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Infotainment is a polarizing topic when it comes to modern cars. Everyone has preferences and often has big opinions on the best infotainment system and which system works the best. This got me thinking, why do some people have such strong views on infotainment? More specifically, why so many drivers detest the Mazda Infotainment System and the use of the rotary dial?

The rotary dial is at the center of the kerfuffle

the rotary dial used for the mazda infotainment system
2020 Mazda3 Rotary Dial | Mazda

Anytime shoppers decide to consider shopping for a new Mazda and begin their research, they will be inundated with statements and opinions surrounding the Mazda Infotainment System. Most of the comments about this system come down to using a rotary dial, the absence of a touchscreen while driving, and the time it takes to learn. But, as with anything, there are positives and negatives about everything.

First of all, one of the most noticeable features of this system is the use of a rotary dial instead of a touchscreen. Many drivers find this to be a nuisance. They talk about using the rotary dial as the primary way to navigate the system. While in the base Mazda system, most note that this method is fine. But once you need to control Apple CarPlay or Android Auto, the dial can become troublesome. In the Jalopnik review of the Mazda3 Turbo Hatchback, they noted that having to rely on the dial for smartphone integration was not intuitive and, in some cases, unsafe. Many drivers and reviews simply wish that they could just simply touch the display.

Why is the rotary dial so hated?

the mazda infotainment system for the 2019 mazda cx-5
Infotainment Screen for a 2019 Mazda CX-5 | Mazda

When drivers complain about the rotary dial, the biggest complaint is that it is not intuitive when used on systems designed to be touched. Drivers point out that to control Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. You need to take your eyes off the road.

Another reason that the rotary dials in the Mazda Infotainment System are so hated is the learning curve. In the Jalopnik review, the writer had the car for a week. It was not enough time to get full hang on the dial. But, with enough time, most drivers would surely adapt. Many other reviews mention this learning curve.

Is the rotary dial that bad?

the rotary dial for the infotainment system for the 2019 mazda cx-5
Rotary Dial for a 2019 Mazda CX-5 | Mazda

While this is undoubtedly a personal opinion, I drive a 2019 Mazda CX-5 and find that the rotary dial is streightforward to use. Once you get adapted to the dial, you can control every menu without needing to look away from the road. Another aspect of controlling this system that is seldom mentioned is the four buttons surrounding the dial. Those four buttons quickly get you to your home screen, navigation, music, and back. You can almost control everything with just a press of a button and a quick spin of the dial. 

While I see no issue with this system, I understand that it may not be everyone’s cup of tea. But, the main point is, that with any change, time is needed to adapt. While a touchscreen can be helpful, you still need to take your eyes off the road, and one hand off the wheel, to touch the screen. Furthermore, you need to adjust your body to touch the screen. With Mazda’s system, you can keep your eyes on the wheel and simply use the rotary dial. In many Mazda models , there are buttons on the steering wheel that can control the system. While you can’t navigate through screens, it can pick up and hang up phone calls, raise and lower the volume, and skip the song or radio station.

No infotainment system is perfect, and Mazda’s system is no different. The overall design and the care that went into designing this system is clear.

Not perfect, but after some time, it’s intuitive

Infotainment systems are certainly a hotly debated topic in the automotive industry. Reviewers and drivers alike talk about the positives and negatives of each and have clear favorites. The Mazda Infotainment System is talked about quite a bit. Because of the surprisingly controversial inclusion of the rotary dial, drivers have some strong feelings.  

But, as with any change, once you live with the Mazda system for a bit, it becomes much easier to understand and use day-to-day.


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