Quick spin: Toyota Camry

The Toyota Camry is one of the Japanese marque’s best-selling models. In the USA alone, nearly half a million are sold every year. Yet the Camry hasn’t been available in the UK since 2004. Until now.

It’s an odd time to bring the Camry back to the UK market, though. Sales of big saloons are dwindling rapidly, but Toyota still felt the need to replace the departed Avensis, hoping the fact that the Camry is only available as a hybrid will bring interest from fleets. And, since the Camry is a global product already available in other right-hand-drive markets, it doesn’t cost Toyota much to bring the Camry to the UK.

Big saloons may be falling out of favour, but the class is still incredibly competitive and the Camry faces strong opposition in the likes of the Ford Mondeo, Skoda Superb, Kia Optima, Vauxhall Insignia, Volkswagen Passat and so on and so on.

The Camry has its work cut out to distinguish itself. Which it does by being… soothing.

It starts soothing the moment you get it. The seats are big and plush, the dashboard architecture is interesting and makes ergonomic sense. It comes generously equipped, though the infotainment is maddening.

Fire it up and the engine thrums away quietly in the background. Between them, the engine and the electric motor serve up a decent slug of power, with good mid-range pull. Even at high speed, the engine will shut down if the electric motor can take the strain. With or without the engine running, the cabin is hushed with barely a whisper of wind or road noise.

All of which gave the impression that it would be completely flummoxed when thrown into a corner, but no. Body control is taut, the suspension doesn’t get caught out and the steering is accurate. It’s just not an involving experience, with too little feedback from the steering and adjustability in the chassis. 

But this isn’t a car that encourages pushing the dynamic envelope, anyway. Instead, you want to ease back, relax and let the miles slip by.

Like we said – it’s soothing.

The Camry is equal as soothing for passengers too, particularly those in the rear who get a generous amount of leg and headroom – despite the batteries being packaged under the seat. The boot is surprisingly big and the back seats fold down – unusual in a saloon.

It’s bandwidth is more limited than some others in this class, which manage to be relaxing when cruising and entertaining in the twisties. And the lack of an estate will limit its appeal. But the Camry still has a lot going for it – it looks good, is well equipped, very spacious and just so soothing. The fact that the Camry is a hybrid in a class with relatively few of them will, on its own, win buyers.

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Model tested: Toyota Camry 2.5 VVT-i Excel CVT Type: Big hybrid saloon Price: £31,295 Engine: 2.5-litre 4-cylinder petrol/electric hybrid Power: 218hp Torque: 163lb/ft Transmission: CVT auto, front-wheel-drive Performance: 0-62mph in 8.3secs, top speed 112mph Economy: 53.3mpg combined, Co2 emissions 99g/km Length: 4,885mm Width: 1,840mm Height: 1,445mm Weight: 1,595kg Boot capacity: 524 litres Towing weight: 750kg

By Graham King

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