2012 Toyota Camry SE

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Text and photos by Cor Steenstra

The new generation Toyota Camry is facing a tough task. Having been not only segment leader, but also touted as the highest selling car in the US, it is facing tough competition, not only from the Nissan Altima with its more outspoken design, but clearly also from the new Hyundai Sonata and Kia Optima, who suddenly seem to be taking over this segment.

Thankfully for Toyota, Nissan seems to have been scared by its own courage in the previous generation Altima, and decided to go much more conservative in the 2013 iteration, but those darn Hyundai and Kia models are offering very outspoken designs for a wide range of customers, and offer huge interior space and high quality level of fit and finish to boot.

The new Toyota Camry is a good and solid car, does everything the previous version did, and if you look closely you can actually spot the differences, although they are rather nuanced in design. Toyota clearly thought it was safe in playing safe here, staying very close to the previous design and doing a more traditionally associated with German brands “evolution” rather than a revolution.

Those darn Hyundai and Kia’s might spoil the show though. The Toyota’s exterior and interior design not only seem uninspired, almost dated, the choice of materials and even the fit and finish do not compare favorably with the offerings of Hyundai and Kia. It is a new world order, where, to us, the only thing the Camry at this moment can tout to its advantage, is the brand and name recognition it has built up over the years.

If Toyota wants to regain and maintain the lead in this segment, it has to really get cracking on an early introduction of the next Camry already. This subtlety at the moment, given the competition, just won’t be enough.

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