Car reviews - Toyota - Camry - CSi sedan
Reliability, handling, roomy interior, practicality
Room for improvement
Dull design inside and out, adequate only four-cylinder engine's performance, short equipment list
15 Feb 2001
EXECUTIVES from Toyota Australia promised a cheaper Camry with the launch of the current series in August, 1997 - and they delivered.
The base four-cylinder model, the CSi, is one of the lowest-priced cars in its class.
The CSi does miss out on a few of the bits and bobs that come standard on other models, such as a driver's airbag, but the Camry does represent good value.
Apart from having a bigger body than its already wide-beamed predecessor, the car comes standard with remote central locking, an engine immobiliser, driver seat height adjustment, split/fold rear seat, cupholders and a radio/cassette.
The audio system produces good sound but the control buttons are too small and fiddly.
The car's exterior looks are pleasant if not inspiring. The same can be said of the square-shaped dashboard which even looks a little old-fashioned in the blandly generic grey interior.
The ergonomics are generally fine and the seats firm and comfortable, although the front seats could do with a little more thigh support.
Adjusting the seat back is a simple process with the latch providing infinite control via one lever.
Rear-seat passengers will find plenty of leg and elbow room - in fact the Camry and its arch-rival Magna are by far the biggest models on sale in the medium market.
The rear seat, like those in the front, is firm but comfortable and head room is fine.
The car's longer wheelbase (up 50mm) and higher roof have given front-seat passengers more space with front legroom up 8mm and headroom improved 5mm.
In terms of suitability for family needs, the Camry scores over its rivals by having the largest boot of any locally-made model.
Getting into the car is not as easy as it should be with the exterior door handles difficult to grasp. Everyone who drove the car found their hand slipped awkwardly on the cheap-looking plastic handle.
Four-cylinder models make up the majority of Camry sales and are powered by a slightly modified version of the 2.2-litre engine used in the previous model.
Modifications to the engine have produced more low to mid-range torque while a direct ignition system has helped reduce exhaust emissions.
The engine now develops 94kW and 187Nm of torque.
Start the car and the familiar Camry four-cylinder whine is still in evidence but once on the move this engine is quiet and subdued.
Performance is good rather than outstanding but no doubt it will satisfy most Camry buyers. Only near the top end does it get loud and a bit breathless, but it is never too harsh.
The manual gearbox is mated to a well weighted, progressive clutch although the shift itself is rather notchy.
Overall, the new Camry is more wieldy than the old model.
At any speed it impresses with rock-solid stability which makes it an easy car to point down the highway. The steering is firm and feels just right.
Handling is biased towards understeer but it is well controlled and the ride, while on the firm side, is comfortable and controlled.
But it is the lack of road and suspension noise that impresses most.
Build quality is also at the top of the locally-made tree.
Yes, this Camry is a very good car. It sits at the top of the medium market and yet there is still a question mark over its desirability.
It again misses out on that almost inexplicable, intangible quality that stamps it as a car for enthusiasts. Perhaps it is just too efficient.
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