Mazda’s Mobile Start app lets you start your car from afar

Mazda Mobile Start

Mazda is the latest carmaker to offer an app that can control certain vehicle functions, adding it as a dealer-installed accessory for certain 2016 models.

Called Mazda Mobile Start, it allows users to remotely start or stop a car’s engine using a smartphone. They can also let a car idle for up to 30 minutes to allow time for the cabin to heat or cool, although it’s probably not a good idea to leave a running car unattended for that long.

The app includes a timer that shows how long the car has been running and how much of the potential 30-minute running time is left. Once the car is started, the climate control turns on with the last settings used; it’s only possible to adjust things from inside the vehicle.

Like other car smartphone apps, Mazda Mobile Start also allows users to remotely check whether their cars are locked, and lock or unlock the doors from afar. The lock/unlock icons are actually shaped like the ones on a physical Mazda key fob, and the app also includes a panic alarm, just in case.

There’s also a car finder for locating a parked car. It uses a smartphone’s built-in camera and GPS, but can only find cars in “large open parking areas,” Mazda says. Those parking in underground garages will have to do things the old-fashioned way.

Mazda Mobile Start is available only through dealers as an accessory, rather than as a factory option. It does not affect a vehicle’s warranty and costs $500 to install, plus an annual subscription fee. Mazda waives it for the first year, and charges $65 for each subsequent year.

The system available only on the 2016 Mazda6 and CX-5 with automatic transmissions, and the app is available for iOS and Android users. Mazda plans to make it available on other models before the end of this year.