In the back, leg room is ample for adults and truly spacious for children, the seats splitting in a 60/40 configuration. The boot is generous at 524 litres, thanks to clever packaging of the electric motor’s battery. By placing it under the rear seats, it doesn’t compromise luggage space and has the added benefit of lowering the centre of gravity.
The driving experience is largely pleasing. Thanks to the hybrid capabilities, step-off is as smooth as you’d find in a fully electric car and the integration between the combustion engine and motor is seamless. A graphic on the infotainment screen shows when either or both are driving the front wheels, adding to useful – if slightly diverting – economy information. At slow speeds, it’s fun to drop into full EV mode and run quietly just on the electric motor.
Cruising capabilities are such that passengers tend to fall asleep on motorways and smooth A-roads (always a good sign), while the ride is firm enough to allow for a decent road feel through the well-weighted steering, but soft enough to soak up the ‘challenges’ most British roads will offer. The Design version tested runs on 17in wheels, so nothing extreme in size, but they proved more than adequate to the task, with both road and wind noise offering little to comment on.
In Normal or Eco mode, the CVT-type gearbox has a tendency to rev slightly frantically when you make greater demands of the engine under acceleration, without offering anywhere near the pulling power it is sonically suggesting. The 8.3sec 0-62mph time tells a story here, while the limited torque should be kept in mind when overtaking.
In Sport mode and with the sequential shift function activated, there is a noticeable heightening in performance and it’s not unenjoyable – but let’s face it, the Camry isn’t about to trouble the BMW 3 Series for experiences of heightened driver engagement. ‘Sport’ should be considered as a relative term in this case.
But should we judge it too harshly for this? After all, as much as Toyota wants to offer a pleasing dynamic experience, how many potential buyers will be considering the Camry because of its Sport mode? For most, it will be a long way short of either a deal clincher or breaker, whereas the refined cruising capability will be of much greater importance.