Time Well Spent: Toyota Camry Design Hybrid – 7/10

“Not the most exiting saloon car you’ll ever drive by a long shot, but proof that the original is still the best. There’s no doubt in my mind that Toyota still cuts the mustard when it comes to designing and engineering a hybrid. For those looking for an economical and green antidote to an SUV… step right this way”

So much better than you may think. The smooth operating hybrid Toyota Camry Design at £29,995

First, there was Corolla and now there’s Camry. Toyota seem to be making a habit of looking back over their shoulder when it comes to naming new models. We haven’t seen the Camry in the UK for a number of years, a car that was once the darling of executive private hire drivers and discerning but mature middle management. In a sea of SUV I can understand why this car has been launched on UK shores, there are still a good few loyal Toyota customers who mourned the passing of the UK built Avensis saloon and estate. Their aspirations are set fairly moderately for this model, Toyota are cautiously targeting to sell just 500 units annually.

Is there still a market for a large family / fleet saloon? Well I think so and despite my own personal views on the trend of SUV cars (I don’t really like them) I hear a lot of people bemoaning the fact that big bog standard saloon cruisers are on the wane. The same doesn’t run true elsewhere however. The Toyota Camry is in fact the top selling car in the US, even more incredible than that is the discovery that half the American top ten selling cars come from Japanese manufacturers – how time does indeed heal old wounds. Perhaps this might explain the overall styling that echoes Lexus and other US cars of a similar size – aha! now it all starts making sense.

“Its clearly a Toyota saloon once you get near to it as nothing shouts or screams at you in terms of design flair, if it was human it could blend into a crowd of three”

Its all very well built and offers a cracking driving position too. Audio / Sat-Nav is hopelessly outdated though and some trim items are below expectations in terms of appearance and feel compared to some European rivals. Well equipped though and really soothing to drive. Refinement when cruising is just lovely.
Power comes from a combination of a big 16v 2.5 litre Atkinson-Cycle four and Electric CVT hybrid drivetrain. Overall its smooth and economical and only gets rowdy if you really give it some clog. In normal driving its really economical and when bowling up the motorway – you barely hear the engine running.

It comes in two trim levels and just one driveline – a 2.5 petrol hybrid with electric CVT final drive. The car in question here is the Camry Design which in reality is the entry model priced at £29,995. Just like the Avensis was, the Camry is best described as inoffensive to the eye. Its clearly a Toyota saloon once you get near to it as nothing shouts or screams at you in terms of design flair, if it was human it could blend into a crowd of three. It isn’t as sleek looking as a Mondeo, as premium in stance of the new Passat nor as handsome as the Vauxhall Insignia Grand Sport. It is what it is – a large conservatively styled saloon that’s lapped up by well over 400,000 Americans.

Few will complain about the way it’s been constructed. You’ll find exacting panel gaps, a superb paint finish and a good overall feeling of construction. If you have been used to a Toyota covering intergalactic miles before expiry you will probably get the same impression after you’ve had a good poke, prod and wiggle of everything. If you closely though there’s some very subtle design touches that add real world usefulness. Moulded into the front / back lamps and door mirror mountings are ribbed strakes that aid aerodynamics and help to keep the side windows and mirrors clear from rain and dirt when driving at speed – and they do too.

There’s a good amount of front and rear space but the roofline cuts sharply down into the rear cabin leaving the headroom a bit lacking

On the inside once again it’s typically Toyota. Worthy of praise is just how well screwed together the Camry feels – despite having some textures to the touch that Passat or Audi A4 drivers would tremble at. I welcome the addition of the simulated wood veneer too (all those years of myself owing Rovers) and the way the dashboard area swoops and curves down towards the passenger side is a refreshing change from the set-square styled angular approach so many other rivals have seemed to adopt as the normal. Generally the cabin is roomy, functional, well assembled and exceptionally comfortable – oh, the driving position is rather excellent too.

