Best sat navs in cars 2023
Looking for a car with a good navigation system? We’ve listed some of the best built-in car sat-navs on the market today.
Who reads a map these days? If you’re looking for a new car and don’t want to get lost, a good sat-nav system is a desirable feature. Most cars now feature a clever infotainment display of some description, while navigation is increasingly fitted as standard or as an affordable optional extra.
If the car doesn’t come with navigation (or you’d rather use third-party apps), you could also look for a car with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. These mirror apps from your phone such as Apple or Google Maps as well as Waze. If you would prefer your car to have built-in navigation, we’ve listed some of the best built-in sat-nav systems on the market today.
Best car sat navs
- Mercedes-Benz MBUX
- BMW Navigation
- Ford SYNC 3
- Audi MMI Navigation Plus with Virtual Cockpit
- Honda Connect
The latest Mercedes-Benz compact cars (including the A-Class, B-Class, CLA, GLA and GLB) all feature the brand’s newest, fanciest sat-nav system. MBUX uses two seven-inch TFT displays (upgradeable to 10.25-inch screens) - one behind the steering wheel and one in the centre of the dashboard.
One of our favourite features of the MBUX system is the augmented reality navigation. This uses the car’s forward-facing cameras to project an image onto the sat-nav display, overlaying it with arrows pointing you in the direction you want to go.
This is particularly useful when navigation is a big roundabout, for example, where the car will use live images to direct you towards the right exit. It’s very clever stuff that works incredibly well in reality.
All modern BMWs come with navigation built-in as standard, meaning you don’t have to hunt out a particular trim level or a used car with the right option box ticked.
It’s a slick, sophisticated and fully-connected navigation system, too - controllable via the touchscreen display (including a fancy gesture control which basically lets you wave your hands about in front of the navigation screen) or using the rotary iDrive controller. You can even plan routes in advance and send them to your BMW via the ConnectedDrive portal or BMW Connected app.
Being fully-connected, BMW’s navigation will re-route to avoid traffic jams and warn you of congestion ahead. You can also bypass the in-built system using Apple CarPlay, although Android Auto isn’t available.
Ford SYNC 3
Ford’s SYNC 3 infotainment system is one of the most user-friendly on the market today, and the navigation element (available as an optional extra or standard on high-spec models) is particularly easy to get your head around. It's standard on most Ford models like the Focus, Puma and Kuga.
Displayed on a clear eight-inch display on the centre of the dashboard, the sat-nav system can be operated like a smartphone - with swipe and pinch-to-zoom gestures. It can even provide a 3D display of the road ahead, with impressive graphics and images of points of interest.
If you’d prefer to use third-party apps for navigation, Ford’s AppLink service allows you to use Waze. Alternatively, you can connect your phone via Apple CarPlay or Android Auto, and use apps like Google or Apple Maps.
Audi MMI Navigation Plus with Virtual Cockpit
Audi’s MMI Navigation Plus is available in a number of different flavours and, while all of them are excellent, we really rate it in the latest Audi A3. Here, it uses the third-generation of Audi’s MIB infotainment platform, which boasts 10 times as much computing power as previous iterations.
A 10.25-inch display is standard as well as a 10.25-inch digital driver display (known as the Virtual Cockpit) behind the steering wheel. This is probably the best digital instrument display on the market - easily customisable and able to show clear navigation directions without being too distracting. It’s upgradable to a 12.3-inch display, too.
The MMI Navigation Plus system will learn the driver’s preferences and base route suggestions on this. It uses hi-res satellite images from Google and detailed 3D models of city centres to help with navigation, while a range of connected services provide things like up-to-date traffic information and details on points of interest (including photos and opening hours).
The electric Honda e is a technical tour de force. It uses two 12.3-inch screens running across the width of the dashboard as well as an extra 8.8-inch display acting as a digital instrument cluster behind the steering wheel.
You can perform any number of tasks on the main two displays - not least, plug in your games console and entertain yourself while you charge up the car. Navigation is standard and you can swipe content between the displays - so your passenger can input an address, for example, and then move the directions across to the driver’s eye line.
If you want to bypass the car’s built-in sat-nav system, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are also standard - meaning you can use third-party navigation apps like Waze, Google Maps or Apple Maps.
Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are two really slick systems which mirror apps from your phone onto the car’s navigation system. In some ways, they make in-built sat-nav redundant. You can use third-party apps like Google Maps and Waze, which are continually being updated for free (car sat-nav updates can be quite expensive), and will even feature user-provided information (such as warning of traffic ahead or even temporary speed cameras). A downside of these systems is that you’re reliant on your mobile phone, which could use up a lot of data or leave you stranded without a signal.
Built-in navigation systems in your car use data from satellites orbiting the earth to plot your location. When you wish to navigate somewhere, it’ll calculate a direct ‘as the crow flies’ route, before breaking that down into stages via the road network.
Sat-nav systems will display a map of your current location and give you both audio and visual cues to make navigation easy. They’ll also tell you things like your estimated time of arrival, while the latest navigation systems use data from the internet to warn you of delays and help you to avoid traffic.
‘Infotainment’ is a jargony word that’s a portmanteau of ‘information’ and ‘entertainment’. It’s essentially what used to be the car radio or CD player, only now it includes sat-nav, access to your music playlists and even tweaking your car’s settings.
More reviews of cars with excellent sat navs
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