The Toyota Camry has been on top of the sales charts charts for as long as I can remember, this has been built on the back of cheap pricing and Toyota’s perceived reliability and partly because it was made here in Australia.
While it’s been on top of the sales charts, I’ve often heard it described as white goods on wheels with uninspiring dynamics and handling with boring and lackluster interiors, the old joke was every Camry should come with bowls hat on the rear parcel shelf from the factory.
That is until now, Toyota released the new generation fully imported Camry at the end of 2017 built on Toyota’s new New Global Architecture not only offering better looks, an updated interior, but also much better dynamics and handling due to a lower centre of gravity .
The big question was when I picked up the keys to the Camry Hybrid was can this be the Camry that breaks the boring mould.
They say first impressions make a big difference and in this case yes they do I really like the Camry’s looks, the Camry has a lower roof line then the previous model giving it a sleeker more athletic profile, the front end styling reminds me of a helmet from a scifi movie. The sleek profile, attractive alloy rims, decently styled rear end complete with subtle rear spoiler just add to the over all attractive package that looks absolutely gorgeous in the Eclipse Black paint.
The Camry comes in 4 models Ascent, Ascent Sport, SX and SL and is available with either a 2.5L 4 cylinder or 2.5L Hybrid power trains, the SX and SL models also come with the option of a 3.5L 224kW V6 as well.
I’m testing the entry level Camry Ascent Hybrid and was really impressed by the equipment levels, gone are the days of old where entry level meant it was short of features, you still get the crappy plastic steering wheel which was the only thing I didn’t really like inside. But you do get stuff like dual zone air con, keyless entry and push button start (which are exclusive the Hybrid model), 17inch alloys, LED headlights with automatic high beam, LED day time running lights, 7 inch touch screen with full Bluetooth connectivity and six speakers. Plus important safety features such as Pre-collision alert, Autonomous Emergency Braking (AEB), lane departure warning with steering assist, active cruise control, 7 airbags and reverse camera not bad at all for a car that is just under $34,500 drive away for me in N.S.W.
Steeping inside and I could tell Toyota has made a vast improvement over the previous model the interior not only has a much better look but more importantly a more up market feel thanks to the stitching on the dash, black piano and brushed metal finishes and the abundance of soft touch materials.
The cloth covered seats are extremely comfortable to sit in, the plasticy steering wheel while being the only thing i didn’t really like on the inside but at least it had buttons for audio, cruise control and 4.2 inch screen between the tacho and speedo which can be used to display myriad of information from fuel economy, trip information details from the hybrid drive train which found particularly interesting at times.
The shapely dash has an up market feel thanks to the aforementioned stitching and soft touch materials, there is metal finished strip that starts at the drivers side of the dash and curves down to the console on the passenger side which not only looks great but also adds some contrast with the dark finishes.
The centre stack is home to the 7 inch touch screen for the infotainment system which I found easy to use and set to up my phone. Bad sadly the lack of android auto or apple car play means the system is lacking behind most other manufacturers that have moved in that direction. Which means the system lacks the user friendliness and features that come was using systems, it also means there’s no sat nav that you can easy access as well.
You can download the Toyota link app but I’ve heard not only is it painful to use but a pain to set up so I didn’t even bother trying at least I could live stream my music from Spotify via Bluetooth so I was happy.
Head in leg room in front was extremely good which carries on over to the back seats as well and even my kids were impressed with the room they had.
Toyota have thankfully moved the battery pack to under the rear seat so boot space is improved over the previous model at 524L which can increase thanks to the 60/40 split fold rear seat.
While the interior and features are a massive leap forward the star of the show for me sits under the bonnet in the form of Toyota’s drive train. Which features a 2.5L 4 cylinder petrol engine rated at 131kW and 221Nm combined with an 88kW 202Nm electric motor powered by a Ni-MH battery pack.
Not only does this make the Camry extremely tractable, the Camry will easily keep up with traffic the hybrid power train has plenty of torque when you need it and it will easily cruise at highway speeds.
