The new Kia Niro will be the launch pad for the new Kia Connect system, which gives owners more features inside the cabin while allowing them to control vehicle functions remotely.
It’ll be standard on both the hybrid and electric GT-Line variants in the new Niro range, and Kia says every model in its broader range will get the option when they’re facelifted or replaced with a new model.
If you purchase a Kia with Kia Connect you’ll get seven years of connectivity for free, aligning with Kia’s warranty.
A combination of both live services and a smartphone app, Kia Connect uses an onboard modem and Optus SIM. Kia will also make over-the-air updates available.
Kia Connect will allow you to use voice prompts to control vehicle functions such as climate control and the sound system, or to call somebody.
Currently, the voice prompt button on a Kia’s steering wheel will only allow you to control functions within Android Auto and Apple CarPlay.
Real-time weather, traffic and charging station information will be available to drivers, and there’s also an emergency call function.
Using the smartphone app, you’ll be able to remotely lock/unlock and start the car, as well as adjust the climate control and seat heating and ventilation.
With the app, you can check the vehicle’s status, track the vehicle’s location and control its ignition should it be stolen.
The app will also allow you to connect more seamlessly with the vehicle. For example, you can sync your calendar, send a destination to your car, and in turn send a destination to the app for walking instructions once you’ve parked.
This End Destination Guidance feature uses Google Maps and augmented reality technology.
Kia says there’s a three-phase strategy for Kia Connect, with phase one involving the basic telematics features and more features arriving with each phase.
“The end game is [to be] industry-leading,” said Kia Australia product planning manager Roland Rivero.
“I think maybe even after phase two we should be industry-leading.”
Kia says Kia Connect in Australia will use a server based in Singapore, serving as a regional hub, and data collected will be used strictly within the Hyundai Motor Group so no third party will see it.
In addition to rolling out Kia Connect, Kia Australia says the chances are looking better for wireless Android Auto and Apple CarPlay being offered in vehicles equipped with embedded satellite navigation.
“I think that there’s some negotiations happening with the tech giant,” said Mr Rivero.
“There’s light at the end of the tunnel with that one.”
Kia Connect replaces Uvo, which has been offered in the US since 2011.
Its Hyundai counterpart is Bluelink, which will be introduced locally this year with the refreshed 2023 Palisade before being rolled out throughout the range.
A five-year subscription to the service will be included with new Hyundai purchases.
Hyundai owners will be able to remotely change the temperature, lock or unlock, and see their vehicle’s location using a smartphone app, as well as control charging in electric models.
It’ll also feature a last-mile navigation feature, as well as the ability to save live footage on vehicles with a surround-view camera.
Bluelink will also automatically call emergency services in an accident if the airbags fire.
Kia and Hyundai aren’t alone in introducing this kind of technology, with rival brands such as Ford also offering live services and smartphone app connectivity.