What's the used Toyota Camry saloon like?
Dunkin’ Donuts, late night chat shows, Twinkies, Skechers shoes, Seinfeld and the Toyota Camry — all concepts that, while proving wildly popular in the good ol’ US of A, haven’t transferred particularly well when they’ve been brought to the UK. And the Camry is a strong case in point.
While American buyers have always loved the idea of large, comfortable, petrol-powered saloons (Toyota sells more than 400,000 Camrys a year in the US), British buyers have typically favoured smaller, more nimble, diesel cars from 'premium' manufacturers. It’s the reason the Camry was canned back in 2004; while the European big saloon market went mad for diesel, Toyota didn’t offer one and sales predictably slumped.
However, from 2019 to 2022, the Camry returned to the UK. And because it was available exclusively with a hybrid power system, comprising of a 2.5-litre four-cylinder engine and an electric motor, it was suddenly bang on trend and perfectly placed to compete with other ‘self-charging’ regular hybrids (not to be confused with plug-in hybrids). Put simply, the Camry benefits from many of the same advantages as Toyota’s smaller Prius, but in a larger body. And we do mean large – it’s longer than the Ford Mondeo hybrid and only just shorter than BMW's 5 Series.
Toyota claimed that the Camry has been ‘tuned for Europe’, and that could be interpreted to suggest that UK cars benefit from sharper handling than their American counterparts. In reality, though, the Camry still feels like a car designed to cruise rather than corner. The steering responds in a smooth and linear manner, but soft suspension and the corresponding body lean remind you that this is no BMW 3 Series rival.
The benefit of soft suspension, of course, is increased compliance, and the Camry is good at taking the sting out of bumps and potholes. However, it's so soft that the car tends to sway about after dealing with imperfections in the road surface, and this sensation only increases with speed, including when you're on the motorway. So, if your kids are prone to travel sickness, you should probably look elsewhere.
There's quite a bit of road noise on coarse stretches of the motorway, but more positively, wind noise is well suppressed. Around town, you hear very little from the engine (aided by the Camry's ability to often run on electric power alone in stop-start traffic), but the 2.5-litre unit is paired with a continuously variable transmission (CVT) gearbox, which lends a tendency for the engine to rev frantically when you demand full acceleration. And, with the Camry not having a diesel's low-down torque to pull you along effortlessly from low revs, such soaring revs are the norm when overtaking on country roads or merging onto fast-flowing motorways.
The gearbox does have a ‘manual’ mode that can be selected by knocking the auto gear selector over to one side, but we found it unconvincing in use. Even when you select a lower ‘gear’ yourself, the car doesn’t stay in it for long. In fact, we’d recommend taking a more relaxed approach by selecting ‘Eco’ mode. This also allows the car to coast with the engine off in order to save fuel, which also helps keep the interior as quiet as possible.
There’s no denying that the Camry’s interior feels more solid than those of the Ford Mondeo and Vauxhall Insignia Grand Sport, but it can't match the sophistication of its closest German competitors, such as the Volkswagen Passat. Yes, there are soft-touch materials scattered around the interior, but there are plenty of harsher surfaces as well, and these rather let the side down. And, while the dashboard inserts in our range-topping test car stood out, we couldn’t quite work out if they were supposed to look like plastic, wood or copper.
The small 7.0in infotainment screen also disappoints, in both its appearance and in terms of usability. The screen's resolution isn't very impressive, the graphics for the map look rather congested, and it responds sluggishly to commands. It’s also housed behind a glossy screen that reflects the sun, making it hard to read on the move. The fact that every Camry comes with sat-nav, a DAB radio, Bluetooth, and a USB socket is some consolation, but you cannot get Apple CarPlay or Android Auto smartphone integration. Excel models have a wireless phone charging tray located in front of the gearshift lever.
Visibility is impressive front and rear, and even entry-level Design models come with front and rear parking sensors, with range-topping Excel trim adding a reversing camera. However, the driving position could be better; while the seat features electric adjustment, it's short on under-thigh support.
Unless you’re a real giant, you'll be fine in the front. And although six-footers will notice that the roof curves downwards towards the rear of the car, reducing head room in the back seats a little, there's so much space for feet and knees that there's no need to sit bolt upright — if needs be you can slouch slightly to avoid your head brushing the roof lining.
