The Toyota Camry is spacious, comfortable and efficient – a safe bet for families and fleet drivers alike
The new Camry takes the place of the old Avensis in Toyota’s range, bringing a hybrid-only engine line-up and the associated low company car tax costs, reasonable economy and smooth, relaxed drive. Toyota’s big saloon majors in comfort and rides very nicely, while standard equipment is so good that you don’t need to venture beyond the entry-level model. Poor infotainment holds it back in this department, however.
Those who prioritise an exciting driving experience should look elsewhere: the Camry is pretty dull and doesn’t do anything to involve its driver. Rivals are more fun to drive, while an entry-level BMW 3 Series is better in almost every way bar standard kit and outright size.
Overall, the Camry’s good quality, decent value and hybrid powertrain keep it relevant in its class. It’s a sensible – if not exciting – choice.
12 Jun, 2019 3.6
The Camry’s design doesn’t exactly scream kerb appeal, but it’s modern and handsome. Fit and finish is great throughout, while the functional and practical cabin only just trails rivals for outright quality.
The dashboard itself is clear and logically laid-out for the most part, but the central infotainment screen is a big letdown. Overall equipment levels are good, but Camry doesn’t feel especially upmarket inside. It’s a shame that Toyota hasn’t managed to inject a little verve – step from the Camry into a Peugeot 508, for example, and the contrast in design and overall appeal is stark.
Sat-nav, stereo and infotainment
The infotainment system is Toyota’s Achilles’ heel and customer feedback proves as much. Things are improving with its latest generation of vehicles, and the Camry shows where these gains have been made, thanks to the sharper graphics on its seven-inch touchscreen.
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However, it’s still fiddly to use compared with rivals’ setups and can be slow to respond to inputs, while it lacks the latest connectivity technology, such as Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. For drivers who are likely to spend plenty of time at the wheel in machines like this, that omission blots the Camry’s copybook.
Instead, alongside Bluetooth and DAB radio, you get the clunky MirrorLink system to connect up your smartphone. This doesn’t work very well and both the systems in the Vauxhall Insignia and Skoda Superb are more flexible and better integrated into the cabin, too. However, there’s a central display set between two traditional dials in the instrument cluster which is usefully bigger than that found in the Skoda.
The Toyota Camry uses the Japanese manufacturer’s TNGA mechanical underpinnings – the same basic architecture used in the Prius, RAV4 and Corolla, as well as the Lexus ES. The result is a car that handles well but falls short of offering anything in the way of thrills.
That’s not so say the Camry is bad to drive – its chassis, engine and electric motor work very well together and make relaxing progress easy. The electric motor’s torque-filling abilities mean you don’t have to rev the engine too hard – but if you need to go anywhere in a hurry, refinement dips as the revs rise. It’s a punchy unit for everyday driving.
Elsewhere, the car’s steering is accurate if not particularly engaging or communicative, while relatively sophisticated suspension (MacPherson-strut at the front and double-wishbone at the rear) makes for predictable handling. The suspension has been tuned to be very pliant, dealing with the worst that British roads can dish out. Body control has a softer edge to it, but the Camry only starts to feel wallowy if pushed towards its limits – not exactly the way it’s designed to be driven.
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Generally, performance is on par with similarly priced mid-range, non-hybrid, petrol-powered rivals like the Vauxhall Insignia Grand Sport 1.6 Turbo 200, but considerably better than the Skoda Superb 1.5 TSI 150.
Engines, 0-60 acceleration and top speed
There’s just one engine and gearbox combination in the Camry: a 2.5-litre petrol-electric hybrid with a continuously variable transmission (CVT). The engine produces 215bhp at 5,700rpm, along with 221Nm of torque. It remains quiet and well-isolated at normal speeds but can intrude under hard acceleration; performance is decent, but you might need a little time to get used to the unique feel of a CVT gearbox doing it’s thing.
Toyota’s is the best gearbox of this sort on sale; there’s still that familiar ‘surging’ sensation, but the driver feels more connected to the powertrain than in previous hybrid offerings from the Japanese manufacturer.
Officially 0-62mph takes 8.3 seconds, but we clocked the Camry at 7.7 seconds. Acceleration elsewhere is adequate, facilitating safe overtaking – we clocked 30-50mph at 2.7 seconds and 50-70mph in 4 seconds. Top speed is 112mph.
