Cars with a digital dashboard

They're customisable and easier to read, plus, cars with a digital dashboard can help keep your eyes on the road

Simon Ostler
Oct 13, 2021

Throughout the recent history of the car, whether it was a cheap model or a luxury express, you could expect to view your speed and fuel level on a set of analogue dials mounted behind a round steering wheel. Manufacturers had got those nailed, with crisp displays that showed you all the necessary information and nothing more. But now the creep of technology has rendered analogue dials old hat, so an increasing number of new cars get digital dashboards instead.

As tends to be the way, luxury cars like the Mercedes S-Class started the trend, but now even superminis can be ordered with a screen instead of a traditional instrument cluster. Examples of new cars with digital dials, either fitted as standard or as an optional extra, include the Ford Fiesta, Vauxhall Mokka, Hyundai Tucson, and Volkswagen ID.3.

In most newer cars available now though, that is no longer the case. Instead, not only will you find the steering wheel is often no longer round, and is covered in buttons, behind it will be a screen displaying all of that information digitally.

There are several forms of digital dashboard display. Some have the appearance of the old analogue dials, while some have forsaken that look in favour of a more modern style. Some of the more upmarket variants will offer elements of customisation depending on what information you'd like to see, while others offer a mixture of the standard analogue dials with a digital display alongside it.

Read on for more details on cars with digital dashboards, how they work, and some ideas for models you might want to buy that feature them. All of these cars are available to buy used here on BuyaCar, and we can help you every step along the way to complete your next purchase.

Cars with digital dashboards

Pros

Greater clarity for easy reading
 More expensive versions offer great customisation
Much more information can be displayed

Cons

Takes a while to get used to
 Can be complex to use, presenting too much information
Some drivers may prefer a simpler anaglue setup

Digital trip computer

This variant of the digital dashboard has been around the longest, with cars making use of digital displays like this one since the late 1990s. They are still widely used among cheaper models, by manufacturers such as Suzuki.

Alongside traditional analogue dials for the speedometer and rev counter, a digital trip computer is there to offer information about your journey in real time. All will present details on fuel economy, tyre pressures and driving data, while some will display the music you’re listening to and the sat nav directions. In the case of hybrids or electric cars, you’ll also be able to see the battery and range readouts. Depending on the complexity of the system, these can be customised to prioritise certain information as and when you want it.

Trip computers like this tend to be found older models such as the 2017 Suzuki Swift, and the 2013-2020 Audi A3.

Digital readout

This is a different implementation of the digital dashboard. These do away with the traditional dials completely and instead incorporate an entirely digital display for your speed and rev counter alongside the trip computer.

These are becoming rarer nowadays, but were often favoured by French manufacturers like Citroen, as well as Honda for a couple of generations of its Civic hatchback. The advantage of this setup is that you can be sure you'll have a very clear and easy to read display that can be customised to your own liking.

Digital dials

This digital representation of traditional analogue dials has become a very common sight in many mainstream cars. At first glance you might be forgiven for thinking these are regular dials, but their digital nature provides additional customisation options.

Digital dials will present much of the information you'd expect to find in a traditional analogue setup, with a speedometer, rev counter, and fuel and engine temperature gauges. But in cars that offer multiple Sport or Eco driving modes, the display will shift to present more relevant information depending on the mode in use - such as when to change gear, or how many miles you have left in the tank or battery. Many systems will also present sat-nav instructions as part of the display.

Expect to find these dials in the 2020 Hyundai i20, the Fiat 500, and the Jaguar XF.

Fully digital instrument dial

At the more luxury end of the scale, an entirely digital dashboard offers the utmost in customisation. Most often seen in cars from the likes of Mercedes, Audi and even DS, these systems offer a much larger screen that in some cases merges with the central dashboard display.

These systems are generally the most expensive, most advanced, and most adaptable type of digital dashboard. Audi calls it the 'Virtual Cockpit', Mercedes brands its version as 'MBUX', and there are several other variants on the market. 

They offer the most in terms of customisation, you're able to cherry pick exactly which information you want in front of you. If you're keen to prioritise your sat-nav you can put directions front and centre and push your speedometer to one side, or you can simply make use of a more standard digital dial setup.

 

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