Toyota has clocked up more than 19 million Camry sales in 100 countries worldwide. The four-door family saloon has been missing from UK showrooms for 15 years, but is back in pure hybrid form. Customers can choose from two generously equipped trim levels and the car boasts performance capabilities to match the dynamic styling.
The goodStyling, handling and economy
The badQuite pricey for a family saloon
Toyota Camry – first drive (2019)
I’VE always had quite a nostalgic soft spot for the Toyota Camry as it was my first ever hire car, first left hand drive, first automatic, first overseas driving experience and the first car I drove on the ‘wrong’ side of the road.
Admittedly, that was some time ago during the 1980s when the four-door family saloon was in its infancy. But since those days in Boston, USA, the Camry has gone on to sell in excess of 19 million models in 100 countries worldwide and it would be fair to say it has become one of the most recognised vehicles on the planet.
But, in recent years, the Camry has been absent from the UK and Europe. In fact it’s been 15 years since it was sold here. But all that is about to change with the launch of the all-new eighth generation Camry which sees the bar raised to a new level. It’s a vehicle designed to challenge hybrid competitors such as the Ford Mondeo and VW Passat, but it could actually make an impact into some premium manufacturer’s sales figures.
New Camry is on sale in two trim levels called Design and Excel with prices set at £29,995 and £31,295 respectively. It’s quite the head-turner with its dynamic streamlining, wide upper grille housing the Toyota badge and incorporating slim headlight units with daytime running lights. There’s a massive lower grille, rippled bonnet, a sloping roof, rising waistline and either 17 or 18-inch alloy wheels (depending on the trim level), plus the choice of five exterior paint colours to select from.
The interior is very classy and upmarket with lots of soft-touch surfaces, supple leather, piano black finishing, wood-like grain mouldings and a new satin chrome trim to complete the look. Both the Camry Design, which is expected to account for about 76 per cent of sales, and the Camry Excel models are generously equipped with a seven-inch touchscreen incorporating Toyota Touch 2 and Go multimedia and navigation system. Techno treats include full navigation with 3D mapping, MirrorLink for smartphone connectivity, DAB radio, Bluetooth and wireless smartphone charging. However, the slight downside is the lack of Apple CarPlay or Android Auto.
But one rather clever new feature worth noting is the dual-zone air conditioning with nanoe technology that releases particles into the cabin via the vents and these have a gentle moisturising effect on skin and hair.
Powering the new Camry is a 2.5-litre Hybrid Dynamic Force engine and electric motor (as seen in the recent RAV4) that delivers impressive fuel economy with a combined 50.4 to 53.3mpg (WLTP) and carbon emissions from 98g/km (NEDC) for the Design model on 17-inch wheels or 101g/km for the Excel on 18-inch alloys.
This engine is mated to a sequential Shiftmatic six-speed transmission and the front-wheel-drive Camry can sprint to 62mph from a standing start in a very respectable 8.3 seconds, maxing out at 112mph.
We tested a range-topping model on the silky smooth roads of Croatia and it coped faultlessly and effortlessly with steep inclines, sharp twisting country lanes and fast-moving motorways. The CVT gearbox delivered perfectly timed acceleration in a really composed manner without any hissy fits like some CVT units.
There was a constant stream of power on tap to help make light work of overtaking and there are four drive modes called EV, Eco, Normal and Sport that alter the car’s responses. For a little added spice the driver can shift through the gears manually using a lever on the centre console and this mimics a quick-shifting six-speed automatic engine.
From a design and engineering viewpoint, the Camry is based on Toyota’s TNGA GA-K platform which helps deliver excellent aerodynamics and a balanced performance thanks to the low centre of gravity. This means the road-holding is assured and there is no sign of body sway into tight corners.
This platform also introduces a longer wheelbase and that means extra space has been created within the cabin with an improved driving position and additional rear legroom. Although there is room a trio of back seat passengers, realistically two would sit comfortably with three at a squeeze.
Storage options are impressive with a very deep boot that can accommodate 524 litres of luggage. Elsewhere there’s a decent sized glovebox, a covered central box, front and rear cup holders, deep door bins, seat back pockets and a small storage compartment by the driver’s door.
As well as delivering on the performance and styling fronts, new Camry is incredibly refined with barely a hint of engine, road surface or wind noise filtering into the cabin. This is due to additional insulation across the entire firewall, along with foam and vibration-damping materials applied to various areas of the frame. In fact, one of the first things you notice when you step into the car are the thick padded carpets underfoot – they feel very plush and obviously contribute to the sound insulation of the car.
As one would expect, Toyota has kitted out the Camry with all the latest safety features and driver aids, including Toyota Safety Sense – a set of active safety features designed to prevent accidents.
All in all, the eighth generation Camry has certainly come a long way from the car I tested way back when in America. But all these years on, I can happily say that I still walked away equally impressed.