navigon on Iphoneimage

Navigon on Iphone


You’ll have read over the last year about my changing opinion on Incar-GPS systems. I have always thought the gargantuan price car makers want isn’t justified by the use-ability of their units.

But the marketers are a tricky bunch so they bundle the Satnav together with other integral features.. The In-car GPS units now form part of a larger Infotainment system. This now includes cockpit controls for functions for such things as suspension, security and even engine options. Some might argue that we have far too much information for our own good and this may well be true. I recently took a shiny new Honda Legend around to my elderly parents to convey them to dinner. They ooo’ed and aaaahhhh’d at the gadgets but were completely unable to perform even the simplest functions. To me, this highlights the plight of many older people. I suspect most functions shoehorned into the modern car rarely if ever sees the light of day.

Of the 50 plus cars tested over the last 12 months about a third has had GPS inbuilt. Stand-alone hand helds are still the easiest to use. All have inputs by touch-screen and most have Bluetooth connection to your mobile. Most have turn-by-turn instructions with street names. Is this important? Yes, it is essential. If you have 3 streets close together the only way you know which to turn into is by name. It also tells you exactly what to look out for as you sort through the veritable bevy of roadside flotsam to decipher your instructions.

This week we have the Volvo V60 sports wagon and it is sex on wheel, but the Satnat is complex and clunky. Without a touch screen you navigate yourself through the myriad of menu options by a toggle and switch arrangement. It is very easy to find yourself going to the wrong place if you skip too fast through the process. It’s dreadful. Then only one I liked less was the unit in the Mini which was diabolical and more reminiscent of a modern device of mass torture than a helpful speaking map. The menus were again navigated by toggle and every move needs confirming. It would be easier to ask directions at the local servo or if you’re desperate, you could consult the Gregory’s which has been languishing under the driver’s seat for the last few years. While it did add features through which you could customise some vital functions, the endless fuss was simply not worth it.

So far the easiest infotainment has been GMH’s IQ in the Commodore/Calais/Caprice range. The Bluetooth system allows voice dialing via your phones contact list without faffing around downloading it into your car as some systems have you do. The Satnav is likewise simple to use because the touchscreen allows direct input. You touch exactly the letters and numbers your desire and press GO. It also gives you a few simple menu options for security lighting and door locking/unlocking.

Toyotas system is fairly good too but the Bluetooth asks you to download your phonebook into the car. This isn’t a problem for a single driver car but one wonders what happens if another driver connects Bluetooth. Is your phonebook available to them? Is the next driver going to try and phone mum to find he is talking to a complete stranger? Will she wonder why a bloke is calling her “mum” when she has only had daughters? On the subject of Toyota, the Lexus Satnav has a small glitch in so far as you can’t cancel navigation. You must delete the destination which seems odd in a car whose designer seem to have thought of everything. The IS is a triumph to look at and gorgeous to drive in the 3.5 and 5L form and the infotainment is easy to use but the Satnav is just a bit hit and miss.

It seems paying a lot for your car, and therefore your Satnav, doesn’t necessarily mean you get a better Satnav. Stand-alone handheld jobbies are still the best value, still the cheapest and still the only ones you can take with you when you leave your car.

Personally I have found my hand-held to be invaluable but I simply could not live without my Iphone with Navigon installed. It gets a bit cranky when connected to some bluetooth systems and either goes silent altogether or will not give street names. The app cost $80 as opposed to $5000 for an in dash model. You’d have to be doing awfully well to make the difference up in updates.

The best advice is make sure you test the car with the Satnav in it if you intend to tick that hideously expensive option. Make sure you have turn by turn instructions with the street names clearly spoken. Make sure your bluetooth connects without a major maneuver and that the input changes can be made without consulting your user guide. If it is hard to use when you have the test drive it is unlikely you are going to find the next 5 years of ownership any better.


Lexus LFA supercar featuring black and blue interior

Lexus console with Satnav



2011 VE Series II Thunder Ute.

Holden IQ with Satnav installed