Our latest round of sat nav tests examine whether the newest built-in sat nav systems really offer the functionality and ease of use of the best portable devices and smartphone apps.
The decline in the portable sat nav market, combined with the increased availability of smartphone mirroring in cars via the likes of Apple Carplay and Android Auto, could ultimately spell the end of traditional (and traditionally expensive) built-in sat nav.
However, where such systems were normally restricted to expensive optional extras on luxury models, carmakers are increasingly fitting sophisticated sat navs to models across the price spectrum, and often as a standard feature at no extra cost.
Our latest batch of results includes both standard-fit systems and upgraded versions that can add over £1,000 to the asking price of your new car. The results broadly confirm what we’ve seen previously: you don’t necessarily get a better navigation experience for spending more money.
Below are the latest systems that have been subjected to our stringent lab tests.
Built-in sat nav reviews – find out how they compare to standalone models.
Volkswagen Discover Media Pro
Offered as an optional upgrade to the VW Golf’s standard Discover Navigation system, Discover Media Pro features a 9-inch touchscreen display that’s supplemented by a secondary digital dashboard display.
The system is a pricey optional extra on all but the electric e-Golf, where it’s fitted as standard. Read our full Volkswagen Discover Media Pro review to find out whether it’s worth splashing the cash on.
BMW Professional Multimedia
Buyers of luxury cars expect toys as standard, and BMW hasn’t disappointed with its latest 5 Series (2017-). Its Professional Multimedia system is available across the range as standard, providing European mapping via a large 10.2-inch widescreen display.
It’s also optionally available with a flashy heads-up display, which projects visual guidance onto the windscreen to minimise time spent looking at screens rather than at the road. Find out how the system compares with rival models in our full BMW Professional Multimedia review.
Peugeot 3D Connected Navigation
Peugeot proves that you needn’t shell out thousands of pounds to get a high-end built-in sat nav with a twin-screen display. The 3D Connected Navigation system is fitted as standard on all but entry-level versions of the new 5008 SUV.
As with systems offered by Audi and VW, the main screen is enhanced by a separate digital dashboard display that can also be used to show other driving, entertainment and connectivity information. Find out whether it’s a gimmick or a serious alternative to the best portable sat nav units in our full Peugeot 3D Connected Navigation review.
Renault R-Link 2
Tested in the latest Megane hatchback (2017-), Renault’s R-Link 2 system is unusual in featuring a portrait-oriented screen, which offers an improved field of view in certain driving situations. Tested here is the upgraded 8.7-inch version, which replaces the 7-inch version in mid-range ‘Dynamique S Nav’ models and above.
With European mapping and a three-year live traffic subscription thrown in, it’s a tempting extra. But how does it stack up against the best systems available? Read our full Renault R-Link 2 review to discover how it compares.
How do built-in systems compare with sat nav apps?
While integrated sat navs are increasingly becoming standard equipment on cars across the price spectrum, depending on the model you’re after it could still represent a significant investment.
Many casual sat nav users might balk at the idea of investing what could be a four-figure sum in technology they’re only ever going to use occasionally, particularly given the proliferation of free-to-use sat nav smartphone apps. However, there are pros and cons to each type of device, which largely hinge around how much you’re going to be using your sat nav.
Built-in systems will appeal more to heavy users who cover a lot of miles each year. Their integration into the car’s dashboard not only brings the convenience and security of not having to ensure your device is out of sight, but you’ll also enjoy better audio navigation quality through the stereo speakers.
With most built-in systems, you’ll also not have to worry about burning through your phone’s mobile data allowance. They normally have their own dedicated data connection to receive live traffic information and other online services.
Best Buy smartphones – see which models scored highest in our labs.
However, where smartphones have the edge is that the maps they use are continually updated, with most requiring no input from the user at all to download and install fresh maps. This compares favourably with built-in systems, which normally only offer free map updates for around three years (depending on brand). Some smartphone apps even offer totally free traffic data without time limits or other restrictions.
If you’re an avid caravan or camping enthusiast, you’ll be pleased to hear there are an increasing number of portable models aimed specifically at drivers with oversized vehicles. These allow you to specifically tailor your route to the dimensions of your rig for stress-free driving. Discover the best we’ve tested in our caravan and motorhome sat nav reviews.