The market for large cars may be shrinking but it's still an important segment for fleets, which buy 82 per cent of new cars. So Toyota's seventh-generation Camry can't afford to drop the ball.
Toyota's target was to restore its safety and quality reputation, improve dynamics, performance and fuel economy, and deliver a quieter and better-looking car. The new face is sharper, the body identical in size, but with a more dynamic outline and a cabin redesign that's more spacious, with rear passengers and the boot benefiting most. Luggage space increases 11 litres to 515 for the standard cars, and 32 litres to 421 for the hybrid, which has its batteries under the back seat.
A 2.5-litre engine replaces the 2.4, with 11 per cent better fuel economy at 7.8l/100km. That's a litre less for every 100km travelled than its predecessor, despite an increase in power to 133kW and 230Nm. There's no manual transmission, just a six-speed sequential shift auto - the S and SX with paddle shift. The hybrid also gets a power boost, while retaining its CVT auto, and better fuel economy, which is now 5.2l/100km.
A stiffer body with new aerodynamic features designed to encourage a flatter ride sits atop recalibrated dampers.
The company lineToyota NZ chief executive Alistair Davis says the economic story of the decade is the rise of Asia; "Thank goodness we live next to them and not Greece or Italy." With New Zealand's biggest markets being Australia and Asia, our export business is cushioned from Europe's economic woes, which is good news for our largely export-driven businesses.
With those business buyers in Camry's sights there will be no diesel, Davis says, the fuel price advantage offset by the cost of road-user charges.
Prices range from $44,990 for the GL, that will take most sales, to $56,890 for the hybrid i-Tech, with its top-heavy features list that includes blind-spot monitoring and satnav.
What we say
Some minor cabin trim irregularities spoil the fit and finish in the launch cars, but otherwise this is a better-looking, more spacious and sweeter-handling Camry. Redesigned seats and steering wheel make it easier to get comfy. Three looks cover five variants, including a Sportivo replacement, the SX, which gets a sports-tuned suspension, a modest power boost plus twin exhausts.
On the road
A brief road drive suggested what our race track manoeuvres confirmed: suspension changes have turned a car that lacked handling confidence into one which is predictable, even during slalom shenanigans.
Why you'll buy oneMore stylish, better-handling and more economical, while the sporting SX variant at last delivers performance advantages as well as performance-themed features.
Why you won't
The Camry still lacks character.