THE new generation Toyota Camry is turning heads with its striking saloon shape.
While hatchbacks and SUVs have come to dominate registrations and estate cars are few and far between, the once highly popular saloon stands out as a distinctive offering.
But beauty is more than skin-deep in the Toyota Camry as it uses the Toyota New Global Architecture closely blending styling with engineering and I think it's a real challenger to the best that European rivals can put up against it.
The Camry can trace its origins to 1982 when it was launched as a saloon in Japan but since then has also been sold in hatchback and estate versions. It was last sold in Britain 15 years ago.
Our drive in the Camry began with a long motorway journey over eight hours and despite traffic and time it proved an extremely comfortable trip, and surprisingly economical as well.
The car's a good size for adults with plenty of room throughout and a decent boot but it has a low aperture to access although the seats and centre armrest all drop down almost flat to boost useful carrying length and total capacity. I can see it becoming a favourite with the demanding taxi and hire fleets thanks to its bulletproof build quality and practicality for such roles.
The hybrid powertrain really is extremely smooth and sensitive giving the best for any conditions and the addition of paddle levers and a sporty side to the lever on the console adds spice to the subtlety.
You also have buttons behind the gearlever to select eco, normal or sporting responses and third to engage EV as a priority.
Power delivery is very good, particularly mid-range once it gets going, with velvet smooth changes up or down and matched to easy flowing steering and very feelsome brakes underfoot.
Not only does it steer and stop with confidence but its roadholding is surefooted over any surface and it is very comfortable inside.
The road rumbles and suspension bump-thump are there but occupant are very well insulated and the superb shaping of the seats' cushions and backrests really locate and look after the driver and passengers. Access is good and room inside generous.
Oddments room is reasonable with glovebox, console bin and recesses as well as seatback pockets, but the shallow door bins would not take larger items.
Controls for the driver were well laid out if packed on the wheels spokes and column, with a few fascia buttons better spaced and the clearly set heating and ventilation settings below the eight-inch central infotainment screen.
The regular driving gauges were large, clearly marked and easy to read at night and were separated by the multi-mode display for features selected by the driver. The h&v system was highly effective and backed up with the new warm/ chill buttons for the front seats and heated steering wheel, features you would not normally expect at this price.
On the move the Toyota Camry rode very well, cornered with confidence, was surprisingly agile and had a respectable acceleration but its memorable feature was the excellent economy it returned overall.