In terms of storage, you’ll find two decently sized cup holders located between the front seats, an armrest with a storage cubby inside, as well as a pair of usable door pockets that are just about big enough to accept drinks bottles or travel cups.
A compact rear suspension design, along with the positioning of the car’s batteries beneath the rear seats, minimises intrusion into the boot and results in impressive luggage capacity that's a match for the Passat GTE — we fitted eight carry-on suitcases inside the Camry's boot with easy. Indeed, that's one more case than the Mondeo Hybrid Estate managed.
The rear seats fold in a 60/40 configuration and can be released using two toggles in the boot – ideal when you’re loading awkwardly shaped items from behind the car — but the opening through to the passenger compartment is relatively narrow.
Advice for buyers
What should I look for in a used Toyota Camry saloon?
The Camry is quite a large car and its rear visibility isn’t the strongest, so check the extremities for any scuffs and dents. Check the paperwork carefully to make sure that it hasn’t been used as a minicab; if it has, its mileage is likely to be huge. The cars can wear large mileages well, but there are also plenty of low-mileage examples to choose from, and these might make a better used purchase.
All models come equipped with plenty of safety gear, though, including automatic emergency braking (AEB) with pedestrian detection, lane-keeping assistance and adaptive cruise control. The Camry has yet to be crash tested by Euro NCAP, but we can get a good idea of how it'll perform by looking at the Lexus ES. It is very similar to the Camry and gets five stars, with very impressive scores in each of the categories.
What are the most common problems with a used Toyota Camry saloon?
The Camry has been subject to the following recalls. Check that all remedial work has been carried out when you buy the car.
Reason for recall: Possible improper adjustment in the webbing sensor locking mechanism during assembly.
Reason for recall: On affected vehicles, the low pressure fuel pump located in the fuel tank could become inoperative.
Reason for recall: An electrical connection within the motor may cause the brake booster pump to stop operating
Is a used Toyota Camry saloon reliable?
The Camry didn't feature in our latest reliability survey. However, Toyota as a brand finished in an excellent second place out of 32 manufacturers. Indeed it was only beaten to top spot by its upmarket sister brand, Lexus.
If you would like to see the full reliability list, head to the What Car? Reliability Survey pages for more information.
What used Toyota Camry saloon will I get for my budget?
Prices for this generation of Camry start at around £19,000 for a 2019 car with an average to high mileage. Increase your budget to £22,000 or more for a good 2020 car, £25,000 and upwards for a 2021 car. Add around £4000 to that for the last 2022 models.
Check the value of a used Toyota Camry with What Car? Valuations
How much does it cost to run a Toyota Camry saloon?
Economy is impressive. Depending on trim and options, the official combined figure is between 50.4 and 53.3mpg, while our varied test route, which included motorways, saw almost 50mpg achieved without much effort. And hybrids are particularly efficient in town, when they maximise their electric running.
Cars registered after the tax changes of April 2017 will have to pay the current flat rate fee. For hybrids, this currently stands at £155 a year. To find out more about the current road tax costs, click here.
Which used Toyota Camry saloon should I buy?
Whichever trim you go for, equipment levels are high; even entry-level Design models get dual-zone climate control, keyless entry and ignition and auto lights and wipers, to go with their long list of infotainment features and visibility aids. However, considering the small price difference on the used car forecourts, we’d recommend stepping up to Excel trim with its LED fog lights, blind spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alert, wireless smartphone charging and lane-changing assistance.
Our favourite Toyota Camry Toyota Camry 2.5 VVT-h CVT Excel
What alternatives should I consider to a used Toyota Camry saloon?
The Audi A4 is more practical than the Camry, with more space inside and a larger boot. It’s more refined, too, with a number of highly efficient and very smooth engines. It’s also better to drive, thanks to its sharper steering and more eager handling. The interior has always impressed us for its relative simplicity yet high-quality feel and its infotainment system, operated by a rotary-style controller, is clear and intuitive to use.
The BMW 3 Series has become the very definition of the compact executive car. It is, to most degrees, still the class leader in this segment, edging ahead of even the brilliant A4. Its success is centred on its entertaining rear-wheel-drive handling, an effortlessly upmarket feel and the excellent build quality. Here is a premium car that will more than satisfy the demands of the high-mileage executive plodding the UK’s byways, a family in need of decent space and reasonable running costs, as well as the enthusiastic motorist wanting something fun to drive.
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