Toyota is going through a bit of an Eighties (or Nineties) moment in the first half of 2019, at least in terms of its model names.
First, there was the comeback of the Corolla. Returning to the UK – and built here, for that matter – it has replaced the Auris to broadly positive reviews. Later this year, the hotly-anticipated Supra will finally reach showrooms around the world. And right now we have this, the Toyota Camry. Here to replace the Avensis, it’s the company’s latest crack at the large saloon market.
Though this nameplate has only seen a brief bit of action in the UK during the ‘90s and early ‘00s, it’s one that’s well-known in global markets. Can it find equal success here? Let’s find out…
What’s new about the Toyota Camry?
Name aside, there’s quite a lot new going on here. First is its ‘GA-K’ underpinnings, which we first saw a few months ago on the mechanically-similar Lexus ES. Toyota says it allows for a better driving experience without compromising on space.
There’s also the firm’s latest 2.5-litre petrol-electric hybrid powertrain — also found in the ES — while a stiffer bodyshell and new suspension design aim to deliver improved handling and ride quality. New switchgear in the cabin also aims to bring a more modern feel to the car compared with its predecessors.
How does it look?
Ask anybody around you to quickly sketch a car. Go on, we’ll wait. Back? Cool, now compare that doodle with the Toyota Camry and it’s probably not too dissimilar.
If there was ever a car to just look like a car, the Camry is that. Its conventional boxy saloon design doesn’t feature much in the way of striking design highlights, maybe aside from its large lower grille up front, and that’s totally fine in its own right.
Being truly honest, this is a machine designed to get from A to B in as little fuss as possible, and we suspect that isn’t going to bother many buyers. If you’re seeking avant-garde, head-turning styling, you may want to look elsewhere…
What’s the spec like?
Upgrading to the £31,295 Excel trim brings with it 18-inch alloys, LED fog lights, blind spot monitoring, a rear cross-traffic warning system and wireless smartphone charging.
A bonus in the Toyota’s favour is that no matter the trim, its Safety Sense package comes for no extra cost. This adds pre-collision warning, adaptive cruise control, lane departure warning, road sign recognition and automatic high beam headlights.
The Toyota Camry has not yet been crash tested by Euro NCAP, so we don’t know what its independent safety rating will be. However, the company’s record has been pretty good in recent years so we expect the Camry to be no different.
What’s the Toyota Camry like inside?
There’s something of a premium air in the cabin of the Camry, though it doesn’t quite stray into that area of the market. Leather adorns the cabin and feels good to the touch (and also masks what may otherwise be scratchy plastics), though its wood-effect trimmings let it down as they add a tacky edge more than anything. Its seats may also be a bit narrow for those of a larger frame.
As for boot space, there are 524 litres with the rear seats in use, which is about average for the segment. That eclipses the Mazda 6’s 480 litres, though it lags more than 60 litres behind the Volkswagen Passat. Rear legroom is also not the most generous, but it’s certainly enough to accommodate a couple of adults in relative comfort.
What’s under the bonnet?
In the UK, the Toyota Camry will be offered with just one powertrain — the aforementioned hybrid combination. It combines a 2.5-litre, four-cylinder petrol engine and an electric motor to develop 218hp, with 221Nm and 202Nm of torque from each component respectively, which is delivered to the front wheels via a CVT automatic gearbox.
As a result, it will reach 60mph from a standing start in 8.1 seconds, with a top speed of 112mph possible. In terms of efficiency, Toyota claims it can achieve 50.4 to 53.3mpg on the combined WLTP cycle while emitting 101g/km of CO2.
Power is plentiful for everyday day use and its delivery is smooth, even at speed. The powertrain itself is also refined and quiet when cruising. As is usually the case with this type of automatic transmission, however, it is a little let down by a noticeable drone when pressing on, although this doesn’t detract too much from the overall package.
What’s the Toyota Camry like to drive?
When it comes to the very basics of driving, the Toyota Camry covers all the bases. Handling is pleasant enough, visibility in all directions is decent and it’s generally a very easy thing to drive.
For a machine that simply goes from A to B, it’s hard to look beyond the Camry. It’s nothing special behind the wheel, but there’s nothing wrong with it either. It’s comfortable and quiet at motorway speeds which is how most examples will likely spend their time travelling, and around town it’s no problem. Just don’t expect hot hatch rivalling fun…
As a car that can simply go from one place to another with minimal fuss, it’s hard to go wrong with the Toyota Camry. It ticks all the basic boxes – good to drive, spacious enough and efficient. Of course, there’s also the firm’s famed reliability, which should put owners’ minds at ease. Even if its infotainment is still quite shoddy.
With an engine line-up limited to just the one hybrid option, though, it may become something of a niche choice compared with family saloon rivals – the market just isn’t ready to go fully electrified just yet.
Ford Mondeo | Kia Optima | Mazda 6 | Skoda Superb | Vauxhall Insignia | Volkswagen Passat
Model as tested: Toyota Camry Excel
Price (on road): £31,295
Power unit: 2.5-litre petrol-electric hybrid
Gearbox: continuously-variable automatic transmission
Power: 218 hp
Torque: 221 Nm (engine) + 202 Nm (electric motor)
Top speed: 112 mph
0-60mph: 8.1 seconds
Fuel economy (combined): 50.4-53.3 mpg (WLTP)
CO2 emissions: 101 g/km