Toyota is desperate to make a success out of its revamped 2012 Camry and the new year is starting well.
Generally speaking, critics have given the new Camry good if not great reviews. Now Consumer Reports has chimed in.
The magazine has rated the updated Camry Hybrid tops among family sedans. The magazine says the “Camry has a nicer interior, more responsive handling, and better fuel economy than previous models.”
I am in complete agreement. But then, the previous Camry had a cabin filled with hard plastics and the handling was uninspiring – and that’s being kind. Sure, sure, it sold well, especially in the United States where it has been the best-selling passenger car for several years and American tastes lean towards big, boring, soft-riding sedans.
But on pure merit, buyers had better options than the old Camry. Toyota has surely known this for a while, which explains much about the 2012 Camry.
The new car is better in every way and the 2012 Camry Hybrid LE, at a lowered starting price of $26,900, is a pretty good deal without discounts. Toyota Canada is also anxious to tout the Hybrid XLE which at $28,990 represents “a $2,320 savings over last year’s model, while adding $745 in additional standard equipment,” says Toyota Canada. The Hybrid XLE has luxury stuff like a leather-wrapped steering wheel and shift knob; power adjustable driver’s seat; fog lamps; aluminum alloy wheels with wheel locks; and some other upscale odds and ends.
Buyers should be cautious about these “value” comparisons – auto makers’ claims about adding more “value” in the form of more content. The feature content of all new models is a moving target, with car companies adding and subtracting this and that constantly and with various degrees of fanfare based on sales and consumer demand.
But let’s be very clear here: the 2012 Camry is a superior car to its predecessor and the Hybrid is simply an excellent hybrid sedan from top to bottom. CR recommends both the hybrid version and the Camry four-banger, though the V-6 “has not been reliable enough for CR to currently recommend the updated model.”
Meanwhile, Consumer Reports also weighed in on the 2012 Passat, which has “grown larger and softer.” CR says this made-in-American Passat has handling which is less agile, an ordinary but spacious interior and so-so fuel economy, aside from the TDI diesel model which would most certainly be my choice in this VW.
“Volkswagen has made the redesigned Passat surprisingly similar to the Camry, but with so-so results,” said David Champion, senior director of Consumer Reports’ Auto Test Center.
CR weighed in with almost identical comments last year about the revamped Jetta versus its competition, yet that new VW has been a runaway sales success. The Jetta track record suggests the new Passat will do well with buyers despite being critically panned. At least for this year.
Here’s the question, though: At some point will consumers come to share the views of critics in the case of both Toyota and VW? If so, what are the implications for VW’s ambitious sales goals in both Canada and the United States and what does the new Camry say about Toyota’s efforts to reinvent itself as a manufacturer in the wake of the company’s well-publicized troubles of the past few years?