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Tony O'Kane | Nov 18, 2009 | 3 Comments

2010 Toyota Camry Ateva Road Test Review

TOYOTA'S STALWART CAMRY has been its frontline soldier in the Australian market for over two decades. As reliable as sunrise, it is absolutely dominant in its sector, commanding over 40 percent of the mid-size car market.

A success-story for Toyota Australia's export program, it is currently Toyota's third most-popular vehicle - after the Corolla and HiLux ranges - in the Australian market.

But the competition has been heating up. Holden has recently introduced the more fuel-efficient SIDI engine to its Commodore range and Ford has confirmed a four-cylinder turbo for its Falcon.

Toyota has responded with a revamped Camry for 2010. There is now more equipment, improved fuel-efficiency and tweaked visuals. And, certain to find favour with family buyers, prices for both the automatic Ateva (as tested) and Sportivo have been reduced by $1,260.

We spent a week with a mid-spec Camry Ateva to see how the updates have improved this perennial favourite.

 

Styling

For the most part, the exterior changes are minimal, and at first glance there’s not a lot to differentiate this new Camry from the model it replaces.

The Ateva gains a curvier grille and a smoother front bumper, with the former boasting some classy-looking chrome inserts. The foglight housings are also bigger, and the front airdam has been enlarged.

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The same front styling treatment features on other models in the Camry range, however the Sportivo drops the slatted grille in favour of a black mesh number.

New ten-spoke 16-inch alloy wheels are fitted to the Ateva (the base Altise makes do with 16-inch steel wheels), and the rear tail-lights now use LEDs instead of conventional bulbs.

Sheetmetal is unaltered, but that’s okay. While the Camry won’t ever win any beauty contests, it’s not a bad looker.

It blends into the background, sure, but it doesn’t stand out from the crowd for the wrong reasons either.

 

The Interior

As with the exterior, the interior is familiar territory. The upper dash pad is now darker; trim materials have been updated and the instrument cluster is slightly revised, but the same basic shapes remain.

It may be a visually uninspiring cabin, but it’s both comfortable and roomy. The driver’s seat is all-electric, and trimmed in velour upholstery. It doesn’t boast much in lateral support, but it is soft, comfy and the electric lumbar support is great for long drives.

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The passenger seat also features power-adjustment and is just as good as the driver’s pew.

The rear bench is roomy enough to accommodate three average-sized adults, for whom there is plenty of legroom. The seat squab is a little short, and taller passengers may find it lacking in under-thigh support.

The absence of a transmission tunnel is good news for the centre occupant, and rear passengers will appreciate the airconditioning outlets in the back of the centre console.

The dashboard is sensible in its layout, and all controls are within easy reach of the driver. However some aspects of the fit and finish were disappointing, the poor fit of the dash around the centre-stack being the most noticeable.

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Speaking of which, the centre-stack houses the new double-DIN sized stereo headunit and the controls for the dual-zone climate control, the buttons of which can be a little hard to interpret when on the move.

Below them is what used to be the ashtray, which now houses a storage area, 12-volt outlet and auxillary audio input.

The glovebox is a reasonable size and there’s more storage space available in the centre console box and the two front door pockets.

Unfortunately, there are no pockets in the rear doors, meaning back seat passengers have to make do with the rear seatback pouches.

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The boot can accommodate 535 litres of luggage and features a flat floor and a wide loading aperture. There are also two shopping bag hooks, as well as boot-accessible release catches for the 60/40 split fold rear seats.

The rear seats don’t quite fold flat, limiting the amount of oversize cargo that you can carry. However it’s not a big deal, as you can still squeeze a fair amount of flat-pack furniture into the Camry’s boot.

 

Equipment and Features

For the price, the Ateva is well-configured with enough equipment to keep the average commuter happy.

There’s dual-zone climate control, Bluetooth phone integration, a six-speaker stereo with auxillary input and a USB socket, dusk-sensing headlamps and a reversing camera.

Add that to the usual power windows (front and rear), power mirrors, cruise control and trip computer, and the Camry Ateva is well-equipped for both urban and freeway driving.

Want more? The range-topping Camry Grande features a push-button starter, leather upholstery, an auto-dimming rear view mirror, satellite navigation, parking sensors and keyless entry.

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The most obvious change to the Ateva (from the driver’s seat, at least), is the addition of that new stereo system and its large headunit.

The audio system is compatible with both MP3 and WMA music file formats and has a USB port alongside the more conventional 3.5mm auxillary input jack, allowing external music players to be plugged in.

