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Toyota Camry Altise 1000km Road Test

Author: Bill McKinnonDate: 1 December 2002
Toyota Camry Altise 1000km Road Test

Toyota's four-cylinder Camry has always been an inexpensive alternative to the traditional Australian family six. Although it doesn't exactly rate highly in the desirability stakes, the Camry nevertheless has virtues such as excellent quality, reliability and durability, which are of greater value on a day to day basis. The new, larger Camry has a 2.4 litre four-cylinder engine, and the base model Altise represents great value for money for a full size five-seater family sedan.

Value for money

Pricing

Camry pricing starts at $26,990 for the four-cylinder manual Altise; the four-speed auto is $28,490. Options include cruise control/ABS at $1,250, cruise control/sat nav at $4,300, cruise control alone for $500 and metallic paint at $215.

Warranty

Three years/100,000 km, which is average.

Standard equipment

Toyota has at long last made airconditioning standard in the base model, which also gets two front airbags, force limiting seatbelt pretensioners, a CD player, remote central locking, power windows and mirrors.

ABS, standard on Camry's rivals, is still optional.

Retained value

50 per cent after three years, which is average against Commodore and Falcon but below four-cylinder rivals such as Mazda's 626 and the Subaru Liberty.

Design and function

Ergonomics

Camry interiors have always been functional rather than flash. The more time you spend behind the wheel, though, the more you appreciate the layout's efficiency, user friendliness and smart design.

The slim, convex dash, high seating positions, large glass area and light grey tones give the cabin a pleasant sense of space and light.

Air and audio units are mounted high on the dash, within easy reach; there's plenty of oddment storage underneath, in the large covered centre bin and glovebox.

The airconditioning switches work with a low rent feel, though.

The Camry needs reach adjustment for the steering wheel (it has height adjustment) to cater for tall drivers.

The driver's seat is still rather flat and unsupportive, with a short, height adjustable cushion. Vision is clear around the car.

Innovation

Camry is representative of current Japanese technology, which makes it more technically advanced than rivals like the Commodore. However it is not a car where innovation features strongly. Innovation can be risky - a concept which is completely foreign to the Camry.

Safety

The new Camry has not yet been independently crash tested, but it should perform well.

Side airbags - standard or optional on the Ateva, Azura and Sportivo variants - are not available on the Altise.

If you get hit in the side and injured, well, it's your own fault. You should have spent more money on the next model up the range.

Security

An engine immobiliser is standard.

Comfort

The driver's seat is reasonably comfortable, but as mentioned previously you sit on it rather than in it. Lumbar support is adjustable, but it's insufficient to properly look after your back on a long drive.

Space and practicality

The new Camry's larger dimensions are most noticeable in the back seat, which has better access, greater head room and more stretch-out space than a Falcon.

It's a very comfortable place to travel; three lap/sash belts and two useless bumps in the seat back (supposed to be head restraints) are provided.

The large, deep boot - also a Falcon/Commodore beater -- has two shopping bag hooks, 60/40 split-fold-rear seat extendability through a large porthole, and a full size spare underneath.

Build and finish quality

Excellent. Camry may be relatively no frills, but it is built and finished to higher standards than Commodore and Falcon because its design and production process originates in Japan. Reliability and durability are also outstanding. A five year old Camry which as been properly maintained feels almost as tight and solid as a new one.

On the road

Fuel efficiency

The new Camry is heavier and has a larger 2.4 litre four-cylinder engine. On the highway, the 2.4 can use more fuel than Commodore's 3.8 litre V6, because at 2400 rpm/100 km/h it's working a lot harder. The test Altise auto used 9.8 litres/100 km on the open road.

Around town, though, the four-cylinder advantage comes into play and you get reasonable economy of around 11-12 litres/100 km.

Performance

The 2.4 litre four, shared with the Tarago, is similar in character to the previous model's 2.2, but more responsive and refined.

It's about torque rather than power, and delivers honest rather than inspirational performance.

The Altise auto weighs slightly more than 1.4 tonnes, a fair lump of metal for a 112 kW four-cylinder engine to shift.

The Camry dawdles a bit off the line, but from 2500 rpm it's quite strong, flexible, and, by four-cylinder standards, very smooth and quiet when cruising.

The four-speed automatic is starting to date, with only basic adaptive electronics and no sequential feature. Still, a simple push button fourth gear lockout is arguably more effective than tricky programming which tries, and often fails, to anticipate your requirements.

Ride

Toyota's local engineers strengthened the body and developed firmer suspension calibrations to suit our roads and driving styles.

This has come at some cost to ride comfort, particularly around Sydney's shabby streets and on rough country roads. It lacks initial compliance and is quite lumpy at the front. 

Handling and steering

Toyota's efforts to make the Camry more enjoyable and involving to drive have lifted the car's handling ability, and for a large front drive family sedan it is not bad at all.

The four-cylinder versions feel light and responsive when turning into corners, nicely balanced and have accurate, well weighted steering. Roadholding on all surfaces is fine.

In context, though, the Mazda 6 is a far more sporty, athletic, communicative device, while Subaru's ageing but still A grade Liberty has all-wheel drive on its side.

Braking

The new Camry uses disc brakes designed and made in Australia, part of an effort to keep manufacturing costs down by engaging up to 100 local suppliers.

The brakes are powerful and responsive, though standard ABS would be useful.

Smoothness and quietness

The Camry is a very refined car by four-cylinder standards. The suspension/tyres (205/65 Dunlops on 15 inch steel wheels) make a bit of noise at highway speeds on coarse, rough bitumen.

Summary

If you're after set-and-forget motoring and couldn't give two hoots about image, the Camry is the car for you. In terms of being easy, economical and reliable to live with, they don't come any better.

The writer of this report does not necessarily represent the views of the NRMA and this report is provided for you as an alternative to our own NRMA car reviews.


The writer of this report does not necessarily represent the views of the NRMA and this report is provided for you as an alternative to our own NRMA car reviews.

Quick Facts

Make Toyota
Model Camry Altise
Year 2002
Body type Sedan
Country of manufacture Japan
Warranty 3 years, 100,000km

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Toyota, Camry Altise, , Sedan , Press-releases, Camry, Motoring Feed

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