First Drive

First Drive: Toyota Camry

Toyota Camry Hybrid Excel
The story: Toyota has relaunched the Camry large saloon back into its European line-up more than 15 years after it was last sold here. A huge seller in markets such as the USA, it partially replaces the Avensis in the UK as a range-topping regular saloon model.
Category:Upper Medium
Key rival:Volkswagen Passat
On sale:Now

Toyota has an eye on buyers of the Volkswagen Passat and Mazda 6 with its new Camry, a badge returning to the UK after a 15-year absence.

Company car user-choosers are a key target thanks to the hybrid powertrain offering emissions from just 97g/km, with 80% of the 500 cars coming into the UK heading for corporate sector. The rest are likely to be accounted for by returning Avensis buyers looking to replace the now-defunct saloon.

The hybrid system links a 178hp 2.5-litre petrol engine with an electric motor capable of running the car for short distances on battery alone, recharging using energy recouped under deceleration or using the engine.

First Drive-June 2019-Toyota Camry-Image 7Understated best describes the exterior, while the inside is largely good quality with some patches of harder plastics. The infotainment is though off the pace compared with systems in rivals, and Apple CarPlay or Android Auto connectivity aren’t yet available, with Toyota vague about when they might appear.

There’s plenty of space, front and back, thanks to the car being more than 11cm longer than a Passat, while the boot’s 524 litres is easily big enough despite being over 60 litres down on the VW’s. However, the presence of the batteries means the Camry’s rear seats don’t drop, and there’s not even a ski hatch for longer items.

The hybrid system is a big improvement on even recent versions of the powertrain, and while the Camry isn’t completely settled over roads that aren’t smooth, it otherwise rides well. There’s a surprising amount of wind noise at motorway speeds, though.

First Drive-June 2019-Toyota Camry-Image 6Equipment levels are good, with the lower-specced Design trim getting 17-inch alloys, front and rear parking sensors, metallic paint and dual-zone climate control, as well as Toyota’s Safety Sense package of systems, while the small £1300 step up to Excel adds 18-inch alloys that bump the CO2 up from 97 to 101g/km, LED lights, blind spot monitor with rear cross traffic alert and a wireless charging tray.

The Camry is a likeable and inoffensive sort of car that enjoys the BIK advantages that the hybrid powertrain brings, especially while rival diesels don’t comply with the RDE2 legislation. Toyota’s modest sales ambitions reflect a declining sector that the Camry is priced near the top of. There’s no estate either, but the saloon is a perfectly sensible and acceptable choice.

Paul Barker

The verdict

Comfortable, well specced, efficient and with a decent cabin, the Camry has plenty going for it but will remain a niche, if very sensible, choice.