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Car Tech Spotlight: SD card navigation in the 2013 Mazda CX-5

Mapping software of the TomTom system is more easily updated and includes connected features, but is still pricey compared with smartphone nav apps.

By Douglas Newcomb Jan 25, 2013 7:13AM

2013 Mazda CX-5 TomTom navigation system.With the advent of inexpensive and even free smartphone navigation applications, pricey in-dash navigation systems from automakers are becoming less attractive to car buyers. Internet-enabled nav apps also come with cloud-connected features such as local search and speed-camera warnings, as well as maps that constantly update -- unlike the instantly outdated maps stored in a car’s in-dash nav system.

The optional TomTom NB1 in-dash navigation system on the 2013 Mazda CX-5 attempts to bridge the gap by offering the connectivity of a nav app. However, vehicle owners are still stuck with mapping software that isn’t updated automatically, as with most nav apps. This means they could get information for a route or point of interest that's no longer valid.

But because the mapping software for the Mazda CX-5 is stored on an SD card, the data are at least easier to update than an in-dash nav system that uses a DVD or a hard drive for mapping. It can also be less expensive, although the same can't be said for the system itself.

Getting an updated mapping DVD for an in-dash system can be pricey as well as cumbersome. Automakers and other suppliers often charge more than $100 for an updated disc, and they’re not always easy to find since dealers don’t typically stock them and they have to be special-ordered.

When you get the TomTom navigation system as part of the Tech Package option available for the CX-5 Grand Touring model, the map data on the SD card can be updated simply by connecting it to a computer using TomTom's Home software. One mapping software update is free for 60 days after the initial purchase of the vehicle, after which each update costs $79.95. Or, the owner can purchase four updates -- one per quarter -- throughout the year for $39.95, or a lifetime of quarterly updates for $99.95.

The CX-5’s navigation system also features TomTom’s Map Share feature, which, if the user opts in, allows him to receive continual, verified map data updates from other TomTom users. These crowd-sourced updates include missing POIs and changes to roads, for example. The navigation system also offers TomTom’s Live services, such as HD Traffic, weather and speed-camera info, as well as local search to find POIs, although these require a subscription.

Even though the CX-5’s TomTom navigation system includes the ability to update mapping software easily and offers some of the connected services of a smartphone nav app, it still has the biggest disadvantage of an in-dash system: It’s expensive. To get it with the Tech Package on the Grand Touring model that I tested costs $1,325.

While the option package also includes HID and adaptive headlights, keyless entry and a few other electronic amenities (the TomTom system uses the CX-5’s larger screen), an inexpensive or free smartphone nav app can be more appealing and economical for many car buyers. And it's just as helpful when you’re lost or want to find your way to a destination.

2013 Mazda CX-5 TomTom navigation system.

Jan 25, 2013 8:02AM

Your criticism of the price of the Mazda system doesn't factor in the $100+ per month cost of a "smart-phone" and maybe the additional app.


If an individual doesn't have a smart-phone and has no desire to get one (that would be me), the cost of this system could be offset in a little over a year.  That's not to mention the benefits of its larger screen and viewing location.

Jan 26, 2013 6:03AM

The Navi doesn't cost $1,300 in the CX-5.  The package costs $1,300.  Lots of other goodies are included in the package.  The Navigation alone can be added to any CX-5 with the HD radio and touchscreen display for around $600 and some change.  That would include the Touring model, or even sport models equipped with the BlueTooth package.

Jan 25, 2013 8:42AM

I think if you ask any road warrior what they prefer, they will tell you there is no substitute for a good, portable GPS.  Unless one has a convenient place to mount a smart phone they can be difficult to view at a glance and downright dangerous if you have to look down to see it.  The screens can be small and they could be difficult or impossible to use if you are actually needing to talk on your phone while trying to navigate.  


$1300 + for an in-dash system?  From Tomtom?  And you still have to pay for the updates?    Regular updates on smartphone sound nice but how critical are they really?  I keep my Tomtom updated quarterly and have never been steered wrong.  I pay the same for updates on my portable Tomtom (which I can move from car to car) as one would pay for the in-dash system (which is, obviously, not portable).  The big difference is I only paid about $130 or one-tenth of the cost of the in-dash. 

Jan 25, 2013 4:26PM
Smartphone? I don't even have a smart dog
Jan 25, 2013 11:10AM
"This assumes of course that you have a smartphone.  Am I the only one left without a smartphone?"

Not to worry, you are not alone.
Jan 25, 2013 1:44PM
When traveling, a GPS is a HUGE time saver and offers a lot more than just directions. They avoid/alert you of traffic jams, direct you to the nearest gas stations, police stations, hospitals, restaurants, malls, the hotel you will be staying at, the place where your meeting is going to be that day and much much more. Is it a necessity? Well, that's a matter of opinion. Do you travel a lot, do you work out in the field a lot?
  In the past I have worked as inspector for banks and insurance companies and would visit several sites, businesses and residences each day that I had never been to before. For people that have those types of jobs, or delivery jobs, a GPS pays for itself very, very quickly and since most of them have voice prompting they are much safer to use in a vehicle than constantly taking your eyes off the road to read directions or a map.
  Don't want to own one or don't need one? Good for you but they are not a waste of money to many of us, they are a fantastic addition to our vehicles.
  I am shocked that so many do not have smart phones either. My phone has paid for itself many times over with what it can do, and save, with the apps in it. It is an invaluable tool for me at work and something that I benefit from every day in my personal life. You're missing out and losing money unless you live a very simple life and simply would not use any of the functions.
  My phone is a police scanner, a GPS, handles my email, allows me to get on line anywhere that I choose, takes voice notes, reminds me of my meetings, tells me who has the cheapest gas and where they are located, allows me to book my hotel rooms last minute and save over 50% every time, when shopping it scans bar codes and gives me ratings for the reliability of products and then tells me who is selling it for the cheapest price, and much much more. It easily pays for itself.

Jan 25, 2013 7:58AM
"With the advent of inexpensive and even free smartphone navigation applications, pricey in-dash navigation systems from automakers are becoming less attractive to car buyers."

This assumes of course that you have a smartphone.  Am I the only one left without a smartphone?

But as for this system:
First question is will the system allow music to be played from the SD card, or is it restricted to being used by the navigation system only?

And a comment:  I notice that it is a simple double-DIN opening and is not tied to climate controls.  I really like this, it raises the possibility of just getting the base stereo and then subsequently replacing it with an aftermarket one that may have a better in-dash navigation function.  And maybe an SD card slot usable for music as well as updates.  That's what I did to my Acura, except I couldn't find a stereo I was happy with that had an SD slot.  So I have a USB thumb drive in the glove box instead.  Close enough.
Jan 25, 2013 11:06AM
I bought a top of the line mazda back in 2004. When the dealer asked me if I wanted the navigation system for another $3,500, I coldly refused, without thinking twice about it.

No vehicle I own has a navigation system; I look up the route I want on in advance, and so far, I have never, in all these years, needed a built-in navigation system (and I drove quite a bit around on this planet). I am not paying extra for something I do not need nor care about.

Jan 25, 2013 11:17AM
"First question is will the system allow music to be played from the SD card, or is it restricted to being used by the navigation system only?"

Good question. Mr. Newcomb, do you have an answer for us?
Sep 15, 2013 2:19AM
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