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First Drive: Toyota Camry

Reintroduced after a 15-year absence, the Camry takes over where the Avensis left off, finds Jonathan Musk.

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SECTOR D/E-Segment   PRICE £29,995-£31,295   FUEL 50.4-53.3mpg   CO2 98-110g/km

Originally launched in 1982, the Camry has become hugely important for Toyota globally, selling 19 million units since its inception. Its departure from Western Europe in 2004 might have led you to believe the model was gone forever, but it’s been reintroduced to take up the mantle from the Avensis and with a hybrid-only line-up.

Considering the model’s success in other markets – in 2017 it was the world’s 10th best-selling car – Toyota only expects to shift 500 units in the UK this year, with 80% destined for fleets.

Forget how it drives or what it looks like, or the specification for a moment – first and foremost, the Camry offers no nonsense business savings.

First up, there’s low 23% BiK, which compares to around 30% for a diesel competitor, such as a Volkswagen Passat or Vauxhall Insignia. Then there’s its sub-100g/km CO2 (in Design trim on 17-inch alloys) and consequently lower VED. Though we don’t typically take much notice of predicted RVs, those of the hybrid Camry’s are good at 53% versus 39% for its diesel-powered rivals. Total cost of ownership is also predictably positive, thanks to the brand’s proven reliability promise and low running costs that Toyota says makes for a saving of around £55/month. Choosing the Camry might be a case of mind over heart, then.

The UK is getting just two trim levels: Design and Excel, with the former expected to take around 76% of orders. Styling is handsome enough, though perhaps a touch forgettable, but inside there’s more to make a noise about. Materials are premium with a good mix of top drawer plastics and cow skin on show, as well as a swooping yet practical dashboard design. Controls fall easily to hand and there’s plenty of standard equipment to keep idle digits entertained including Toyota Safety Sense. However, the usual foibles are present; the sat nav is still difficult to comprehend yet there’s no option for Apple CarPlay or Android Auto. Oddly tardis-like, there’s plenty of space in the cabin and boot too, thanks to the batteries being placed under the rear seats rather than under the boot floor.

Out on the road, the first thing that strikes you is just how quiet the Camry is – and not only thanks to the electric motor but also plenty of acoustic insulation. The car is powered by the same 2.5-litre petrol engine that can also be found in the RAV4 and Lexus ES – with which the Camry shares many components, being based on the same GA-K platform. It’s potent enough, with a combined 218hp total system output, but Toyota’s quest to make the car more engaging to drive hasn’t been quite so successful. It’s on the good side of dull, but despite Sport mode’s best attempts to mimic engine braking, it’s best left in Eco or Comfort modes. Worthy of note, fuel economy worked out at around 60mpg during our time with the car – far above the official WLTP figures indicate.

The Verdict

Camry doesn’t change the game significantly, yet thanks to hybrid power it provides cost savings that are difficult to ignore.

The Lowdown

Key Fleet Model: Toyota Camry Design
Strengths: BiK, low VED, economy, comfort, space
Weaknesses: Poor sat nav, no CarPlay, unengaging drive

Star Rating
4 out of 5

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Jonathan Musk

Jonathan turned to motoring journalism in 2013 having founded, edited and produced Autovolt - one of the UK's leading electric car publications. He has also written and produced books on both Ferrari and Hispano-Suiza, while working as an international graphic designer for the past 15 years. As the automotive industry moves towards electrification, Jonathan brings a near-unrivalled knowledge of EVs and hybrids to Fleet World Group.