The original 1992
design did not change for '93 and '94, but a minor freshening was
applied in '95 through a mild fascia and taillight restyle.
Conservative, pleasing and inoffensive best describes the Camry's
styling. Conversely, it doesn't (at least in us!) stir any emotion
or imagination. But that is to be expected with a Japanese sedan
aimed squarely at the heart of the automotive market. No
out-on-a-limb oval or cab-forward themes here. On the plus side, the
design is aging fairly well and should look contemporary for a while
It may not look cutting edge, but fit and
finish are top-notch. Panel seams are always straight and tight,
paint finish is always deep and consistent, and the doors and lids
close with that reassuring "thunk". Nobody beats Toyota here.
Again, everything is
well conceived with excellent fit and finish. Buttons and knobs are
easily located and operate with precision. Gauges (speedo, tach,
temp and gas) are legible and well-placed. Still, overall the
interior doesn't look as rich as, say, a Honda Accord. The shifter
and center console in particular have a "bean-counters-were-here"
look and the appearance of the dash itself is rather neutral - ok,
but not memorable in any manner.
Seat fabric appears durable and thankfully
doesn't have that "shiny fuzz" look of some of its domestic
competitors. Door trim panels are well finished and rather
restrained. The SE's interior is a little jazzier, with striped
inserts in the seats and door panels.
With front buckets and
floor shifter, the Camry is rated as a 5 passenger automobile. Even
so, the middle seatback is a big hard lump in your back, so no one
is going to be happy there for very long. This is pretty typical of
cars in this class. For two, the rear seat has plenty of leg room,
but headroom is tight for anyone over 5'10" and six-footers can't
sit up straight in moonroof equipped cars.
The front buckets are very nice and most
drivers will have no problem finding a comfortable position. One
caveat: headroom was lacking for tall people in models equipped with
a moonroof, even with the seat adjusted all the way down. A tilt
steering wheel is standard in all trim levels.
The trunk is
fairly large and very usable with its low liftover height. The rear
seat is split and each side can fold down to expand cargo capacity.
Noise levels are commendably low at all
speeds. The Camry features triple-sealed doors and a well-isolated
cabin. Something not expected: two examples we drove had annoying
rattles emanating from the dashboard. Engine noise is muted at all
speeds except under hard acceleration. The four moans quite
perceptibly under these conditions.
have a soft, but always controlled ride. The suspension goes about
it's work quietly, too, delivering crisp, well muffled thumps over
even large bumps. It rarely uses all its suspension travel.
When new, Camry's were lauded for their
handling prowess by most of the major magazine reviewers. Perhaps
they had just got out of a Buick Roadmaster. For us, routine,
around town handling was fine, but when pushed hard the Camry's
front wheels plowed (understeered) rather excessively. Nothing
dangerous, but hardly confidence inspiring. Thinking that something
was amiss, we checked the tires and inspected the struts and
suspension. All appeared normal. The SE with its slightly tauter
settings and larger tires is probably better in this regard, but we
were unable to include one in our testing. In all probability
drivers are not going to put excessive handling demands on this type
of vehicle anyway, so we don't see this as a reason not to buy one.
best points? Solidity, silence and a sense of mechanical
quality... Problems? Not as much road feel as we'd like,
and in the case of the LE, rear drum brakes that lack
the control of discs." Road & Track
"It looks, feels and
performs like the Lexus ES300."
"The ride is very
smooth and quiet, and it stays that way right up to
felony speeds." Car & Driver
"Most drivers would
never know it's a four -- it's that smooth." Car &
Both the 4-cylinder and the 6-cylinder motors
are thoroughly modern double overhead-cam designs. Both are quiet
and smooth. Lightly loaded, acceleration is, at best, adequate with
the four. Four adults and their stuff will often have the four
banger working hard, negating some of the inherent quietness of the
car. Punching a Camry with the six, however, is immediately
gratifying. You're rewarded by both brisk acceleration and a sweet
song from the engine.
The automatic transmission shifts smoothly and
at just the right time. Manual transmission Camrys are rather rare
(less than 10% of production), and we did not get an opportunity to
drive one. Most reviewers gave the unit good marks when new.
The first Camrys (1992 & 93)
came equipped only with a driver airbag, replacing the previous
generation's awful motorized seat belts. For 1994, every Camry was
equipped with dual front airbags. Rear child safety locks were
standard as was a power window lockout.
Front disc/rear drum brakes were standard on
the DX and LE. Six-cylinder equipped models added discs in the rear,
but ABS brakes made the standard equipment list only on the XLE, not
even making it into the "sport" model, the SE. It was a rather
pricey option on all models, but it did include rear discs on
otherwise drum brake-equipped 4-cyl models.
A '95 Camry posted a solid score in government
crash tests, receiving a 4 star rating (very good) for the driver
and a 3 star rating (good) for the front passenger. In the Insurance
Institute for Highway Safety's 40mph offset barrier crash test, the
Camry received an Acceptable rating. Not great but, well,
Institute of Highway Safety
Camrys enjoy strong
resale value. One of the reasons they do is because of their
consistent record of enviable reliability. Potential problem areas
are few, though you may want to pay close attention to the clutch on
manual transmission models and brake repair history on all models.
An owner survey from the November 1994 issue of Motor Trend
mentioned water leaks and paint quality as potential problem areas,
but we have not heard those comments from owners that call our
helpline. We do see occasional paint peeling on Camrys, but we
have no way of knowing if it is factory paint or a poor repaint.
The excellent factory warranty covered most
everything for 3 years or 36,000 miles, with the engine and
transmission coverage extended out to 5 years or 60,000 miles.
Toyota has a lot of confidence in what they build. In this area,
Toyota (sorry Honda fans) sets the standard. The others are closing
in, but overall they can't quite catch them.
Maintenance intervals are
slightly more involved than for others in this class. For instance,
valve clearance and inspection is required every 15,000 miles.
Toyota recommends timing belt at replacement 48 months or 60,000
miles, whichever comes first. Toyota also saved a few bucks by
equipping Camrys with non-stainless steel exhaust systems, which
means you'll probably be replacing it sometime soon!
Parts prices for all Toyotas have
traditionally been high compared to domestics and even other
imports. Factory parts are particularly high, and Toyota (and many
others) spends a lot of advertising money trying to convince owners
that factory parts are really the only thing you should be putting
on your Toyota. In some cases they may be marginally better than a
part produced by a reputable aftermarket parts supplier but more
often, the cheaper aftermarket part works just fine.
Low speed (5 mph) bumper tests by the
Insurance Institute for Highway Safety resulted in excessive damage
to the Camry. For the flat barrier test, the Camry sustained $327
damage to the front bumper and $231 to the rear bumper. The pole
test was worse, causing $895 worth of damage to the front and $974
to the rear. Not a particularly good showing.
The Camry is a terrific car.
It does most everything well, has a reputation other car
manufacturers would die for and has traditionally maintained strong
resale value. There is no denying Toyota's stellar reputation
for building reliable, long-lasting vehicles, although the gap
between it and its competitors has narrowed substantially, sometimes
within the realm of statistical irrelevance.
(this article originally appeared in the
Summer 2000 issue of Used Cars