While any of today's smartphones have some GPS application, there is often no replacement for an "in-vehicle" navigation system, especially for a long road trip to an unfamiliar place. Recently, I took such a trip from AutoTrader.com's home base in Atlanta, Ga., for an extended weekend in Nashville, Tenn. With our long-term 2013 Hyundai Santa Fe Sport having no "traditional" navigation system, I was eager to give Hyundai's Blue Link a try.
Standard on all Santa Fe models, you can connect via smartphone, the Internet or from inside the vehicle using dedicated buttons on the rearview mirror. To get the full suite of features, you must add the two optional Guidance & Essentials Packages. While the two additional packages each cost $99 per year, a free 3-month trial can be added to the Assurance Package, which is free for the first three years.
I chose to connect via my mobile device, as the Blue Link application is available for all major smartphone operating systems. Setup consisted of entering standard contact and basic vehicle information (including the VIN number), and selecting vehicle and communication preferences. The phone application allows you to operate many features of the vehicle remotely (including the horn, engine, locks and lights), but most of my interaction with the system involved the turn-by-turn directions piece.
Using the Blue Link app, you can display the route via your phone's default navigation program or send the destination to the vehicle for turn-by-turn directions. I chose the latter, and after only 15 seconds I was prompted by the in-car voice to verify that I wished to be directed to the destination. The system calculated the route based on my previously chosen navigation preferences, and I was off. Directions, distance to destination and estimated time remaining are shown via the radio display, with voice and sound prompts assisting as necessary.
This was my first trip to Nashville, so I needed help with finding new places to go and how to get there. Luckily, the Blue Link app also allows for search engine-type queries. Need some caffeine to get your day started? Type in "coffee" and local places appear as blue dots on the map. You can get basic information such as name, address and phone number before making a selection and getting your route.
Overall, I was impressed with Hyundai Blue Link. With features such as remote starting, emergency assistance, point-of-interest searches and monthly vehicle reports, it replaces more than just an in-vehicle navigation system. With more than $5,500 in various packages needed to get a factory-installed navigation unit in the 2013 Hyundai Santa Fe Sport, the $198 annual fee seems an easy pill to swallow for a system that does so much more.