You might think “NAV” here means “navigation,” but you’d be wrong. What it actually stands for, probably, is “Not AVailable.”

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For the longest time, I was under the impression that the saddest thing in the world was to see a blank spot on a car’s dashboard. It always just served as a sad little reminder that you were a Poor. Yes, you could have space thrusters in your car, it always said, if only you had just studied a little harder in school.

And that’s the thing – much of it was imagination. The carmaker wasn’t outright telling you to spend more money, it was just an implied designation. In reality, it was more of a mutual agreement to avoid confronting reality between driver and manufacturer:

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Driver: I’m too cheap to pay for this feature.

Carmaker: Well I’m too cheap to make a unique dashboard just to avoid offending your miserly sensibilities.

Driver: But I don’t want people to think I’m cheap!

Carmaker: But I don’t want people to think this car is cheap!

Driver and Carmaker, together, in disconcerting unison: Well, why don’t we just leave a blank space there? I won’t say anything if you won’t.

And there, like how no one discusses the many demented crimes Uncle Jimmy committed over the Christmas dinner table, an uneasy peace was made.

When infotainment screens and GPS navigation systems started finding their way into the more premium cars, the peace was maintained. Carmakers could be cheap, but not so cheap as to still include a blank button for something, or omit the selection on a touchscreen.

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But even small, inexpensive cars have all sorts of whizbang gadgetry in them. The Scion iA, which we’ve got now, is a delightful little car that’s really just a Mazda with some Toyota-made badges slapped on it, and it’s no different. It’s got a Bluetooth and a USB and HD Radio Traffic Reports and all sorts of other electronic technical standards and features devised by non-marketing people, and that’s very good. It’s a delight to drive as well, as befitting a Mazda and its cheap-and-cheerful nature.

The interior is all Mazda, too, from the screen that appears to be haphazardly slapped on the dash, as it is in every other Mazda, to the well-bezeled selector wheel used to operate that screen, as it is in every other Mazda.

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Mazda does this A) because it’s economical to make all of your interiors look and feel the same, and B) because it works well. But when you’re making every interior have the same screen and controls, it hurts you even more when you want to blank out one, tiny little button.

And in this case, when Scion wants Mazda to get the price down to $16,800 while still maintaining the fun it’s known for, its the navigation button.

So it’s still there. Upon getting into the car for the first time last night, I brought up the navigation button as I forgot which block exactly the local Trader Joe’s was on (I usually just take the bus or the subway there, like a usual miserable city-dwelling person who wishes with every fiber of their being in a quiet and awful desperation to live anywhere else).

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Which is when I was faced with this:

And there it is – the compact has been broken. No longer is it an implied, dignified acknowledgement of mutual stinginess. This time, the fault is not with Mazda, or with Scion, but with you, you cheap bastard.

“Your vehicle is not equipped with a navigation system,” it reads. “However, an integrated navigation system is available through your Toyota/Scion dealer.”

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Or, in so many words, “yes, you could have navigation in your car if only you had just studied a little harder in school.”

And just to drive the point home, you’re given a compass, your latitude, your longitude, and your elevation. Because this thing could be a navigation system if it wanted to be one, but it doesn’t.

Whatever. Even cheap bastards like us can have navigation in this beautiful world we live in. The Google Maps app is free.

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UPDATE: As a few readers have pointed out, and which I glossed over a bit originally, the option to actually get the navigation system working is a bit ridiculous. Not “ridiculously expensive,” just, ridiculous. It’s a $419 SD card you just plug into the car:

You would think for that, they’d just throw in the navigation as standard, and then watch people buy the car because NAVIGATION COMES STANDARD. There’s definitely a focus group of horrible people out there that proves me wrong, though.


Contact the author at ballaban@jalopnik.com.
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