2012 TOYOTA CAMRY REVIEW
Vehicle Style: Medium sedan
Fuel Economy (claimed): 7.8 l/100 km
Fuel Economy (tested): 8.6 l/100 km
Always popular with fleet buyers, Toyota’s Camry - like many in the mid-size segment - has lost ground in recent years with private buyers.
Winning back these hearts and minds is why Toyota has worked so hard to craft an appealing new Camry. And, yes, appealing it is.
The three-tiered Camry Atara range comes with more visual excitement, throws in touches like a twin-outlet exhaust and even includes (gasp) 17-inch alloy wheels, scores a newer stronger engine with chain-driven DOHC, and is a surprisingly good drive.
Ultimately though, it’s the range-wide improvements to even the base model that make the Camry Atara a better buy than before, and, simply, one of the best buys in the segment.
Quality: Despite a waxy feel to some plastic finishes, the overall feel is light-years ahead of the previous model. Blue has been banished; in its place a substantial centre-stack and classy stitched-effect dash.
The plastic knee-pads on either side of the centre stack however look a little low rent, and the hazy plastic used on the climate-control panel looked like it still had a protective film over it (we kept trying to peel it off, it didn’t).
Comfort: The two-tone burgundy and black leather trim looks far better than its sub-$40k price suggests and is more supple than we expected. A powered driver’s seat with lumbar support offers a great range of adjustability.
Back-seat passengers are the biggest winners with more room for the long-legged, an almost-flat rear floor, generous headroom and good forward and side visibility. Rear ventilation is also included, adding to passenger comfort.
Equipment: Toyota has stocked the Camry Atara SX with 17-inch alloy wheels, a unique sports rear bumper featuring dual chromed exhaust tips, rear lip-spoiler, two-tone leather trim, sports-mode transmission with paddle shift, stainless steel scuff plates, proximity key and starter button, fog lights, a multifunction steering wheel, six-speaker audio with touch screen, USB input, MP3 player and single CD player.
Storage: The glovebox and centre console box are generous and a lidded bin at the base of the centre-stack provides audio inputs and spare sapce for MP3 players and the like.
The 505 litre luggage capacity is 30 litres less than the previous model’s thanks to the extra room liberated for the back seat. Unlike many competitors, there’s also a full-sized spare wheel under the boot floor.
ON THE ROAD
Driveability: While the Atara SX offers a few sportier styling flourishes, its on road behaviour and performance is the same as the Atara S and SL that sit above and below it.
That’s no bad thing: the new 2.5 litre engine with 135kW and 235Nm is the liveliest four-cylinder yet to be offered in the Camry.
Its no born sprinter, but the additional torque adds a level of confidence on the open road, especially for overtaking.
The six-speed automatic transmission is well-mapped to the engine characteristics and puts the right gear underfoot when needed, offering smooth gear changes and picking its gear ratios well (although erring on the side of fuel economy).
Shift paddles for the transmission also help with kickdown when you need it. There are no complaints at all with this modern drivetrain combo.
Refinement: An advantage of the Atara models is their twin-outlet exhausts. It makes them quieter than the base model Altise which has a buzzing exhaust note. NVH is very good, the interior is a calm and generally quiet place to spend some time.
Suspension: Despite being developed as a global model, the Australian Camry gets a unique suspension tune that copes really well with the rutted and corrugated surfaces that cover this country.
A load of four boofy blokes on board? The Atara SX sat a little lower, but with no problems for the MacPherson strut front and independent rear suspension.
The electric steering is a little numb, but the lightweight parking feel becomes meatier on road and works quite well for both highway and carpark duties. Again, it represents one of the best systems fitted to a Camry yet.
Braking: Vented front and solid rear discs, with a firm and progressive pedal feel that’s easily modulated, provide confident stopping power.
ANCAP rating: 5 Stars (click to read)
Safety features: Standard safety features across the Camry range include seven airbags (front, front side, curtain and driver’s knee), three-point seatbelts with reminders for all occupants and front pretensioners, stability control, traction control, ABS, EBD and brake assist.
WARRANTY AND SERVICING
Warranty: Three years/100,000km vehicle warranty and five years/100,000km corrosion warranty.
Service costs: Under Toyota’s Service Advantage program, the first five standard services are offered at a capped price of $130 each for the first four years or 75,000km of ownership.
HOW IT COMPARES | VALUE FOR MONEY
Peugeot 508 Active ($36,990) - With last year’s introduction of the 508, the Peugeot mid-sizer lines up squarely against the Camry. Its 1.6 litre turbo engine comes close to the Camry, the specification list is equally generous (if missing a few garnishes), and Peugeot also offers fixed-price servicing.
But the Camry is the better-sorted drive and better suited to Australian roads. (see 508 reviews)
Ford Mondeo Zetec ($37,740) - Now available with a 2.0 litre EcoBoost turbocharged engine and powershift dual-clutch transmission, the Mondeo Zetec offers driveline sophistication, healthy equipment levels and the versatility of a five-door hatchback.
On road, the Mondeo is quite an accomplished drive, helping offset the slightly higher price. It’s line-ball between the two. (see Mondeo reviews)
Hyundai i45 Elite ($34,590) - More power and torque, with similar claimed fuel consumption, a slinky arching roof and a huge overdone chrome grille that’s hard to ignore.
Hyundai offers impressive value and presence, but doesn’t offer the same kind of useful rear seat space and despite changes to the suspension tuning, is not the equal to the Camry on road. (see i45 reviews)
Note: all prices are Manufacturer’s List Price (unless otherwise noted) and do not include dealer delivery or on-road costs.
TMR VERDICT | OVERALL
With this new model Camry, Toyota has succeeded in building upon the strengths of the previous model while taking a huge stride forward in interior presentation and on-road dynamics.
In metal-for-money terms, the Camry Atara is a sound buy. Offering the space of a ‘big six’, with the fuel bills of a ‘four’, the Atara SX is well appointed and comfortable with a nicely refined feel at the wheel.
And, whether for fleet or family, you’ll love the Camry’s killer residual values and Toyota’s capped Service Advantage program. There is a lot of appeal packaged up into the new Camry for any buyer.