It is the least-inspiring version of the least-appreciated Australian-made car – but there is something pleasantly unpretentious about the 2017 Toyota Camry Altise.
In an affluent world where domestic pragmatism is often overruled by the vanity of heavyweight and inefficiently packaged SUV models wearing oversized tyres that cost a fortune to replace, the Camry is – as ever – a shining beacon of sensibility.
From the outset this entry-level Altise appears affordable, cheap to run, sizeable on the outside and yet hardly barren in terms of equipment.
But is the promise of honest goodness these days actually good enough?
Vehicle Style: Medium sedan
Price: $26,490 (plus on-road costs)
Engine/trans: 133kW/231Nm 2.5 four-cylinder petrol | six-speed automatic
Fuel Economy Claimed: 7.9 l/100km | Tested: 10.0 l/100km
The new-generation Camry will be revealed in January and it will be the first since the 1992 V6 version not to be produced in Australia. This current model – which launched in 2012 – may be nearing the end of its model cycle, yet it remains popular.
Based on its $26,490 (plus on-road costs) recommended retail price – although the official driveaway price nudges $30K, Toyota has often spruiked $26,990 driveaway deals – medium-sized competitors for the Camry Altise are few.
Only three sedans or liftbacks come close – the $25,290 Skoda Octavia 110TSI, and the Nissan Altima ST-L and Subaru Liberty 2.5i at $29,990 each (plus on-road costs). A Mazda6 Sport? That’s $32,490 (plus orc), thanks.
Meanwhile, medium SUV models invariably ask more money with smaller 2.0-litre engines (versus a 2.5-litre here), heavier kerb weights and similarly basic kit.
- Standard Equipment: keyless entry, power windows and mirrors, multi-function trip computer, manual air-conditioning, cloth trim, cruise control, automatic on/off headlights and vanity mirror lights
- Infotainment: 6.2-inch colour touchscreen with Bluetooth phone and audio streaming and USB input
- Options Fitted: 7.0-inch colour touchscreen with digital radio, ToyotaLink apps connectivity and satellite navigation ($700)
Satellite navigation with digital radio and a 7.0-inch touchscreen has just been added to the Camry Altise options list. It came fitted to our test car for just $700 and is worth adding given the larger touchscreen (up from a 6.2-inch unit) is as easy to use as the large, clear buttons surrounding it.
Otherwise this entry-level sedan is as simple inside as its simply cheap pricetag would indicate.
The manual air-con blows very cold, and the halogen headlights blaze bright at night when high-beam is on. It will be interesting to see if future, fully imported Camrys can match these standards for what has long been Australian-made staple traits.
Other family-car highlights include supremely broad and comfortable seating front and rear. A buyer would have to ascend to a Holden Commodore Evoke – likewise not long for this world – to find more generous seating and space in a sedan.
The Camry may not have the sexiest, or aerodynamically slipperiest, shape among passenger vehicles, but it provides vast headroom both front and rear to match the enormous amount of legroom. Only shoulder width feels squeezed, and even then only in comparison to a Commodore.
Storage space is among the most plentiful of any new vehicle, with big bottle holders in each door, large front cupholders, a huge glovebox, a giant storage pocket beneath the air-con controls and a similarly sizeable centre console box.
The boot is an enormous, square cavity as well, although the luggage-crushing ‘gooseneck’ bootlid hinges are disappointingly dated.
The four-year-old design also lags behind all rivals with regard to quality of cabin materials, and some areas of fit and finish. Door trims finished entirely in dark, hard plastics may be easy to clean, but even for the price they look as dated and dour as the fake-plastic stitching on the rubbery dashboard.
Arguably, the Camry Altise feels cheap because it is cheap. Equally, however, the $3500 extra spend to an Altima ST or Liberty 2.5i seems like good value for the lift in interior ambience alone. The next-generation Toyota can’t come soon enough for those who like to enjoy their surroundings beyond stretching out on supportive seats.
ON THE ROAD
- Engine: 133kW/231Nm 2.5 4cyl petrol
- Transmission: six-speed automatic, FWD
- Suspension: MacPherson strut front and independent rear
- Brake: ventilated front and solid rear disc brakes
- Steering: hydraulically assisted mechanical steering
- Cargo Volume: 515 litres
Despite offering a huge amount of space inside, the Camry Altise only weighs 1465kg. Consider that a similarly sized and comparably priced, but all-wheel drive Toyota RAV4 GX medium SUV weighs 1590kg utilising virtually the same 2.5-litre four-cylinder engine, and it becomes clear which will be the more efficient option.
The Camry claims to drink 7.9 litres of petrol per 100 kilometres; the RAV4 requires 8.5L/100km in the same combined-cycle consumption test.
For performance the Toyota sedan is surprisingly strong. The six-speed automatic can be too eager to grab taller gears and lower revs, only to be forced to hunt back up the chain to the detriment of driveability, but the 2.5-litre itself is more than decent.
The figures are average – 131kW of power at 6000rpm and 231Nm of torque at 4100rpm – but somehow the Altise manages to feel better than those numbers would indicate on the road. It can become noisy when pressed, but the gravelly sound it makes isn’t unpleasant.
It’s definitely pleasing to see sensible, 60-aspect 16-inch Michelin tyres on this Camry Altise, rather than the low-profile rubber and sports suspension needlessly available on more expensive models such as the Atara SX and SL.
The Toyota chassis is not the most dynamically astute, so soothing ride quality arguably should be the priority. Surprisingly, though, this Camry remains too firm and occasionally jiggly, when all indications are it should be plush and pampering.
A major upside is the Altise never feels wallowy or soft, and the effortless way it dispatches with speed humps and rough country roads only further reinforces the intelligence of buying an Australian-tuned model with chubby tyres.
Equally, it feels as though the platform of this four-year-old model is simply showing its age, given it struggles simultaneously provide comfort and control in the same way, for example, a Commodore Evoke can.
Coarse-chip roads show up a surprising amount of road noise and the steering – complete with oversized wheel – feels both loose on the centre position and ponderous when navigating city streets.
For all its lack of polish, though, there is nothing to dislike in a major way about the way this Camry drives. It is adept and sturdy, and as competent overall as its on-test mixed-condition 10.0L/100km fuel consumption result.
ANCAP rating: 5-Stars – the Toyota Camry range scored 36.27 out of 37 possible points when tested by ANCAP in 2013.
Safety Features: Dual front, front-side, full-length curtain and driver’s knee airbags, ABS and ESC and rear-view camera
WARRANTY AND SERVICING
Warranty: Three years/100,000km
Servicing: Below-par nine-month or 10,000km intervals, but at least the Toyota Service Advantage capped price program is cheap, at $140 each for the first six checks until 45 months or 75,000km.
RIVALS TO CONSIDER
An Octavia is narrower and noisier, but smarter and more fully featured. The Altima and Liberty are as average as the Camry to drive and similarly roomy inside, but each offer more fully featured cabins … with a fuller pricetag to match.
TMR VERDICT | OVERALL
Toyota’s Camry has long copped criticism for being bland and basic, but in reality this unpretentious sedan is far more likeable than many overpriced and underdone medium (and premium) SUV models.
This entry-level model continues to have its priorities well-sorted, with a gutsy engine, huge cabin, vast storage and simple ergonomics, all delivered for a low price. Such virtues are executed so well that the Altise is arguably the pick of entire the Camry litter.
If the next model – due for global reveal in January – can blend such virtues with a major uplift in cabin quality, suspension refinement and steering accuracy, then it could expand this medium Toyota sedan’s appeal beyond a basic level.
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