Toyota Camry 2.0 Review: Throwing down the gauntlet

Toyota Camry 2.0 Review: Throwing down the gauntlet

OneShift Editorial Team
OneShift Editorial Team
27 Sep 2012
What we like:
pros
Kia: More affordable than its rival here
pros
superbly equipped for its price
pros
adventurous styling. Toyota: Solid image and residuals
pros
inoffensive styling
pros
refinement and comfort
What we dislike:
cons
Kia: Slightly gruff engine
cons
firm ride. Toyota: Can be better equipped
cons
relatively expensive
cons
average handling
cons
conservative looks

Just like its exterior, the Kia interior looks and feels modern and contemporary. The dashboard has a centre console that is canted at an angle of 9.6 degrees towards the driver for a driving environment that is aircraft cockpit inspired while the electrically adjustable driver’s seat is comfortable and supportive. The cowled instruments look like they are inspired by the Forte’s and there’s a large multi-function screen in the middle. The steering wheel offers buttons on each of the four spokes for operating the cruise control, stereo, trip computer and the Bluetooth handsfree.

The latest generation Camry’s cabin is what you’d expect in a Camry - acres of space and bulletproof build quality. In terms of rear passenger room, the new car is an improvement despite having the same 2775mm wheelbase as the old car. There is even more legroom, so much so that even the tallest of adults will find the rear of a Camry a comfortable place to be in. New convenience features for rear passengers include the grab handles on the rear of the front seat backs.

The Kia might have a 20mm longer wheelbase than the Camry but it somehow doesn’t feel as spacious and as accommodating at the rear as its competitor here. On its own though, rear passengers will have reasonably sufficient leg and knee room while headroom is reasonably OK despite the sloping roofline. Some might still find it a tad claustrophobic in the Kia due to the small windows on the rear doors though. Rear air con vents on both cars are standard features to cool those seated in the rear.

Up front in the Camry, the driver’s seat is both comfortable and supportive, and offers convenient electrical adjustments. The new driving environment is a further evolved over the old model’s, featuring new instruments that are easy to read at a glance, new switchgear for the climate control system as well as a new design for the leather-wrapped four-spoke steering wheel. The factory-fitted stereo system features a 6.1-inch LCD screen that displays settings for the stereo but also doubles up as the monitor for the reverse camera and the navigation system. The Kia too, offers a navigation system, albeit a dealer fitted item that is neatly integrated within the driver’s side A-pillar. Also fitted in the Optima is a factory fitted reversing camera that projects its images onto the left-hand side of the rear view mirror.

Storage spaces in the cabins of both cars are plenty. There are substantially sized glove compartments, cup holders, door bins as well as storage spaces under the front armrests. The Kia’s boot is not as deep as the Camry’s but the load area is well shaped. For convenience, there’s a lever in the trunk to split/fold the rear seatbacks in an instant when required.

Perceived luxury and quality levels are high inside the latest Camry. The wood trim on the dashboard and centre console has upped the overall luxury ambience of the cabin while the exposed surfaces o the dashboard are mostly made from soft-touch plastics. The Optima is once again testament that the build quality and perceived luxury levels of Korean models are now right up there with Japanese cars like the Camry here. Other than the surfaces on the lower part of the dashboard and the instrument cluster top, the surfaces and materials in the cabin feel soft to the touch while the doors close with a reassuring thunk.

The Optima offers a long list of standard kit that is unmatched by any of its competitors, the Camry 2.0 here included. It comes fully loaded with 18-inch wheels, LED daytime running lights, Bluetooth handsfree, iPod connectivity, electric folding mirrors, anti-dazzle rear view mirror, cruise control, dual zone climate control, electronic stability control, keyless operation, HID headlamps and panoramic sunroof, sat nav, reversing camera and so on.

Despite being better equipped than the base Camry here, the Optima is approximately $10,000 more affordable, making it good value-for-money in comparison to its competitor here. Coupled with its more contemporary styling inside and out and better straightline speed, the Optima makes for a more convincing package than the Camry overall. If you value refinement and ride quality above all else though, the Camry is still unsurpassed. In all other areas, the Optima is the deserved winner in this battle, just like how K-pop has overtaken J-pop as the more popular Asian music genre in recent memory.

Credits: Story and photos by Raymond Lai

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