From £29,0948
Model returns to UK for the first time in 14 years with all-new design and ULEZ-friendly hybrid power
Damien Smith
8 May 2019

What is it?

Has the UK missed the Toyota Camry? Probably not. In fact, you’d be forgiven if you hadn’t noticed it’s been missing since it went off sale 14 years ago.

The model may be a high seller for Toyota around the world – 19 million since its launch in 1982, apparently, and 400,000 in the US alone last year – but it has never really caught on in the UK, especially given the lack of a diesel option. For most car-loving Brits, as forgettable cars go, it’s likely to be on the list (or perhaps not if it really is that hard to remember).

But that should finally be about to change with the launch of this, the all-new Toyota Camry, which bristles with safety technology and offers a compelling mobility option for those who put a priority on their prickling environmental conscience.

As sales of diesels continue to decline, Toyota is right on cue with a large saloon powered by a petrol 2.5-litre engine pepped by a fossil fuel-saving and ULEZ-friendly electric motor (there’s no charge for this car in low-emission zones). As Britain continues to play catch-up on electric vehicle charging infrastructure demands, the Camry sweeps away range anxiety for those who want to ‘go green’ thanks to its self-charging capability, because the battery automatically tops up as you drive. Toyota claims that 50% of average commutes can be completed emissions-free. Such are the key selling points in our changing world today.

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Thus, efficiency has to be the main calling card of this eighth-generation model, supported by a WLTP-confirmed economy figure above the 50mpg mark (around 44mpg during our real-world test). But beside its environmental credentials, Toyota is also keen to play up the Camry’s performance capabilities. The presence of a Sport mode beside Normal and Eco indicates as much. Flick the stubby console-mounted lever to the right and you’ll engage Toyota’s new Sequential Shiftmatic system, which allows you to mimic manual-style six-speed sequential changes.

Toyota is not short of ambition or expectation, then, showing a desire to offer a comfortable, usable family saloon with the versatility to please those who want to enjoy dynamic driving. That sounds awfully like premium BMW, Mercedes and Audi territory.

What's it like?

At first glance, the Camry is striking. Whether that full-width trapezoidal front grille adds character or offers a face only its designer could love, we’ll leave for you to decide. But the substantial snout that sweeps low and the clean and purposeful lines to the rear do give the Camry a certain presence. Following hot on the heels of the attractive Corolla, this imposing saloon – 4885mm in length, 1535mm wide – at least offers a welcome statement of intent from Toyota when it comes to eye-catching design. Whatever your judgement, you won’t forget this Camry in a hurry.

Inside, the sense of game-raising ambition continues with a cabin of perceived high quality, especially for a car in this price range. The Design version tested here (£29,995) features leather soft surfaces, an attractive satin chrome trim and an ergonomically satisfying driving environment. There’s nothing too surprising in here, and that’s just fine. Controls are exactly where you’d expect them to be and the leather-bound steering wheel is well sized and fully adjustable, while the padded, electrically operated heated seats offer both comfort and support. This is a pleasant place to spend time.

Two 7.0in screens display easy-to-digest information, with the rev counter in the driver interface replaced by a hybrid dial. Drive without hard acceleration and you’ll keep the needle between nine and 12 o’clock, in ‘Eco’ mode; ask for a little more and the needle turns beyond noon into more thirsty ‘PWR’ territory; lift off or brake and it swings back between eight and nine o’clock into ‘Charging’ mode. All a little diverting, perhaps, but it does help you understand how Toyota's hybrid system operates and you can then drive accordingly.

The infotainment touchscreen on the centre console feels a little meagre, with graphics that don’t quite date back to the last time Camrys were sold in the UK – but they’re not far off. At least the menu controls around the touchscreen are physical buttons, but here the Camry drops its premium pretentions, plus there’s no Apple CarPlay or Android Auto compatibility. Still, there’s everything else you’d expect to have to hand, from sat-nav and Bluetooth phone connectivity to a USB port and even a wireless smartphone charging pad. A basic voice recognition function is also included, as are a raft of safety features, including a pre-collision system with pedestrian detection, lane departure alert, road sign assist and blindspot monitors. During our test, regular pings proved annoying until we realised that were warning of approaching speed cameras.

In the back, leg room is ample for adults and truly spacious for children, the seats splitting in a 60/40 configuration. The boot is generous at 524 litres, thanks to clever packaging of the electric motor’s battery. By placing it under the rear seats, it doesn’t compromise luggage space and has the added benefit of lowering the centre of gravity.

The driving experience is largely pleasing. Thanks to the hybrid capabilities, step-off is as smooth as you’d find in a fully electric car and the integration between the combustion engine and motor is seamless. A graphic on the infotainment screen shows when either or both are driving the front wheels, adding to useful – if slightly diverting – economy information. At slow speeds, it’s fun to drop into full EV mode and run quietly just on the electric motor.

