Fifteen years ago, there was no such thing as an infotainment system on a new car. You had CD players and maybe rear DVD screens for the kids. Now, shoppers base their buying decisions on not just a car's styling, reliability, driving experience, comfort, gas mileage and price, they also factor in how good the infotainment system is. And not everyone does it well, mind you. Some can be utterly distracting to use, thereby making it not just frustrating but unsafe, as the driver tries to navigate hard-to-read, labyrinthine systems that make no sense. 

But there are some manufacturers that are knocking it out of the park, and most of them are shockingly not from luxury automakers. In fact, it's the more economical brands that have focused on great systems that are easy to use and visually pleasing. We've selected five brands we think are the best in the business right now. 

5. Hyundai Blue Link

blue link

Don't be surprised by the Koreans. Hyundai makes their interiors easy to use and understand, and the Blue Link system is consistent with that mindset. Aside from the slightly annoying entry chime when you start up the system, the infotainment experience is excellent. The color icons are easy to read (but could be larger in our opinion), and the touch screen is very responsive. Bluetooth pairing is spot on, and the system's voice command works incredibly well. We also love the easy-to-use knobs and buttons that correspond with Blue Link.

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4. Kia UVO

kia uvo

The UVO system is even better than sister company Hyundai's Blue Link. It's easier to read and a step up in terms of usability. The more monochromatic graphics are actually better on the eyes and less confusing, and it also makes great use of knobs and buttons instead of solely relying on touchscreen interaction. We also love the clean font that's way ahead of premium brands like Mercedes-Benz. Regardless of whether you choose the affordable Forte or the premium Sorento, the user experience is excellent. Just remember to upgrade to navigation so you can get the bigger screen. 

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3. Ford SYNC 3

ford sync 3

Ford's first two versions of their infotainment were about as fun to use as a colonoscope. Slow response, non-intuitive and pretty much just a turn-off in purchasing a Ford product. But the SYNC 3 has changed everything, and now it's easily the most responsive system in existence. We like Ford's effort in making the aesthetic unique with a light blue screen instead of black. It's very pleasing to the eyes, as are the highly-legible font and icons. 

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2. Fiat Chrysler UConnect

uconnect

It's actually tough to fathom that a car company that needs serious help with its vehicles in terms of quality, styling and build quality does such a superb job with infotainment. The only thing preventing the UConnect system from taking the lead is the fact that the Volvo is fresh and new. UConnect is so simple to use, it's almost stupid. The big graphics and flow of the paths work so well together, it's a pleasure to use the system. Version 8.4 is spectacular, and it also pairs knobs and buttons for ease of use. The voice commands and Bluetooth also earn rave reviews. 

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1. Volvo Sensus Connect

sensus

Volvo's new Sensus system on their XC90 SUV and S90 sedan are nothing short of revolutionary, in our opinion. They're so far ahead of the old Sensus Connect version, that it's like comparing an iPhone 7 to a Motorola bag phone. First of all, the large vertical touchscreen is the ideal orientation for drivers, and the three main menus and submenus within are clear and vividly displayed. Sure, it takes some getting used to initially, and there's definitely a learning curve, but once you get used to it, everything else seems antiquated. The best part is the infrared film that senses your finger and allows you to select and move the tablet-like screens without actually making contact. It allows you to use gloves and also prevents fingerprints. How's that for brilliance? It's the new benchmark for infotainment, for sure.

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