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Best Affordable Technology For Cars

By Aaron Crowe

The observation of Moore’s law that computing power doubles about every two years and becomes cheaper over time has been a boon to buyers of new cars, among many other products.

No longer do you have to buy a luxury car to get the on-board navigation systems that can help with voice turn-by-turn directions, Internet searches, music and an iPod connection. While the systems are standard on high-end cars, plenty of standard cars have inexpensive navigation systems that are offered as add-ons, or are even part of the standard package.

Here are some of the best and cheapest cars with navigation systems and other technology, along with a few tech gadgets you may want to add:

Toyota Corolla: For $1,170 more, a navigation system can be added to the mid-level Corolla LE. The optional package includes HD radio, traffic and weather apps, voice-recognition and Toyota’s Entune infotainment system.

Ford Fiesta: This subcompact car, which has a starting price of about $17,000, has a touch-screen interface that Ford calls MyFord Touch. It lets the driver control stereo, hands-free phone, navigation, and climate control. The system comes as standard equipment on the mid-range Fiesta SEL.

Chevrolet Cruze: Another compact car, the Cruze, offers a navigation system for $995 on some models. The MyLink infotainment system has a 7-inch touch screen, navigation and Pandora Internet radio connectivity.

Honda Fit: The upscale Sport level of this subcompact hatchback comes equipped with a navigation system that has voice recognition, Bluetooth, and other luxury extras. The car starts at about $20,000.

Hyundai Elantra: The navigation system is part of a $2,100 premium package option that’s available for the upscale Elantra Limited. The technology package includes a rearview camera, Bluetooth streaming audio, and a touchscreen navigation system with voice activation, real-time traffic, weather and other information. This luxury car already comes with a sunroof, leather upholstery, a power driver seat and heated front and rear seats, and starts at about $17,000.

Smart Fortwo: Starting at about $12,000, this small car meant for two people (duh), is just under 9 feet long and is meant to be parked in small spaces, even perpendicular to the curb. While the car hasn’t received great reviews, for an extra $1,290 on its upscale Passion model, a technology package is available that includes a navigation system and seven-speaker surround-sound audio system. The Passion has a base price of about $15,000 and has an iPod connection and USB port for music.

UltraGauge: For drivers who want to instantly see how their car is performing — gas mileage, speed, fuel level and engine temperature, among other measurements — this $61 device does the job well. It plugs into a car’s OBDII port and displays information in real time. Adam Rodnitzky, a San Francisco resident who owns a Land Rover, says the gauge is important for him because Land Rover engine temperatures need to be monitored. The gauge can also retrieve check engine light codes, and then turn off the check engine light.

Fleetio app: This free app and online software allows users of five vehicles or less to track fuel usage, set service and renewal reminders, and store important documents in the cloud. While meant for business owners with a small fleet of cars, Fleetio could also be used by a family with a few cars as a reminder for when to rotate the tires, change the oil and other tasks, along with keeping financial records straight. It also shows the cost per mile to operate the car, helping with budgeting or charging your teen to use the family car.

BAND car charger: Admittedly, this isn’t much in the way of added technology for your car, but it’s a fashionable way to add some high tech. Made by a company called TYLT, the BAND (yes, all capital letters, which the company is addicted to) is $40. It’s a smooth silicone unibody that looks like a bendable ribbon to prevent tangling. It has a secondary universal USB port and 2.1 amps to allow the driver and passengers to rapidly charge their devices at the same time. It comes in bright red, blue, green and black.


Aaron Crowe is a journalist who covers the auto industry for