One I did notice was how quiet it was when driving while the transition from battery to the petrol is smooth and mostly unnoticeable you can hear the petrol engine when kicks in although the engine is greatly mooted, most of the time it’s just amazing how quiet it actually is to ride and drive in.
To say the fuel economy figures were good would be a grose understatement but also returns extremely good fuel economy figures, now i had a hint the Camry was going to return decent fuel economy figures for the week but even I was damn surprised with how well it actually did.
During the week for my commute to work plus running around doing family commitments I averaged 5.0L/100km which makes it easily one of the most fuel efficient cars I have tested in fact the figures it returned were even better then what I got with a Suzuki Swift not bad for a car that is weight ways just over 1600kg.
On the road the Camry is one of best riding cars I’ve had the pleasure of driving and riding in, it rides the bumps and imperfections of your typical Sydney B road smoothly and without any harshness being transmitted back into the cabin.
The steering feel is well weighted with plenty of feel so you know the wheels point where you point them every time, although when parking the steering is light enough to wheel around with one hand making it easy to get into parking spots.
One thing that does taking getting use is the brakes being a Hybrid the brakes are a little on the sensitive side specially when switching between the regenerative braking to normal braking which did take a little bit for me to get use to once I did they didn’t pose an issue, the ABS works extremely well as I found out when some numb nut decided to pull out in front of me and i was able to steering around them easily with ABS activated.
Safety wise as you would expect the Camry has received a 5 star ANCAP safety rating and comes standard with the following safety features.
7 SRS airbags dual front, front side, full length curtain airbags and driver’s knee airbag, Toyota Safety Sense + (Lane Departure Alert, Pre-Collision Safety System, Automatic High Beam, all speed Active Cruise Control Anti-lock Braking System with Electronic Brake-force Distribution and Brake Assist Vehicle. Stability Control and Traction Control, Hill-start Assist Control and Brake Hold, Electronically Controlled Brake system.
It gets bonus points for having a standard fit reversing camera with moving guidelines but then looses them as there are no reverse or front parking sensors to get them you need to upgrade to the Camry Ascent Sport hybrid but that also adds sat nav, a powers drivers seat and premium steering wheel which gets rid of the crappy plastic covered one that I hated.
The big question i had when I picked up the Camry was could this be the Camry that finally breaks the boring mould well the answer to that is an unequivocal yes. After a week I couldn’t come away more impressed then I was with the Camry, it comes with a long standard equipment list specially for an entry level model. The ride is unbelievably smooth and compliant, there is a great amount of space and not only does it make a great car to commute back and forwards to work in every day it makes the perfect family car. The only downsides I found with the car were the lack of rear parking sensors and the plastic steering wheel both can be fixed by going up the next model.
The only other thing is the warranty while most car manufacturers are moving towards 5 year or more warranties with unlimited kilometres Toyota is behind the times by still only offering a 3 year 100,000km warranty. So i think it’s time for them get with the times and offer a longer warranty specially when the company has built a reputation of offering reliable cars. The Hybrid battery though comes with an 8 year 160,000km warranty
The added benefit of the Hybrid system which uses hardly any fuel only makes it a more intelligent choice, while the local market is turning to more and more to SUV’s the Camry Hybrid makes the perfect sense for somebody looking for a 5 seat family car and will use a lot less fuel then most SUV’s.
For more information on the Camry Ascent Hybrid check out the Toyota website http://www.toyota.com.au and most certainly get down to dealership and test drive one.
Toyota Camry Ascent Hybrid
Price: $34,990 Drive away in NSW at the time of this review.
Engine: 2.5L Dual VVT-iE petrol engine with Hybrid Synergy Drive
Transmission: CVT (Constant Variable Transmission)
Warranty: 3 year 100,000km warranty, 8 year 160,000km warranty for Hybrid battery.
Servicing: Capped priced servicing every 12 months for 5 years.