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First Drive

First Drive: Toyota Camry

Toyota Camry 2.5 Hybrid Excel
The story: The Toyota Camry executive car offers high-end business motoring with super-low costs, and it’s been given a facelift and raft of equipment updates.
Key rival:Peugeot 508 Hybrid 225
On sale:Now

Toyota is nothing if not a brand of contrasts these days. While its shouty cars such as the GR Yaris and Supra are gaining all the headlines, the “under the radar” offerings such as the Camry executive saloon are still going about their low-cost, unobtrusive business.

Indeed, businesses are precisely what the freshly updated 215hp hybrid-powered Camry is aimed at, with its low official 125g/km of CO2 and 53.3mpg official economy figures – not bad at all for a sizeable saloon.

And “sizeable” is certainly one of the positives about the Camry. It offers loads of space up front and there’s more than enough room behind for three adults to get comfortable. The boot, meanwhile, is truly enormous, and you can fold down the back seats with just the tug of a lever in the boot area.

First Drive - 3rd June 2021 - Toyota Camry - Image 5The updates for 2021 comprise mainly visual exterior tweaks, including new alloy wheel designs, LED headlights and a revised front bumper. There’s also better interior tech and luxury kit. The Camry has been fitted with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone integration, enhancing an infotainment set-up that was feeling well beyond its years. Toyota’s comprehensive Safety Sense package also comes with Lane Trace Assist in the Camry, so the car can help the driver steer on the motorway.

Electric front seats now have a memory function and are cooled as well as heated, while the electrically adjustable heated steering wheel also has a memory setting.

The Camry’s primary market is the US, and that shows in how it drives. The soft suspension is at its best on the motorway, although the low(ish)-profile tyres cause a certain amount of patter, and body movements aren’t terribly well controlled. On a back-road, the Camry feels pretty ponderous and ill at ease.

However, matters improve in town, where the benefits of the hybrid drivetrain come to the fore. It is keen to use electric power wherever possible, which helps both refinement and costs; the car is really quiet in town until the engine starts.

Light steering makes parking a doddle, and it’s made even easier by the Panoramic View Monitor system that gives you an overall view of the car. It’s standard on higher-spec Excel models.

euan doig


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The verdict

The Camry still feels like a car designed for the US, but the upgrades are good and its running costs are brilliant.