What’s Hot: Solid value for money, fresh new look, well-sorted SX suspension.
What’s Not: No nav on anything but the flagship Atara SL, some interior quality qualms.
X-FACTOR: The new Camry wears a Hugo Boss suit at Kmart prices, and its appeal doesn’t end there.
Vehicle Style: Medium sedan
Price: $26,490 (Altise petrol) to $40,440 (Atara SL Hybrid)
133kW/231Nm (135kW/235Nm for Atara) 2.5 petrol 4cyl
151kW/270Nm 2.5 petrol 4cyl and electric motor | 6sp auto, CVT (hybrid)
claimed: 5.2 l/100km (hybrid), 7.8 l/100km (petrol)
tested: 6.8 l/100km (hybrid), 9.9 l/100km (petrol)
Did Toyota Australia really need to revamp the Camry just two and a half years before the plug is pulled on its Altona assembly plant?
If you’re into statistics, you may be inclined to say ‘no’. Last year the company sold 22,044 Camrys, a gigantic 16,000-car lead over its nearest rival the Mazda6.
It is dominant in the same way that humans are dominant over the Galapagos tortoise. In terms of sales success, the Camry is the apex predator of its segment.
Clearly, the existing recipe was fine.
But, let’s face it, the design was starting to date. The seventh-generation Camry’s styling was all edges and a little bit charmless. Anonymous, even.
The 2015 Camry is somewhat different. The sheetmetal is more adventurous and organic, attractive even.
It’s technically a facelift of the previous model, but it looks like a completely different car; the only carryover sheetmetal is the roof.
It is priced quite differently too. Across-the-board price cuts now take the Camry’s entry price to $26,490, while the Hybrid entrypoint is now a super-sharp $30,490.
For a midsize sedan, it’s a complete bargain.
But what of the rest of the package? Specification adjustments have been minor, and the interior doesn’t get the same attention that the exterior has.
So, does the Camry still have what it takes to woo Australia’s midsize car buyers?
More importantly, was Toyota Australia’s $108 million spend on upgrading its local plant for this new Camry a sound investment?
- Altise: Cloth upholstery, push-button starter (hybrid), Bluetooth phone and audio integration, reversing camera, power windows, urethane steering wheel, air conditioning, dual-zone climate control (hybrid), cruise control, trip computer, touchscreen infotainment system, internet-enabled apps through smartphone, 16-inch alloys.
- Atara S (in addition to Altise): Dual-zone climate control, push-button starter, paddle shifters, 17-inch alloys, rear parking sensors, power driver’s seat, leather steering wheel.
- Atara SX (in addition to Altise and Atara S): Leather sports seats, unique front grille, rear spoiler, rear bumper diffuser, sports suspension, 18-inch alloy wheels
- Atara SL (in addition to Altise, Atara S): 7-inch touchscreen display with integrated sat-nav, JBL premium audio, leather upholstery, 17-inch alloys (18-inch optional), active cruise control, lane departure warning, rear cross traffic alert, blind spot monitor.
Save for some new seat fabrics, trim, a revised steering wheel design and a different instrument cluster for the Atara SL and Hybrd models, the Camry’s interior is largely carry-over.
We had hoped Toyota would address some quality issues like the clash in plastic texture between the upper door trims and dashboard, but it was not to be.
Thankfully though, this is one of few complaints.
The Camry’s interior is spacious and neatly presented, and in upper-grade models like the Atara SX and Atara SL it’s a fairly nice place to be. It lacks the flair and cohesiveness of the Mazda6, but it’s not too far off the pace.
All models get a touchscreen interface, which, from 2015 on, can now interact with the Pandora app on compatible phones to stream music off the internet.
Not exactly a segment first (Mazda and Holden can do the same), but an appreciated feature most certainly.
Basic equipment levels are good, but the one glaring problem with the Camry’s spec sheet is that there’s no way to get an integrated sat-nav system unless you spring for the range-topping $37,440 Atara SL.
When such equipment is fast becoming standard-fit in low-grade versions of the Camry’s competitors (both the Mazda6 Sport and Ford Mondeo Ambiente have it), it’s odd that Toyota doesn’t offer sat-nav more broadly.
