After having to abort driving the Smart car across France due to snow in Barcelona (yes, snow in Barcelona) I had to have it shipped over on a transport unit. It arrived last week, slightly dirty, but still looking as cute as ever.
Now onto my issues.
1. The car is left hand drive – and as many of you may be aware of – the folks over here prefer to drive on the wrong side of the road. YES – WRONG and don’t go accusing me of being a “damned American”.
2. I have a not so keen sense of direction. Really. Do I get lost going to the toilet? No. Do I get lost driving from Victoria station to my house in Notting Hill? Yes and seriously.
Maybe it actually isn’t that I have a bad sense of direction. Maybe it has to do with a few factors, such as I have never driven on the other side of the road, my car is left hand drive, I have never paid any attention to where I am going in cabs in London and, finally, the streets in London are wiggity wack funky.
Mmmn, I love assigning blame to everything but my bad sense of direction.
So what is a girl to do?
The first thing that I attempted to do was go and get the car washed. You can only imagine how dirty it was after having been after having driven across hell and high water (or France) to get here.
This task seemed simple enough. Someone told me to go up to Ladbroke Grove, turn right and then go to where it meets Harrow Road and there is a car wash. Easy peasy lemon squeezy.
Or so it seemed.
I busted out my London A to Z guide and checked the route before heading off.
Did I make it to the car wash? Not a chance. Then on my way home I got completely lost again and ended up taking probably the longest way across Notting Hill that could be imagined.
I had had enough. This was never going to work.
That is when I started investigating satellite GPS systems for the car. And that is when I discovered Tomtom – the affordable and highly rated handheld systems for your car.
I did my usual online research and was having a pickle of a time trying to decipher which unit would suit my needs without going overboard on cost. I immediately ruled out the Tomtom 700 because I really didn’t need detailed maps of all of Europe (the Smart isn’t a fan of long road trips as previously mentioned). This brought me to the Tomtom 500 – which had pretty cool features that included hands free calling via Bluetooth for my mobile phone. This feature seems really cool. It imports your contacts from your phone and allows you to make calls through the Tomtom interface. Sweet, right? The next version I ruled out as well – Tomtom 300 – due to the fact that it didn’t have the handsfree calling. I also pretty much overlooked the Tomtom ONE because of this fact as well.
Then I went onto the forum at mytomtomgo.com and started reading around for complaints or reviews. And that is when I stumbled upon some disturbing posts. People were complaining about the fact that their 700 / 500 / 300’s were having trouble picking up signals in London. That, in fact, the ONE had a new GPS chipset that made the signal work really well without the need for an antennae booster add-on. I became a bit distraught by this news wondering if I should ignore their advice and take a chance or if I should forgo the handsfree feature for the safer bet. I read on. More and more evidence pointed to the fact that the ONE (cheapest model) actually outperformed even the 700 (which is about £200 costlier). People were claiming that they were trading in their 700s for the little guy.
At this point, I decided to go for the Tomtom ONE, with the added bonus that I would save a little money. I found one at PC World in Tottenham Court Road after another drive where I ended up lost thereby sealing the deal and justifying my purchase even furhter. The cost was £249 (including VAT) + I purchased an AC adapter so I could charge it up inside for an additional £19.
Being the child that I am about new purchases, I promptly tore into my new toy as soon as I walked out of the door of PC World. I jumped in my little green chariot and sat there fiddling and plugging things in (ignoring the quick start guide, of course). Low and behold, in under 5 minutes my little Tomtom was set up and ordering me about.
I have never really used a GPS navigation system before. I have, however, sat in friends cars and listened to them annoy me. But Tomtom isn’t actually annoying. Perhaps that has something to do with my overwhelming gratitude that it got me home pretty quickly without the feeling of panic at being lost.
The Tomtom ONE is surprisingly small and lightweight. The color screen is very clear. The touchtap system works well, although I could see people with larger hands having slight difficulty working it. The voices that are included are pretty dry. My choices were Jane the British bitch or Tim the Loser. I switched throughout the day between them and honestly couldn’t tell you who I preferred. One really cool thing is that you can download new voices and install them – which I have. I now have the official John Cleese voice (quite good if you are a Fawlty Towers or Monte Python fan), the Joanna Lumley (turn right, darling – turn left, sweetie) and the Dr. Evil (I told you to friggin turn). There are also add on features that I haven’t yet explored because my phone isn’t GPRS (damn it!).
Some features that I do wish the Tomtom had are:
1. When I do something wrong – tell me that I missed the freakin’ turn. Don’t just readjust and continue like nothing happened. How will I ever learn the correct way? I guess this goes to their user research of men. They probably prefer to not be yelled at by Jane when they do something wrong in the car. But I want to know!!! Tell me so I can do it correctly next time.
2. I want a trip overview once I have arrived at my destination. How much time did it take me to get here? How far was it? How many times did I make a wrong turn and screw up the itinerary?
All in all I am in love with my little Tomtom ONE. I think that London is probably one of the most perfect cities in the world for this product (Los Angeles being another good example). Go out and buy one and let me know if you hate Jane as much as I do.