The Toyota Camry is too new to have featured in our Driver Power customer satisfaction survey, but Toyota itself achieved a strong 10th-place finish out of 30 manufacturers. This tallies with Toyota’s reputation for reliability and build quality.
Euro NCAP is yet to crash test the Camry, but we expect that it will perform well once this happens. That’s in light of the good performance of the latest Corolla, with which the Camry shares its TNGA platform. A full suite of active safety equipment comes as standard, including autonomous emergency braking with pedestrian detection and collision warning, lane departure warning and automatic high-beam headlights. The step up to Excel trim brings cross-traffic alert and blind spot monitoring on top of this.
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Like all Toyota models the Camry gets a very competitive five-year, unlimited mileage warranty as standard. This beats just about every other rival hands down, save for the somewhat left-field Kia Optima rival which boasts a seven-year warranty – though this is limited to 100,000 miles.
A number of servicing options are available for the Camry, as with other Toyota models. The Camry’s hybrid system requires extra checks at service time over a conventionally powered car, but Toyota does not charge any extra for the privilege. Toyota also offers a free car wash and tyre check – plus price-matching on any tyres required.
Unlike rivals including the Skoda Superb, Peugeot 508 and Vauxhall Insignia – whose hatchback versions are joined by estates in their respective ranges – the Toyota Camry is available only as a saloon. This limits versatility slightly but overall space for both passengers and luggage is impressive. However, despite the Camry’s size, cabin storage is not great; rivals offer more in the way of cubbies.
Elsewhere, the relatively high driving position affords a decent view out, while a standard parking camera, all-round parking sensors and a large glasshouse make parking easier than you might expect.
The Camry measures in at 4,885mm long, 1,445mm high and 1,840mm wide. This is more or less on a par with the Vauxhall Insignia Grand Sport, but the Skoda Superb still reigns supreme in terms of size, storage space and overall practicality.
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Leg room, head room & passenger space
Despite not quite matching the Skoda Superb, the Toyota Camry is still a spacious car. There’s ample space in the rear for three adults to sit in comfort, with loads of leg and headroom. The front seats are comfortable and offer a good range of adjustment, with both heated as standard and with power-adjustable lumbar support – though not everyone will enjoy the high driving position. Access to the rear seats via large rear doors is good, while two ISOfix points in the rear are provided.
If you need the ultimate in space – both for passengers and luggage – the larger, more flexible Skoda Superb is your best bet.
The Toyota Camry has a large load area that measures in at 524 litres; 34 litres more than you find in a Vauxhall Insignia Grand Sport but 101 litres shy of the Skoda Superb. While the Camry’s boot is sensibly shaped, it suffers from a relatively small opening versus its rivals, and while the rear seats fold with a 60/40 split, the Camry can’t quite match its more practically shaped large hatchback rivals in this regard.
The appeal of any hybrid-powered car lies mainly in reduced running costs versus conventionally powered petrol models. The Camry delivers in this department with claimed economy of 53.3mpg, although we only managed 37.9mpg on test in mixed driving. We managed 417 miles from the Camry’s 50-litre tank and calculated that an average user will spend £1,842 on fuel over 12,000 miles, or £3,071 over 20,000 miles.
CO2 emissions are low at 98g/km, which in turn makes for cheap first-year road tax (usually rolled into the on-the-road price) and – perhaps most importantly for this sort of car – low company car tax costs. Toyota expects that 80 per cent of Camry models will be driven by fleet users; a BiK rate of 23% applies and undercuts the majority of the competition.
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The Toyota Camry sits in insurance groups 31 and 32, with the top-spec Excel occupying the latter. This is a little higher than conventionally powered rivals like the Skoda Superb and Vauxhall Insignia, most probably thanks to the potential for complex repairs to the Camry’s powertrain – not that it’s likely to go wrong.
Our experts predict that the entry-level Camry Design model will hold on to just over 45 per cent of its value over three years and 36,000 miles; the top-spec Excel version will retain around 44.3 per cent over the same period. Given the good level of standard kit on the base model and its stronger residuals, we’d suggest only stepping up to Excel trim if you really need any of its added equipment.