Cruising capabilities are such that passengers tend to fall asleep on motorways and smooth A-roads (always a good sign), while the ride is firm enough to allow for a decent road feel through the well-weighted steering, but soft enough to soak up the ‘challenges’ most British roads will offer. The Design version tested runs on 17in wheels, so nothing extreme in size, but they proved more than adequate to the task, with both road and wind noise offering little to comment on.

In Normal or Eco mode, the CVT-type gearbox has a tendency to rev slightly frantically when you make greater demands of the engine under acceleration, without offering anywhere near the pulling power it is sonically suggesting. The 8.3sec 0-62mph time tells a story here, while the limited torque should be kept in mind when overtaking.

In Sport mode and with the sequential shift function activated, there is a noticeable heightening in performance and it’s not unenjoyable – but let’s face it, the Camry isn’t about to trouble the BMW 3 Series for experiences of heightened driver engagement. 'Sport' should be considered as a relative term in this case.

But should we judge it too harshly for this? After all, as much as Toyota wants to offer a pleasing dynamic experience, how many potential buyers will be considering the Camry because of its Sport mode? For most, it will be a long way short of either a deal clincher or breaker, whereas the refined cruising capability will be of much greater importance.

Should I buy one?

If you find yourself out of step with the fashion for SUVs and prefer a good-sized saloon with family-friendly practicality combined with both pleasing environmental and wallet-considerate economy, this should be a contender. Don’t allow badge snobbery to put you off, either. Yes, it’s ‘only’ a Toyota, but there’s enough character and day-to-day qualities on offer here to give so-called premium brands something to think about, but at a price that offers decent value, too.

Welcome back to Blighty, Toyota Camry. This time you won’t be so easy to forget.

Toyota Camry 2.5 Hybrid Design specification

Where Surrey Price £29,995 On sale Now Engine 4 cyls, 2487cc, petrol, plus electric motor Power 215bhp at 5700rpm Torque 163lb ft at 3600-5200rpm (engine), 149lb ft (motor) Gearbox CVT Kerb weight 1595-1635kg Top speed 120mph 0-62mph 8.3sec Fuel economy 53.3mpg CO2 101g/km, 24% Rivals Ford Mondeo Hybrid, Volkswagen Passat GTE

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Comments
31

8 May 2019

It's only a Toyota is exactly the reason I would have one over any German car

Long term wise you just know this car will be reliable and cheap to run unlike Audi, BMW or Mercedes.

It's also the reason we don't have our own car industry anymore and are just assemblers of other people's cars. Sigh.

8 May 2019
UK loves diesel cars as it is cheap to run especially with the ever popular special England only poverty models from so call 'premium' brands that are stripped of all features the rest of the world takes for granted as standard to save the last pence to put in the piggy bank to save up for that Friday night...Wait this Brexit, I am sure even more financially broke Brits will be driving second hand poverty models imported from Kenya..

8 May 2019
archie852 wrote:

UK loves diesel cars as it is cheap to run especially with the ever popular special England only poverty models from so call 'premium' brands that are stripped of all features the rest of the world takes for granted as standard to save the last pence to put in the piggy bank to save up for that Friday night...Wait this Brexit, I am sure even more financially broke Brits will be driving second hand poverty models imported from Kenya..

The UK has one of the youngest fleet of cars in the world. poverty models from premium brands are sold here because many people are badge snobs. In other parts of the world people would buy a Toyota or a Ford with more kit instead of a poverty spec BMW. However this is not down to people being financially broke, but wanting to keep up with the neighbours.

8 May 2019

Definitely a contender in the saloon market for business users like me. Question is whether the saloon market is alive or on life support in the UK. If I see an A6, 5 or E Class, unless it's an estate the driver is usually over 55.

8 May 2019

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8 May 2019

In the current world of SUV craze, the launch of a new slaoon (as long as it decent enough) should be a cause for celebration. So welcome back Camry!

8 May 2019
Choice is good - does not hurt the buyer. It's a tough segment though that prospers on low monthly instalments. Great timing though - just ahead of the hybrid proliferation that the European car market looks all set for.

8 May 2019

This car looks like what it is; designed for & made in America.  That's one hell of a mother front lower grille! The interior is typical of a lot of Japanese cars (except Mazda), stuck in the eighties. The steering wheel boss looks almost seventies & that piece of trim that runs from the centre console to the instrument binacle looks just weird. Honda & Toyota interior designers must go to the same design college, probably located on a remote island totally cut off from reality.

8 May 2019
jagdavey wrote:

... probably located on a remote island totally cut off from reality.

If Toyota can sell 400,000 Camrys in one market alone in just 12 months, might it be your blinkered attitude to design that's isolated from the needs and wishes of real people?

8 May 2019
jagdavey wrote:

This car looks like what it is; designed for & made in America.  That's one hell of a mother front lower grille! The interior is typical of a lot of Japanese cars (except Mazda), stuck in the eighties. The steering wheel boss looks almost seventies & that piece of trim that runs from the centre console to the instrument binacle looks just weird. Honda & Toyota interior designers must go to the same design college, probably located on a remote island totally cut off from reality.

Which 80s car has an interior which looks like this?

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