Yes, I’ve picked a Toyota Camry as my star car of the year. And not even a high-spec one, but a US market version powered by a slightly wheezy and rattly, entirely non-hybrid 2.5-litre four-cylinder engine that pushes out a modest 200bhp.

Have I gone made? Well, possibly, but some context is needed. To be clear: the Camry is emphatically not the best car I’ve driven in 2021. That would be the sensational BMW 2 Series Coupé M240i. And it’s not my favourite car of the year: that would be the genuinely transformative Kia EV6. But this piece is about a star car - and no car I drove this year performed more of a star turn then the Camry I hired for a long-awaited trip (yeah, thanks Covid) to reunite with family in Texas back in November.

It wasn’t cheap: the chip crisis has led to a shortage of hire cars (firms sold off much of their fleets early in the pandemic), sending prices skyrocketing. So it took some work to find the best rate on a Class D rental from Budget. And there was some relief to find that the hire car lottery resulted in me getting a nice, dependable Toyota.

Mind you, as with many cars, this Camry had been well-used. There were nearly 16,000 miles on the dash, a number of bodywork dings and the steering wheel tracking was slightly off. It was in that unique ‘hire car poverty’ spec, where basic functions on the touchscreen are disabled (Apple CarPlay and Google Maps offline downloads are a saviour) and you actually have to put the key in the ignition.

4 Writers favourites 2021 toyota camry parked

And the US-spec Camry is quite different from the version that until recently was sold in the UK - mostly about that powertrain. While the UK models were hybrid-only, the US Camry is still offered with an old-school – and quite old-fashioned – pure petrol four-cylinder. Believe me, the hybrid makes a lot of difference.