A Better Younger Towkaymobile
Once upon a time, the Toyota Camry was one of the go-to cars among the Japanese brands here in Singapore, if you were looking for a large family car, or just needed to have that “Towkay Feel”. The Honda Accord proved to be less popular than the Nissan Cefiro and Toyota Camry duo, Mazda then had just introduced their sporty 6 Sedan, which became a hit. Between the two most popular “Towkaymobiles” Nissan went the way of equipping their cars with their smooth VQ series V6 engines, while Toyota stuck with four-cylinder AZ series units.
Fast-forward to today, Nissan has gone largely quiet, and Honda has just announced their new Accord with a 1.5 litre turbocharged engine paired to a CVT transmission. German brand Opel has one of its last GM-sourced platform cars, the Insignia available. The Mazda 6 is a popular choice, and is built to quite premium standards; while Skoda has made a comeback, and their Superb is an attractive offering.
While the previous generation Camrys were rather “Old Uncle” in their styling, Toyota seems to have had a listening ear on the ground, and have this round, introduced quite the attractive head turner. Sleek headlights, a little less chrome and unlike their previous car which sported a barge-like design; the new Camry carries more purposeful-muscular lines, and if you squint a little, you can spot a little of its sister car, the Lexus ES within its styling.
Our 2.5 litre test car comes equipped with 235/45 R18 tyres, while the 2.0 is equipped with smaller 215/60 R16s.
Toyota has gone all out to attract the younger buyer with its interior. Swooping lines on the dash mildly hints of Lexus, albeit a little less quality (but it is still pretty good). There is also less of that “plastic wood”, and where there is, Toyota has textured it pleasantly, showing this time that it is instead unapologetically wood-inspired, and not simulated wood from fake plastic trees (you frown… I know, but it is seriously better done this way).
As-per with many Japanese brands here, the nine-inch infotainment unit is a stand-alone one, which does not incorporate any of the car’s drive functions. You do however, get SatNav and mobile connectivity. A factory-fitted reverse camera is also standard (the 2.0 however gets a locally fitted unit).
The instrument cluster features large no-nonsense analogue dials, and a digital display to navigate through the car’s settings.
The Camry, like previous generation models accommodates passengers well. You get electric seats in front, with driver-side memory. Those in the rear will appreciate the amount of legroom available, and the factory leather seats are comfortable. Rear doors are equipped with a roller sun shade, and so is the rear windshield. The latter however is a chore to operate, since you will need to browse through the menu between the instruments, utilising the controls on the steering wheel, and then proceed on to hunt for retracting and activating function.
Boot space at 493 litres is decent, and closer to the opening, it does expand enough for your golf bags. There is also a pass-through to accommodate longer items.
The 2.5 litre, four-cylinder NA engine in our test Camry is good for 207bhp and 250Nm. The engine is mated to a new compact 8-speed ‘Direct Shift’ UB80E automatic, jointly developed by Aisin; which powers the front wheels. Gear changes are smooth, with acceleration delivered in linear style. The 2.5 litre Camry reaches the benchmark 100km/h in a reasonable 9.2 seconds; and does this in a relaxed fashion. With 8 gear ratios, the engine cruises on low rpms. Combined fuel consumption is at 15.4km/l.
There is also a good amount of insulation within, helping to provide a refined ride. It is easy to check for blind spots from within the cabin, and similar to the Lexus ES, the wing mirrors are mounted directly on the doors, for better lateral visibility.
While the Camry is tuned for a comfortable ride, it is decently agile for its size. Steering response might not be super sharp, but it is decently good. While it might not be a car which will excite a driver, it is a notable improvement from the previous generation cars.
Safety-wise, the Camry has been awarded 5-Star Safety Rating from the New Car Assessment Program for Southeast Asian Countries (ASEAN NCAP). Active safety systems, like the Pre-Collision System (PCS), which utilises a forward-facing radar, together with a camera, which is capable of shape recognition is designed to warn drivers early if they are potentially getting into a collision, and can apply the brakes if no action is taken. The car’s Dynamic Radar Cruise Control (DRCC), which utilises the same radar helps to keep the car a safe distance from the vehicle in-front, and is a boon for drivers in countries like our own, where traffic often slows down in pace.
Perhaps, the added driver dynamics might not add any pluses to the older buyer. Toyota however aims to win over a larger target audience with their eighth generation car, and they seem to have gotten their formula right.
There is however plenty of competition, cars like the Skoda Superb Laurin & Klement is set at a similar price point, delivers great acceleration thanks to its 2.0 turbocharged engine; and has that fancy trick suspension for a very comfortable ride. The Mazda 6 delivers sharp handling, and build quality which is hard-to-beat; and the Honda Accord with its 1.5 litre turbocharged engine, could be the car which delivers a balance of decently good performance and fuel economy.