Sat-nav is moving out of the white van and into the convertible, with a new breed of navigators that are as much about looking good as they are finding your way home from Harvey Nicks. Mio's latest attempt at a 'style-nav' is the C320, an elegant widescreen unit built around a gorgeous touch-sensitive display. It's available now for around £220.
In the absence of a strong design concept, Mio has wisely aimed for minimalism -- the C320 is an anonymous slice of technology, whose all-black cool is only marred by unnecessary glossy black plastic edging... and Mio's own DigiWalker logo.
The 109mm (4.3-inch) touchscreen is simply excellent -- judged as good as Sony's NV-U92 by our critical test driver for brightness, sharpness and colour. The display is well laid out and cartoon-clear, with animated arrows and indicators to make even the most complex motorway junctions fool-proof.
You can choose between having the whole screen as a map (which leaves some redundant space on either side of your route) or having a pop-up console displaying speed, time, points of interest or turn-by-turn route info.
Route planning is one of the Mio's strengths, with lots of options for viewing potential routes and easy one-touch additions of speed cameras (12 months of updates are included free) and personal points of interest. UK and Western Europe street maps are pre-loaded.
The socket for an external GPS aerial is a warning sign: the C320 is far from the most sensitive sat-nav we've tested. Initial lock-on requires a full view of the sky, and the Mio's habit of forgetting the time and date each time it's turned off is equally annoying. Once it has located itself, the C320 is about average for maintaining a fix in cities and under trees.
Voice guidance is courtesy of a poorly synthesised male voice, through a speaker that suffers from cabinet resonance. The combination isn't pleasant, especially if your car is noisy, and you don't even have the option of changing the fussy male voice to more relaxed female tones.
Spoken directions are comprehensive, but occasionally poorly timed, warning pointlessly about mini roundabouts a long way ahead, or only giving directions when right on a turn. Voice guidance also lacks road names, unlike some other new sat-navs. There's no provision for traffic jam info.
A bigger problem is the C320's general sluggishness. Despite a healthy serving of flash memory, the Windows CE 5.0 interface has a tendency to freeze for up to 4 or 5 seconds when you select some menu options or screen icons.
Its MP3 player seems to have been added as an afterthought, with no headphones supplied and basic sound quality. Another reason to keep the C320 in your car is battery life: you'll be lucky to get two hours between charges.
While a good display is essential for efficient navigation, it's not enough on its own. The C320's widescreen wonder may dazzle for a few days, but you'll soon become frustrated at the unresponsive interface and irritating voice guidance. Worth considering for its pan-European maps and good route info, but definitely one to try before you buy.
Edited by Jason Jenkins
Additional editing by Nick Hide