The TomTom Via 52 is an interesting proposition from TomTom. It’s a sat nav that offers many of the same features as its more expensive rivals, but at a price that’s not going to break the bank.
It manages this by utilising the one thing that most of us have on us all of the time: a smartphone.
Using your phone’s data, it will provide real-time updates to your sat nav - whether this is traffic information, road changes or speed camera positioning, it gets this information from your phone.
That’s not all it will do with your phone, either. It also has Bluetooth connectivity, so it can be used as a hands-free kit - handy if your car doesn’t offer this functionality.
But what is it like a straightforward sat nav? The answer is: really good.
The TomTom Via 52 has a 5-inch screen which, for us, is a perfect size for a sat nav. In TomTom terms, the Via range is slap-bang in the middle of what the company offers.
It’s a step above the Start models, which are limited in their data functionality by not offering traffic, and cheaper than the Go offerings as that range has its own data connection built in.
Design-wise, it doesn’t make too much difference. The Via 52 measures: 14.45 x 9.05 x 2.38 and weighs 209g. There is also a TomTom Via 62 option which is unsurprisingly 6 inches in size and offers exactly the same functionality.
The screen is decent enough, even in bright sunlight - at 480 x 272 pixels - and even though it’s resistive (ugh), we had no issues at all with delay or fumbling when jumping through menus. It does mean that you will have to do actual tapping on the screen for things such as zooming in and out, though, which feels a little archaic.
If you are looking for something that’s more slender and, well, looks like your phone, you will be disappointed. Sat navs are still devices that belong on a mount and not in a pocket.
Speaking of mounts, the one supplied with the Via 52 is ‘okay’. It’s reversible so if you are one of those that don’t want to stick something to their window screen, you can flip reverse and it will mount to a dash. It did take some work to change switch the mount connector on the back.
It looked like it should click nicely in place. And it did, but only after numerous attempts. The mount uses a sucker. If you were to upgrade to a TomTom Go, then you are given a magnetic mount - something that’s a whole lot easier to use.
Obviously, the mount is by no means a deal breaker and once we mastered it, and kept it on the windscreen, we didn’t have any more issues with it.
Features and functionality
We’ve already mentioned the hands-free functionality on the sat nav and that’s a really useful feature to have on a device such as this. But there’s a number of other features that make this sat nav really easy to use. For a start, there’s voice control.
Given voice is the next go-to place for operating devices, it makes sense that it’s used in the Via 52. It’s no Siri but the commands we threw at it were ably accepted.
As there’s limited phrases to use, TomTom also puts these on the screen so you know what you can and can’t say. Saying “Hello TomTom” wakes the sat nav from its slumber and it’s from here you can plan your route.
When it comes to route planning, there are a number of options. One of the more intriguing ones, is Eco. Choose this and it will find the most eco-friendly route available.
Every time we tried it, though, it felt like we were just being offered the fastest route and not the one that would be the most economical on fuel - like a steady run on a motorway - but it’s good to see TomTom trying something different here.
Finding places was a dream on the Via 52. TomTom’s mapping has always been second to none and remains be the big thing to draw drivers away from free alternatives; that and the least robotic-sounding voice around.
TomTom nails it again on the Via 52. It sometimes takes its time to find the route - especially when you ask it for an alternative - but once the course is locked, it rarely dropped for us or had to reload.
The UI is something you will be very used to with TomTom devices. A nice touch is having all the speed camera/fuel stop information on a right-hand bar. It takes the clutter away from the main map.
Setting up your phone to the Via 52 was pretty simple, too. To get it to work, you link up the sat nav to your phone through Bluetooth and setting up a personal hotspot on your phone, then activate traffic notifications on the device - this is something you get free for a lifetime.
We didn’t notice any noticeable eating of our data either, so the information TomTom is using your phone’s data for is pretty light. TomTom reckons around 7MB a month if you travel an hour a day. You will also get speed camera updates.
The device comes with this free for three months. After that, you’ll have to pay £19.99 a year for the privilege. The data it offers is decent, but unless you are paranoid about your speed it’s not something you need to bother with.
As for maps, you have the option for UK (£139) or Europe (£149). Europe costs £10 more but is more than worth it, given they will last the lifetime of the device. If you are going to take this sat nav global, then there’s 16GB of on-board storage to store more maps and a microSD slot so you can ‘map’ up to your heart’s content.
Wherever you’re going, however, don’t forget to take the accompanying charging cable. It fits into your car’s aux port - or the cigarette lighter for those who still use it as such - and will stop you from getting annoyed with the TomTom Via 52’s poor battery.
An hour on a charge just isn’t good enough - especially as most people will be using their PND to go some distance. TomTom could have also offered up a double USB port on the connector, so you could also plug your phone in at the same time - especially as you are using a personal hotspot that can eat at your battery - but there’s only a single one in the box.
Battery life aside, the TomTom Via 52 is a very capable, competent sat nav system. If you still get the fear about using your phone as a navigational device, then the Via 52 is a great ‘upgrade’.
Using the data on your phone to provide traffic analysis is a clever way to keep the device’s cost down and while it’s not the slimmest, best-looking sat nav around, it’s a well made piece of kit.
Just don’t forget the charger!