Vexia econav 380 UK/Ireland review

Price when reviewed

Petrol prices are so high these days that fuel efficiency has become a hot topic. Regardless of your position on global warming, if you own a gas guzzler you’ll end up paying through the nose, and it’s this situation Vexia hopes to exploit with its latest satnav.

The econav 380 aims to save you fuel, not only by ensuring you don’t get lost, but also by advising you on your driving technique. This seems a sensible approach, since if you don’t drive sensibly – changing gear at the optimum moment while keeping sudden acceleration and braking to a minimum – you’ll be wasting fuel unnecessarily, no matter how green your motor is.

How does it do it? Simply by telling you when to change gear and to which one, and it’s not just guesswork either – stored in a database on the device are details of 11,000 cars from 70 different manufacturers, which the Vexia uses to work out the right gear for the right speed. It will also tell you when you’re accelerating and braking too hard and indicates the optimum speed for the gear you’re in, so you learn good habits.

It’s a fine idea in principle, but the issue is in the implementation. The first problem is that, while the econav 380 issues audio gear-change alerts in non-navigation mode, bizarrely it doesn’t do so after you’ve punched in a destination. This means in order to follow its instructions to the letter, you need to take your eyes off the road in front of you and keep close tabs on the Vexia’s screen. That’s not a safe way to drive.

The second problem is that, even if you do follow its instructions to the letter, there’s no guarantee it will make you a more efficient driver. We tested the device against a normal satnav on three different journeys – one through the centre of London, and on two long-distance motorway-intensive drives – and in each case we found we were able to get better fuel efficiency sticking with our normal method of driving.

Vexia econav 380 UK/Ireland

This appears to be mainly down to a slight lag in the positional accuracy of the GPS chip. We found the Vexia would continually tell us half a second or a second too late when to change gear, which meant we revved the engine just a little too hard.

So what about the navigation part? Well it’s competent, and there are things about it that we quite like. During our tests we found the maps and audio instructions to be clear and delivered in a timely manner.

And we liked the way endearing British idioms are used, “at the next roundabout, do a left” being one example. Handily, it tells you where you are too, with a useful panel at the bottom-right corner of the screen indicating whether you’re in or near Birmingham, Milton Keynes or Manchester, for instance; this is something not all satnavs do.

But again there are problems. The next turn icons, oddly, weren’t Anglicised on our device, so arrows pointed the wrong way around roundabouts. Worse than this, though, is the fact that the speaker is too quiet, the screen is reflective and seriously lacking in brightness, and the satellite lock and boot times are sluggish.

All of which means it’s thumbs down for the Vexia econav. It’s a half-decent idea, but it just doesn’t work here, and though the satnav is better, it’s not enough to rescue it from the “don’t buy” pile.


GPS recommended useIn-car


Maps suppliedUK and Ireland
Map data providerTele Atlas


Screen size3.5in
Resolution480 x 320
GPS chipset make/modelSiRF Atlas IV
In-car mount typeWindscreen
Bluetooth supportno
Front panel memory card readeryes
Headphone outputyes
Sync via cable?yes
Sync via cradle?no
FM transmitter?no

Other functions

Speed-camera warningyes


Dimensions118.9 x 12.2 x 77mm (WDH)

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