored more to people who want a lot of music than those who need a navigation solution. Photo courtesy of Kia Motors America

The third main feature of the UVO infotainment system is a backup camera. Video from the camera is displayed right on the UVO touchscreen, which is useful for backing up. However, the system doesn't include any kind of navigation option. If you want GPS navigation in your Kia, you have to forgo UVO and go for the navigation package instead.