In 2014, Toyota sold 428,606 Camrys in the U.S., up 4.9% from 2013, only a hair behind growth in the U.S. vehicle market as a whole. Late in the year, for the 2015 model, Toyota made a drastic mid-cycle body and interior change to the car. Only the roof, chassis and drive-train remained in place from the 2014 model.
The Camry hadn’t looked good in several generations, if ever. This has changed. As if by magic, the Camry now looks sleeker and simply better. It’s no longer a boring but reliable appliance -- at least in its appearance.
TheStreet test-drove two versions of the new Camry in recent months. First, the hybrid version for only a couple of hours at a product launch event. It’s rated at 43 miles-per-gallon in the city, 39 on the highway, which is high but not as high as Honda (HMC - Get Report) Accord hybrid and the upcoming Chevrolet (GM - Get Report) Malibu hybrid.
The hybrid version of the Camry starts at $28,230 but the fanciest version, the XLE that comes with trim starts at $32,825 -- a fairly attractive price for its class.
Two months after, TheStreet drove the non-hybrid Carmry SE for a week. The non-hybrid Camry SE starts at $25,580. It’s rated at 25 miles-per-gallon in the city, 35 on the highway.
Once you have absorbed the Camry’s new good looks, the first two things you will notice as you get in and start driving it are:
1. The overall feel is similar to other vehicles, like the Subaru Legacy 2.5 and Honda Accord.
All of these three cars have some basic geometries. All have big doors where it’s easy to get in and out. The front accommodations are relatively spacious and ergonomic. The A-pillars are thin, for excellent visibility.
Once you start driving, you’ll notice that all of them have very light steering. The feeling isn’t totally numb, but it’s light. It’s meaningfully different than, say, any of the various Volkswagen cars in this price range, as they have far more precise steering.
2. Oh, that steering wheel.
Unlike Toyotas of the past, that had very cheap steering wheels, this one has a quality wheel. It’s shaped well, and the leather is very pleasant. No, it’s not quite as good as in a Volkswagen, but it starts to come pretty close, which is a dramatic improvement. Think about it: It’s the thing you touch the most. It’s disproportionately important.
Once you get over the fact that the new Camry feels much like its Honda and Subaru competitors -- which is to say, light and spacious but not crisp as a Volkswagen Passat -- you wonder how you will get used to it over a few days of driving.
Basically, there are no major friction points with the Camry. The controls are easy all-around. The center console and the materials have been improved and upgraded from the 2014 model. While boring, it also does not yield any significant complaints.
The Camry is suitable for anyone who can stand the very light-drive feel, especially the steering. If you are not smitten by the substantially crisper driving dynamics of the Volkswagens selling in this price range, you will be very happy in the Camry.