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Toyota's entrant into the medium car market in 1993 was the all new 'wide-bodied' Camry. The aim was to make a vehicle that was roomy on the inside yet compact on the outside and one that provided good performance without being too heavy on fuel.
When launched there were eight Camry sedans and six wagons. Equipment levels were the Executive, the CSi and Ultima (which was not available in the wagon). Two engine types were available, a 2.2 litre four cylinder or a 3.0 litre V6. The six cylinder Camrys were called Camry Vienta until 1995 when they became known as Vienta. The four cylinder was available with either auto or manual transmission while the six was available with automatic transmission only.
Power steering is standard on all models making the Camry easy to handle. ABS brakes are standard on the V6 Ultima and optional on other V6 models and the 4 cylinder Ultima.
While the Camry will not win any design awards or stand out in the crowd, on the road it is pleasant and relaxing to drive with either engine fitted. As to be expected, the four is a more docile performer than the six but it still compares well with its competition. The V6 is a lively performer, is smooth and responsive and combines well with Toyota's slick changing, electronically controlled four-speed automatic.
The base Executive model Camrys are generally well equipped with power steering, electric mirrors, adjustable front seat belt anchorages, tilt steering column, remote boot and fuel lid releases all standard. However, they miss out on a fold-down rear seat, interior vanity mirror, tachometer, rear radio speakers and rear disc brakes. The Magna Executive, the Camry's main competitor, has all these features.
Airconditioning is optional on the Executive and CSi models while the Ultima has automatic climate control. There are three levels of audio system that range from a two-speaker radio/cassette in the Executive to a six-speaker, 12 stack CD player in the Ultima.
The 'wide-body' design delivers good interior space. The Camry has enough rear leg room to accommodate adults comfortably and though rear cushion width is not as generous as a Commodore or a Falcon it can take three adults across the back without being too squeezy. It's also easy for drivers to find a comfortable driving position thanks to height adjustable seats and tilt steering column.
The average fuel consumption for a four-cylinder manual sedan is around 11.3 litres per 100 km, while the automatic six-cylinder sedan consumes around 11.9 litres per 100 km.
If buying from a dealer expect to pay around $17,000 for a 1997 four-cylinder CSi sedan and about $17,500 for a six-cylinder CSi from the same year. At the other end of the scale a 1993 four-cylinder CSi will cost about $8,200 privately while the six-cylinder CSi will cost an extra $1,000. It's also worth noting that the Camry was rebadged as a Holden Apollo and, as is often the case with rebadged vehicles, these have lower resale values than the original model yet are almost identical.
While the four-cylinder is quiet and refined the six-cylinder Camry is well worth the extra money for the additional power and smoothness. Overall the Camry copes well with all types of road conditions at varying speeds and is very quiet, thanks to the extra sound deadening Toyota invested in.
While known for their reliability it is important to look out for oil leaks, particularly on the four-cylinder models. Repair costs can be quite high so a good service history is essential. There have been reports of Camrys having sludge build-up in the engine. This is mainly caused by poor servicing and the use of poor quality oils. There are also some reports of power steering pump leaks. Don't forget to check CV boots and joints, and be aware of the scheduled timing belt replacement at 100,000 km intervals.
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Used car report published in August 2002.