Car Advice

REVIEW: Pioneer SPH-DA120 Car Stereo with Apple CarPlay

Car radio makes Apple CarPlay available to older motors

By Nick Watkins Published

apple | review | Apple CarPlay | products | Pioneer

Apple CarPlay

Price at time of test: £299.99

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APPLE CarPlay becomes available to more motorists thanks to Pioneer's SPH-DA120 unit. Drivers with older cars no longer have to use their mobile data on maps, play music through their phone itself or pull over to make calls.

All the above can be done using one of these.

Ease of use ★★★★☆

You can connect devices via an iPhone cable, USB or AUX input, so it works with pretty much any mobile device. With the unit on you see icons for the radio along the bottom of the screen... USB drive, Bluetooth-connected device and phone calls. When you connect an iPhone it’ll recognise it instantly and the Apple CarPlay apps will appear on the 6.2” screen. You use it just like you would your iPhone, so it’s pretty simple. Along the left hand side are icons for settings, where you can adjust the colour-theme and background, sound and volume controls.

Functions ★★★★★

Users can access many iPhone functions, like making calls, composing (and listening to) text messages, maps, calendar information and reminders. It works the same way your iPhone does. The icons are nice and large so they’re easy to press when driving. Siri pops up automatically too so you can just name the person you want to call, hands-free. This worked first time when we tried it, thankfully. If you don’t wish to go via Siri, you can just cancel the request by pressing the home button on the bottom left of the touch screen and your contacts will appear along the top so you can choose them manually. Other apps will appear on the screen if they’re compatible with CarPlay - Spotify, for example.


Maps – One of the key things about CarPlay is the maps, which is pretty much the same as a sat-nav. This comes in handy if you drive an older car without a built-in GPS as you no longer have to waste the data on your iPhone, you can just use this instead. Plus, it takes away the distraction of looking at your phone if you don’t hear the command through your iPhone speaker - directions, of course, come through your car speakers. Plus, you can control the destination settings through your steering wheel so you don’t need to take your hands off the wheel.

Video/Audio quality ★★★★☆

The quality of the sound will vary on how good your speakers are, but on the whole it doesn’t disappoint and it certainly beats playing songs through your iPhone connected via an AUX cable or USB. Using the menu on the left-hand side you can fine tune the sound to fully utilise your car speakers by playing around with various Bass, Powerful, Natural, Vocal and Flat settings.

VERDICT: ★★★★☆

The Pioneer SPH-DA120 Car Stereo with Apple CarPlay® is a game-changing piece of kit. In a nutshell, those with older cars can have access to Apple CarPlay and don’t need to faff around with a phone. In that sense, it makes driving safer too. If there’s one downside, it’s the £299.99 price tag, which for a car radio is top-end for most of us. But if you can afford it, it’s worth it. The other thing is, because of the size of the screen it's not compatible with all cars. Older motors, like an early 2000s Peugeot 206, for example, can't house such a unit.

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