Toyota Camry still

impresses after 30

years

Toyota Camry, 2019, nose
Toyota Camry, 2019, front, action
Toyota Camry, 2019, side
Toyota Camry, 2019, rear
Toyota Camry, 2019, interior
Toyota Camry, 2019, boot

I'VE always had a particular soft spot for the Toyota Camry as it was my first ever hire car, first overseas drive, first left hand drive, first automatic and the first car I drove on the ‘wrong' side of the road.

Admittedly, that was some time ago in the distant past during the 1980s in the USA when the four-door family saloon was in its infancy.

Since then it has gone on to sell more than 19 million units in 100 countries worldwide and become one of the most recognised vehicles on the planet.

But the Camry has been absent from UK shores for 15 yearsâ¦until now.

The launch of the all-new eighth generation Camry sees the bar raised to a new level and it's a vehicle designed to challenge hybrid competitors such as the Ford Mondeo and VW Passat.

The new Camry is available in two trim levels called Design and Excel with prices set at £29,995 and £31,295 respectively.

It's quite the looker too with dynamic styling cues such as a wide upper grille housing the Toyota badge and incorporating slim headlight units with daytime running lights.

There's a massive lower grille, rippled bonnet, a sloping roof, rising waistline and either 17 or 18-inch alloys (depending on trim level), plus the choice of five exterior paint colours.

The interior is very swish and upmarket with lots of soft-touch surfaces, supple leather, piano black finishing, wood-like grain mouldings and a new satin chrome trim to complete the look.

Both the Design, which is expected to account for about 76 per cent of sales, and the Excel models are generously equipped with a seven-inch touchscreen incorporating Toyota Touch 2 and Go multimedia and navigation system.

Techno treats include full navigation with 3D mapping, MirrorLink for smartphone connectivity, DAB radio, Bluetooth and wireless smartphone charging. But, on the downside, there is no Apple CarPlay or Android Auto.

A rather clever new feature is the dual-zone air conditioning with nano technology that releases particles into the cabin via the vents and these have a gentle moisturising effect on skin and hair.

Powering the new Camry is a 2.5-litre Hybrid Dynamic Force engine and electric motor (as seen in the recent RAV4) that delivers impressive fuel economy with a combined 50.4 to 53.3mpg (WLTP) and carbon emissions from 98g/km (NEDC) for the Design model on 17-inch wheels or 101g/km for the Excel on 18-inch alloys.

This engine is mated to a sequential Shiftmatic six-speed transmission and the front-wheel-drive Camry can complete the 0-62mph dash in a very respectable 8.3 seconds, maxing out at 112mph.

We tried a range-topping model on the silky smooth roads of Croatia and it coped beautifully with steep inclines, sharp twisting country lanes and fast-moving motorways. The CVT gearbox delivered perfectly timed acceleration in a really composed manner without any hissy fits like some CVT units.

There was a constant stream of power on tap making light work of overtaking and there are four drive modes called EV, Eco, Normal and Sport that alter the car's responses.

For a little added spice the driver can shift through the gears manually using a lever on the centre console and this mimics a quick-shifting six-speed automatic engine.

The Camry is based on Toyota's TNGA GA-K platform which helps deliver excellent aerodynamics and a balanced performance thanks to the low centre of gravity.

This means the road-holding is assured and there is no sign of body sway into tight corners. The platform also results in a longer wheelbase which means extra space has been created within the cabin with an improved driving position and more rear legroom. Although there is space for a trio of back seat passengers, in reality two would sit comfortably with three at a slight squeeze.

Storage options are good though with a boot that can accommodate 524 litres of kit. Elsewhere there's a decent sized glovebox, deep door bins, a covered central box, front and rear cup holders, seat back pockets and a small storage unit by the driver's door.

As well as delivering on the performance front, new Camry is very refined with barely a hint of engine, road surface or wind noise filtering into the cabin. This is due to additional insulation across the entire firewall, along with foam and vibration-damping materials applied to various areas of the frame.

In fact, one of the first things you notice when you step into the car are the thick padded carpets underfoot - they feel very plush and obviously contribute to the sound insulation of the car.

As one would expect, the Camry is kitted out with all the latest safety features and driver aids, including Toyota Safety Sense - a set of active safety features designed to prevent accidents.

All in all, the eighth generation Camry has certainly come a long way from the car I tested way back when. But all these years on, I can happily say that I still walked away just as impressed.

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