Boot capacity in the Hybrid is still compromised by the high voltage battery, which sits just behind the rear seatbacks and cuts space from 515 litres to 421 litres.
ON THE ROAD
- 133kW/231Nm (135kW/235Nm for Atara models) 2.5 petrol inline four
- 118kW/213Nm 2.5 petrol Atkinson-cycle inline four and 105kW/270Nm electric motor. Total hybrid system output - 151kW/270Nm
- 6-speed automatic (petrol) or CVT automatic (hybrid)
- Front-wheel drive
- MacPherson strut front, multi-link rear suspension (unique settings for Atara SX and Atara SL (if optioned with 18-inch wheels)
- Disc brakes
- Electric power steering. Unique rack ratio for Atara SX
Mechanical improvements are minimal for the Altise, Atara S and Atara SL, with the only noteworthy change being the addition of a preloaded differential that helps improve traction under acceleration.
The SX model, however, is the beneficiary of a thoroughly revised suspension and wheel/tyre package - locally developed by Toyota Australia’s engineering team to provide a sportier drive.
The steering rack ratio has also been quickened, with a US-model rack being adapted for the SX.
Out on the road, the engineering effort pays off. The SX is surprisingly surefooted around a corner.
No question, the local suspension tuning done by Toyota Australia does deliver a tangible benefit and injects some excitement into the SX’s on-road manners.
But that’s not to say that the regular suspension is lacking for a car of this type. On the contrary.
Though it’s largely the same as before, the new Camry’s suspension remains perfectly suited to Australian roads.
Lumpy country lanes are easily soaked up, road noise is minimal (especially in the Hybrid), and the steering weight is nice and consistent for an electrically-assisted system.
However, don’t expect much in the way of excitement - even in the SX. Roadholding is definitely better in that model, but the 135kW/235Nm 2.5 litre engine is dull and off the pace in this segment.
The standard six-speed automatic is perfectly adequate for schlepping about town, but it’s not as sharp or responsive as other gearboxes used by the Camry’s midsize rivals.
There’s nothing inherently wrong with the Camry’s ageing mechanicals, but there’s better hardware out there.
RIVALS TO CONSIDER
The midsizer segment has seen a large number of fresh-faced entrants in recent times, and the Mazda6 continues to impress us with its build, drive experience and specifications.
However, there’s no disputing the Camry’s newfound value advantage: $26k for a midsizer? That’s small car money, and if you spend it on the Camry you get a lot of car in return. Only the $21,690 Skoda Octavia Ambition outdoes it for value.
- Ford Mondeo
- Hyundai Sonata
- Volkswagen Passat
- Nissan Altima
- Subaru Liberty
- Honda Accord
- Kia Optima
- Skoda Octavia
TMR VERDICT | OVERALL
The 2015 Camry, like every generation of Camry that preceded it, doesn’t push any boundaries. It’s not the product of cutting-edge innovation or design, it’s not edgy in any way.
It’s a safe choice, and this is one of the primary reasons why the Camry has been so popular for so long.
The vast majority of car buyers don’t crave excitement at every corner, they want good transport at an agreeable price.
And Toyota knows this. The exterior makeover may be radical, but everything else about the Camry isn’t - because it doesn’t need to be. The formula simply didn’t need to be messed with.
With this facelift, the under-the-skin differences are pretty minimal and the lack of specification upgrades is a little disappointing.
That said, Toyota managed to sell 22k Camrys last year and though that model was fundamentally the same as the one reviewed here, it was also more expensive and certainly more conservatively styled.
Expect to see a lot of these on the road soon.
PRICING (Excludes on-road costs)
The 2015 Camry range is available now, with aggressive price cuts across the board.
To launch the model, Toyota is also offering sharp national drive-away pricing, at a $2500 premium over the retail prices listed below.
- Camry Altise - $26,490
- Camry Atara S - $ 29,490
- Camry Atara SX - $31,990
- Camry Atara SL - $37,440
- Camry Hybrid Altise - $30,490
- Camry Hybrid Atara S - $ 32,390
- Camry Hybrid Atara SL - $40,440