Woman driver’s 2019 Toyota Camry review

POSTED BY Shuen Lim ON 01 October 2019

By June H. L. Wong

IF I were a senior executive who was entitled to a company car just below RM200,000, I would be quite happy, but perhaps not overly excited, if my boss gave me the Toyota Camry.
After all, it is a well-regarded model, valued for the Toyota reputation for reliability and drivability, but not quite for great looks nor wow factor.
However, if it is the 2019 version, my appreciation quotient will definitely jump up. That’s because the latest 2.5V petrol model has been restyled to look sharper and sportier.

I actually gasped when I first took sight of the sleek beauty in stunning red. Toyota calls it a “beautiful monster” and describes the Camry’s exterior as “beastly” which didn’t quite gel with its stylish lines. The only thing I find remotely beastly are the headlights which look like its attractive slit dragon-like eyes.
Toyota also claims the Camry offers a “monstrously luxurious drive” in “unparalleled comfort”. Well, once I slipped into the driver’s leather seat, I did feel well-cushioned and supported but not monstrously so.

As for the look and finish of the interior, in my view, the results are mixed. The leather upholstery is fine; feels and looks good, the plastic bits like the air-con vents look sturdy and the steering wheel is nice to touch and hold.
The “but” comes in where the weird faux wood trimming is concerned. Weird because it has a shiny, multihue that makes it look kitschy.
It took me a while to notice that though because I was too busy trying to figure out the dashboard: there is so much going on there!
There is a slew of buttons related to the 8-inch DVD touchscreen display for the phone, the audio system, apps and maps. It’s not a display you can take in at one go.

I know it’s a guy thing to get really excited by the latest technological whistles and bells in a car. But do most drivers, male and female, really use all the gizmos to the max?
I for one have never used the cruise control nor parking assist functions in the cars I owned.  Okay, I am probably not smart enough to use them. Same thing with my smartphone. Lots of stuff in it that I don’t need and don’t care to know. I felt the same with the Camry.
What is missing, however, is Apple CarPlay. I am not an iPhone owner so I don’t really care but younger people, like my son, think should be pretty standard for a car of this class.

What I appreciate is good air-conditioning and a nicely balanced, rich sound system which the Camry has.
Performance-wise, the car took off nice and smooth once I hit the start button and the accelerator and brake pads have a reassuring firmness to them.

Not having driven a car with a head-up display on the windscreen before, I was quite taken by it. Even after the novelty wore off, it I liked having this visual aide that showed my speed and whether I was keeping in my lane.
Toyota says you will “never drift astray” because the Camry’s Lane Departure Alert (LDA) warns you if drift out of your lane. There is a sensor that detects the road lane lines.
There is also Steering Assist that supposedly “gently” corrects your steering wheel, but I turned that off on the advice of a fellow motoring reviewer who found the car taking over rather unnerving.

There are pros and cons to the LDA even with the Steering Assist off. It beeps the moment you drift slightly out of your lane, unless you tap the signal paddle to tell the car that you mean to change lane. It may make a driver more conscientious about signalling before changing lane but who does that for all situations, like when you swerve slightly to, say, avoid a pothole or motorcyclist?  Another feature I turned off was the economy mode. I felt the car was a tad sluggish which disappeared when I put it to normal drive mode.

I have no complaints in terms of the Camry’s comfort. The passenger seats are comfortable with good head and leg room.
Boot space is excellent as it goes deep and wide. It passed my wheelchair test, an important consideration for me as I need to pack one for my mother when I take her out.

Other features which are nice are the three USB ports that will prevent squabbles among driver and passengers, power rear sunshade and the manual side window shades – all very important points for us women drivers.
There is also a wireless phone charging tray but it didn’t seem to work with my phone as it kept sliding around when the car was in motion. Maybe there should be a way to adjust the tray size to hold the phone in place?

An added feature which I really welcome is the dashcam. I admit I am influenced by my Korean dramas where dashcams is ubiquitous in vehicles and often play a prominent role in solving crime. But I think in today’s society, it is really an increasingly important tool that should be made compulsory like seat belts and third brake lights.

All in, the Camry has certainly caught up with other mid-size sedans in terms of aesthetics and scores pretty high for comfort, practicality and ride. As long as one keeps one’s expectations reasonable, the Camry doesn’t disappoint.

June Wong was an editor with The Star


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