Kia's Microsoft-Powered UVO Infotainment System

Kia UVO is a subscription-based infotainment, telematics, and navigation system that has been available in Kia vehicles since 2011. While it is initially free, there is also a premium option that provides additional telematics features and service options.

It's based around touchscreen head units like most infotainment and telematics systems, but it also allows users to perform a variety of hands-free tasks like making calls, streaming music, and even rudimentary vehicle diagnostics all using voice commands and an integrated phone app.

Kia UVO phone app telematics options.

Where Did Kia UVO Come From?

Kia was somewhat late to the infotainment party, with the UVO system first appearing in select vehicles for the 2011 model year. By that point, most other manufacturers had already rolled out their own systems, and some had been experimenting with navigation and telematics for decades. At CES 2012, Kia Motors America showed off an Optima Hybrid covered in UVO branding, bringing attention to the new telematics system.

Kia UVO, which is meant to stand for "your voice" was initially built on Microsoft technology and designed primarily as a media controller, with the key feature being extensive voice controls. Since then, Kia has worked with a variety of unspecified third party vendors to further develop the system.

The system controls the radio, CD player if present, and a built-in digital music jukebox. It also capable of interfacing with Bluetooth-enabled phones for hands-free calling.

Early versions of UVO didn't include a navigation option, but that has changed over the years. The latest Kia models are available with a few different flavors of UVO, one of which does include navigation.

Starting in 2018, UVO introduced integration with Google Assistant to provide even more utility through voice commands.

Kia UVO system check function.

Current Versions of UVO

Here are the versions of UVO that are available as standard or optional equipment on new vehicles:

  • UVO Play: This is a basic implementation of UVO that's has all of the same functionality that UVO has had since the beginning. It includes a touchscreen head unit and voice controls.
  • UVO Link: This is a more advanced version of UVO that adds a number of telematics features, including the ability to perform a remote start using a phone app, perform basic vehicle diagnostics, and receive maintenance alerts. Voice controls are still present, but you can perform a lot of tasks using the phone app.
  • UVO Link with Navigation: This option includes the media control you get with UVO Play, the telematics added by UVO Link, and also includes a fully fledged navigation system with turn-by-turn directions. The navigation system works entirely independently from your phone and doesn't require mobile data.
Kia UVO remote lock telematics functionality.

Key UVO Features and Functionality

Different iterations of UVO have sported slightly different feature sets over the years, and the exact entertainment, telematics, and navigation features you get also depend on the version of UVO that's installed in your vehicle.

Here's a look at some of the most important UVO features:

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Kia UVO System Controls

Kia UVO 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.

Later versions of UVO also come with a companion app that you can install on your phone. The app gives you access to telematics features like the ability to start your engine remotely, and also provides diagnostic information.

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UVO's Radio and Jukebox

UVO's radio and music functionality
Photo courtesy of Kia Motors America

The primary focus of the KIA UVO system is entertainment, with some UVO systems building on that with telematics and navigation features.

UVO systems typically include HD AM and FM tuners, but some have also included CD players, built-in Sirius satellite radio functionality, and other entertainment options.

UVO also includes a music jukebox feature and a built-in hard drive. The 2012 version of UVO included 700 megabytes of storage with no way to increase the capacity, but other versions have had different specifications. When a hard drive is present, music files 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
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
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
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 Cameras and Navigatin

kia uvo dash controls
Photo courtesy of Kia Motors America

Another main feature that has been seen in UVO systems is the backup camera. When present, video from the camera can be displayed right on the UVO touchscreen, which is useful for backing up.

Early UVO systems completely eschewed navigation, requiring you to choose between UVO or the standard Kia navigation package. That has changed over the years, and as of the 2020 model year, UVO is available in a Link with Navigation package that includes infotainment, telematics, and navigation functionality all wrapped up into one.

If you're interested in UVO in an older vehicle, contact your local dealer to see which versions of the system, with or without navigation, were available with the model year that you're interested in.