“it features the worst looking infotainment and sat-nav I have come across in recent years. It works well enough – if a little slow but the screen resolution is hilariously old fashioned and the peripheral buttons that surround it look and feel like the controls of a 1990`s T.V remote”

Coming with lots of standard equipment, those tech crazy buyers will tut at the lack of Google Car Play or Android Auto programmes on the infotainment. Also, it features the worst looking infotainment and sat-nav I have come across in recent years. It works well enough – if a little slow but the screen resolution is hilariously old fashioned and the peripheral buttons that surround it look and feel like the controls of a 1990`s T.V remote. That said, a recent whisper from a Toyota GB employee in a dark corridor told me that this system is soon to be replaced for an all new one – thank God! its bloody dreadful. Funny that… Honda and Nissan struggle with the same component too so its not just Toyota.

Once underway you start to forgive and forget. The car is wonderfully smooth to drive thanks to a well insulated driveline and relaxing, comfortable front seats – just a shame the heated seat controls are just as poor as the head unit. Performance is decent and motorway cruising wont find many complaints either but the roofline eats into rear passenger headroom somewhat – a bit of a shame as the leg and elbow room is very good. The ride comfort is softer than you’d find on its rivals, its soft but not too wallowy and the steering weight and feel is much better than I thought it would be. It really does disarm the driver but chuck yourself into a fast bend and you’ll notice some considerable body roll.

“For me though the Camry trump card has to be its overall refinement. Unless you press hard into the pile the way it silently goes about its business cannot fail to make the driver nod in approval”

Thanks to some Toyota hybrid know-how, the Camry manages to have a decent sized boot owing to sympathetic positioning of the battery cells to maximise passenger / cargo space. Up to 540 litres of goods and chattels can be crammed into its rump and the cabin has plenty of storage space too that includes a brace of big cup holders, generous door pockets and a proper sized glove-box.  For me though the Camry trump card has to be its overall refinement. Unless you press hard into the pile the way it silently goes about its business cannot fail to make the driver nod in approval. On the motorway you can barely hear this thing running and most of its misgivings are soon forgotten.

MY RATING: 7/10

The Humble Opinion:

As with the Corolla I’ve recently tested, Toyota know about hybrid powertrains. 

At first I thought this car was going to be dreadful – I was so pleased it wasn’t. Not everyone wants a Mondeo Hybrid or Passat GT-E nor an SUV come to mention it. This roomy saloon may not have the kerbside wow factor of German rivals and the likes of the Hyundai i40 are serious value orientated contenders but the Toyota has reliability, good used values for when you get bored of it and a general feeling of good old fashioned quality.

You know from the off that this car is engineered properly and almost a dead-cert to be fit for purpose not to forget going on to have a long life. If you mourned the Passing of the Avensis or just want an efficient, smooth and quiet hybrid saloon without faff or fuss designed to just knuckle down with a Trojanesque attitude towards hard graft – you just have to consider the Camry.

Its not flash nor exciting… and some may say a bit boring but overall the Camry is one of those cars that grows on you – and its not bad value either.

SO… What do you think? Comment below!

 

MODEL TESTED: Toyota Camry Design 2.5 Hybrid

PRICE: £29,995 OTR

DRIVELINE: 2.5 Atkinson Cycle petrol with Hybrid ECVT final drive

POWER: Total Output – 215bhp

*ECONOMY: WLTP 50.4 to 53.3mpg (53mpg on actual test)

*CO2 – VED & INSURANCE : 98G/Km – £120 1st year – Group 31D

*PERFORMANCE: 0-60 in 8.3 seconds with 112mph max

BOOT SPACE: 524 litres

* = Makers or Govt claimed data

 

WHATS GREAT:)

  • Very good build quality
  • Soothing and comfortable to drive or be driven in
  • Excellent economy and performance balance
  • Well equipped
  • Motorway and cruising refinement
  • Great track record for reliability
  • Well engineered driveline

WHAT GRATES 😦

  • Very poor infotainment system (due to be updated)
  • Some interior fixtures and textures inside will fail to impress
  • Rather plain looking when viewed fully side one
  • Gets a bit boaty when driven with spirit through the bends
  • Lacks the kerbside wow factor of key German rivals
  • Sadly bound to be instantly dismissed as boring by the uninformed

For more information on the Toyota Camry CLICK HERE

 

 

 

One comment

  1. I’ve been awaiting this since I saw your postings on facebook a few weeks ago. I actually think it looks swish and good enough for Toyboata to sell a bit more than the 500 units you mention.

    Unless demand is that low for big saloons these days that is.

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