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★★☆☆☆

“Smartnav - journey over”

Written on: 23/08/2013

My Smartnav journey began back in 2004, when it was included as a trial offer with my new Mitsubishi Grandis.

At the time, it was innovative, and my friends were duly impressed when they heard me call the Smartnav concierge for a route, instead of struggling with a touchscreen device.

But Smartnav have allowed themselves to be left behind. The service is expensive. I was paying £210 a year for UK navigation plus speed camera alerts, and each time I visited Europe, it was another £9.99 on top. That’s around £2,000 over the years.

If you call yourself ‘smart’, you need to live up to it, and Smartnav doesn’t always. When you phone their customer services, you’re ironically often put in a long queue. Their live traffic doesn’t fare much better. There were times when I had to inform them of major road closures (such as the Blackwall Tunnel on one occasion) as they were blissfully unaware. Quite often, I would be advised ‘there are no serious traffic problems on your route’, only to take my place at the back of a gridlock moments later.

When you have apparently taken a wrong turn, re-routing takes an age, as Smartnav goes through a laborious routine of ‘you are no longer on the planned route… Smartnav is calculating a new route to your destination….your route of 30 miles will take you on the A35, A30 etc etc’, during which time you’re screaming with frustration about where the heck to steer, and have probably compounded your deviation from the route still further.

Of late, I noticed the system becoming flaky in many locations. For instance, it persistently tried to send me north up the A3 into London, when my destination was south of London. I just had to ignore it until the penny dropped and it gave proper directions again. Also, it finds it hard to cope with city centres (once, Maidenhead was too much for it – and in parts of parts of East and West London, it just stops working). For years, it didn’t recognise most of an entire motorway in France, the A28.

As for the concierges, they are mostly pleasant and helpful (though one or two lacked basic UK geographical knowledge). It was largely the same staff year in, year out, so you kind of got to know them.

Smartnav is a nice-to-have, if you don’t mind shelling out an awful lot of money for it every year. However, the service is becoming increasingly inferior to that provided by even budget ‘windscreen’ devices.

Which is why, after nine years, I have cancelled my subscription in favour of a Garmin.