June 19, 2013
Written by Steven Macoy
Wednesday, 14 October 2009 09:03
For the last two decades, the Toyota Camry has been the safe choice among family sedans. A trend-setter that combined value, riding comfort, reliability, versatility, durability and safety as no automaker had done before, it has been a huge seller and did much to define Toyota products to U.S. consumers in a positive way.
Today, however, it’s not so easy for Toyota to dominate the midsize segment. The Honda Accord has compiled an impressive resume over the years. More recently, Chevrolet’s Malibu and Nissan’s Altima have proved themselves worthy of consideration by would-be Camry buyers. The Mitsubishi Galant, Hyundai Sonata and Ford Fusion also stack up as formidable competitors.
The 2009 Camry is problematical for Toyota on at least two levels. First, the competitors have caught up. Second, there are faint grumblings from reviewers. Consumer Reports magazine surveys actually found V-6-powered models from 2008 were less reliable than average, though 4-cylinder models like our test car remained above average. Other critics, including edmunds.com, have dared to raise questions about the Kentucky-built Camry’s fit and finish and the quality of materials used.
Our gut reaction to the Camry LE was grounded in our appreciation for the model when it first came into prominence in the U.S. market during the 1990s. The earlier Camrys were the right size, and today’s midsize vision — that goes for the major competitors, too — is much bigger. True, the 4-cylinder Camry delivers 31 mpg on the highway and is available as a hybrid that does even better. But it would be interesting to learn what sort of fuel economy Toyota might be able to attain if its engineers’ accumulated knowledge about engines, transmissions and lightweight materials were applied to the earlier, smaller Camrys, rather than this bulked-up, 3,307-pound sedan.
Nevertheless, the Camry remains a good value. Our Camry LE, equipped with air conditioning, cruise control, power locks and windows, remote keyless entry, power driver’s seat and steering wheel audio controls, had a sticker price of $22,785. The only options were vehicle stability control with traction control, $650; and carpet and trunk mats, $199.
The car is suitable for drivers who intend to transport adult passengers. Head room in back is barely adequate for 6-footers, but knee and foot room is ample. The ride is soft and supple. The 158-horsepower engine made itself heard under hard acceleration and did not provide exhilarating performance, but it never lugged, prompted excessive downshifting or otherwise behaved as if it were underpowered. Still, the V-6 delivers more than ample power at a price of just 1 mpg.
The Camry earned 5-star ratings across the board in government crash tests and a “Good” rating in Insurance Institute for Highway Safety testing that measures how well occupants are protected in frontal-offset crashes.
Although undeniably a safe choice in more ways than one, the Camry is no longer the undisputed top dog in the midsize segment.
Engine: 2.4-liter inline Four, 158 horsepower, 161 lb.-ft. torque
Transmission: 5-speed automatic
Weight: 3,307 lb.
Suspension: Four-wheel independent, McPherson strut front and rear
Wheels: 16x6.5-inch steel
Tires: P215/60R16 all-season
Seating capacity: 5
Luggage capacity: 15 cu. ft.
Fuel capacity: 18.5 gallons
Fuel economy: 21 mpg city, 31 mpg highway
Fuel type: Regular
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