Do you believe in the trickle-down effect? When American Suzuki Motor Corp. announced today that, for 2009, its SX4 compact car will have a standard, fully integrated navigation system in a car that starts at less than $16,000, it signified that this product has come full circle. Once the province of expensive import cars from the likes of Acura, Lexus, and BMW, navigation is now an everyman's device, soon to be as ubiquitous as the cell phone and the personal computer.
Developed in partnership with Garmin, maker of portable navigation systems, and available with a variety of Microsoft Network features at extra cost, the Suzuki system is fully integrated into the instrument panel and features a flip-up, 4.3-inch touch-screen display. Admittedly, navigation systems in many vehicles are bigger than that, but the Suzuki system is still fully featured. Bluetooth capability, real-time traffic, weather forecasts, and a gas-price finder feature will cost extra.
To put this pricing into perspective, the cheapest way to get navigation in the Toyota Matrix is to buy the midline S model for $18,260 and pay $1520 for the navigation option. In the popular Mazda 3, which was one of the first small cars to offer navigation, you must ante up for the Grand Touring trim level, at $20,845, and add another $1750 for the navigation system. Navigation is not available in the Honda Fit, and Honda Civic models with navigation cost more than $20,000.
Let's face it: navigation systems are a luxury, not a necessity, but they are extraordinarily useful for those who travel regularly beyond familiar turf. The fact that navigation is now available so cheaply is something to cheer.