It will take up to 6 CDs, however there’s no 'proper' iPod integration (you can plug your iPod in, but you can’t control it via the headunit).

Steering-wheel mounted audio controls help minimize driver distraction, however Toyota’s persistent use of its tiny cruise control mini-stalk is a little annoying, particularly considering the wasted button space on the right of the steering wheel.

At least the cruise control stalk isn’t obscured by the spokes of the wheel (as it is in some other Toyotas), and it’s easy to operate once you’re familiarized with it.

Bluetooth phone integration is offered as standard in the Ateva, but the small call/hang up buttons on the headunit are hard to spot and often require the driver to divert their attention away from the road to answer a call. Call quality, at least, is good.

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Displayed within the audio headunit’s 4.3-inch colour LCD screen is the video feed from the reversing camera. It may be a little small (and difficult to see in some lighting conditions), but it certainly compensates for the Camry’s not-quite-ideal rear visibility.

Safety-wise, the Ateva – indeed, the entire Camry range – is packed with a healthy amount of equipment.

There’s ABS, electronic brakeforce distribution, brake assist, traction control and stability control are all standard, and are paired with dual front airbags, side airbags for the front seats and full-length curtain airbags.

The current-generation Camry has scored a four-star ANCAP rating, however the 2010 model has yet to be tested.

 

Mechanical Package

The Camry’s 2.4 litre petrol inline-four carries over with no mechanical changes, although Toyota has tweaked the package slightly for better fuel economy and improved emissions.

Power output hasn’t changed from the 2009 model’s 117kW and 218Nm, but fuel consumption has dropped from 9.9 l/100km to 8.8 l/100km over the combined cycle.

We recorded an average of 9.7 l/100km during our testing, however that was under mostly urban driving conditions.

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Carbon dioxide emissions have fallen from 235g/km to 208g/km too, meaning the new Camry is slightly greener than the old.

The Camry Ateva drives its front wheels via a conventional five-speed automatic transmission (a five-speed manual gearbox is only offered on the base Altise and the Sportivo), which now features a more flexible lock-up clutch system.

The new lock-up clutch design reduces power wastage by providing a more direct coupling between the engine and the gearbox, and is responsible for most of the Camry’s fuel economy gains.


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Suspension comprises a simple independent MacPherson strut arrangement up front and a trailing-arm/Chapman strut system at the rear. Brakes are discs all around: ventilated rotors on the front, solid rotors at the back.

 

The Drive

From the moment you take the wheel, it’s easy to see why the Camry is as popular as it is. Simply put, this is an easy car to drive.

From the driver’s seat, all controls fall readily to hand and the steering wheel adjusts for both reach and rake, making it easy to customize the driving position to suit your proportions.

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Visibility is good as well. The A-pillars are a little on the thick side, but by modern standards they’re not too intrusive. Over-the-shoulder vision is great, and although the Camry’s tallish bootline does impede rear vision somewhat, the Ateva’s reversing camera cancels it out.

Getting underway, the five-speed auto does a decent job of smoothly swapping ratios and delivering seamless acceleration, although steep gradients and sharp throttle movements show that it isn’t the most sophisticated gearbox out there.

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The rack-and-pinion steering is nice and light, and a small turning circle makes short work of parallel parking and tight city streets. The steering is not especially communicative out on the open road, but Camry buyers probably won’t be fussed by that shortfall.

Power from the 2.4 litre four is adequate, but with some 1530kg to shift around, the Camry isn’t quick.

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It will, however, keep up with traffic easily, and most overtaking manoeuvres aren’t a challenge. Load it up with four passengers and some luggage though, and it gets a little sluggish.

The Camry handles well, and the suspension is supple enough to soak up expansion gaps and small potholes with ease. It can get a little noisy in the cabin when traversing coarse asphalt, but for highway travel, the Camry’s quiet and suitably refined road feel is better than most.

The Verdict

Toyota’s Camry has been a favourite with both private and fleet buyers for a long time, and its dominance of the mid-size market is largely attributable to its easy-to-drive nature and dependability.

The refreshed Camry delivers on its promise. It is nicer to look at both inside and out, features a longer standard equipment list, and is more fuel-efficient.

Like its predecessor, remains an easy car to get to know and trust.

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It’s not a car designed to set pulses racing, and it doesn't, but it isn't hard to understand why the Camry has remained such a popular choice for buyers for such a long time.

 

Likes

  • Proven powertrain/drivetrain combo
  • Improved fuel efficiency
  • More standard equipment
  • Sharpened pricing
  • Reversing camera.
 

Dislikes

  • Fitment of cabin plastics could be better
  • anonymous styling
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