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Time for the Toyota Camry to shrug off the cardigan

The new Toyota Camry Ascent has improved safety equipment and a slightly more sporty stance.
The new Toyota Camry Ascent has improved safety equipment and a slightly more sporty stance. Contributed

DON'T expect the norm from Toyota's new Camry.

The Australian-made Camry, which finished production last year, was good. New fully imported models are better.

Boasting the most technically advanced features we've ever seen on a Camry, it's not just the gizmos that exceed expectations. Ride and comfort levels are significantly improved.

But there's a catch. Prices have risen now the subsidies have disappeared along with local manufacturing.

Expect to pay about $31,200 drive-away for the base model Ascent - that's about $4000 more than the outgoing equivalent. Yet the Camry equation still stacks up.

The new Toyota Camry Ascent has improved safety equipment and a slightly more sporty stance.
The new Toyota Camry Ascent has improved safety equipment and a slightly more sporty stance. Contributed

VALUE

Where Toyota has excelled is offering impressive safety kit from its least expensive model as standard.

The expected features are there, such as seven airbags and the full suite of equipment associated with stability control and anti-lock brakes, but the big ticket inclusions are Autonomous Emergency Braking, which can automatically slam on the anchors to help avoid an accident, Lane Departure Alert, which sounds an audible alert if you are straying within the lane on a marked road, and radar cruise control, that maintains a safe distance from vehicles in front.

Inside, the cabin is inoffensive and functional. Far from racy or romantic, yet the driver's 4.2-inch information display flanked by analogue gauges and the seven-inch central colour screen with full Bluetooth phone and audio integration raise luxury levels.

Another rare inclusion is a full-size spare. Space savers are on all other variants, so those who travel long distances will appreciate the peace of mind.

Key modern features missing are smartphone mirroring apps Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. It could be on the agenda given the 2019 Avalon was released with CarPlay functionality but don't hold your breath for a software upgrade down the track.

Toyota has one of the cheapest capped-price servicing plans, with maintenance visits set at $195 at 12-month or 15,000km intervals.

The new Toyota Camry Ascent has improved safety equipment and a slightly more sporty stance.
The new Toyota Camry Ascent has improved safety equipment and a slightly more sporty stance. Contributed

ON THE ROAD

Camrys have always been solid. Reliable, comfortable and dependable.

They're all outstanding traits - there just wasn't anything to inspire or excite. While the new Camry is cut from the same cloth, its rising hemline has an ability to quicken the pulse.

This four-cylinder petrol engine is expected to be the range's most popular and performs honestly in varying conditions. From the city through to testing rural hilly terrain, it rarely feels under-powered unless you are chasing land speed records.

Feeling well planted with a quiet cabin, itmet acceleration expectations and managed rapid directional changes without becoming flustered. It's almost entering Lexus territory - albeit the luxury arm manages near silence.

Bordering on large car dimensions, there is generous room in the rear - enough to handle three adults across the bench seat - along with a 493-litre boot that swallowed a large suitcase and three carry-on bags.

Good cup holders and door pockets made travel comfortable, with simple and concise buttons through the console.

The new Toyota Camry Ascent has improved safety equipment and a slightly more sporty stance.
The new Toyota Camry Ascent has improved safety equipment and a slightly more sporty stance. Contributed

HEAD SAYS

Despite the price rise, it's still outstanding value. Apart from the initial outlay, ongoing maintenance costs are about as good as it gets and you know it's going to last for more than a decade.

HEART SAYS

The Camry does everything so well, it just lacks some romance to liven things up.

The new Toyota Camry Ascent has improved safety equipment and a slightly more sporty stance.
The new Toyota Camry Ascent has improved safety equipment and a slightly more sporty stance. Contributed

ALTERNATIVES

MAZDA6 SPORT $32,490

An impressively well-balanced car, which deserves more kudos among the brand's bigger sellers. Powered by a 138kW 2.5-litre petrol with a six-speed automatic. Servicing is on the expensive side of par and doesn't have all the latest safety equipment, like AEB or radar cruise.

SUBARU LIBERTY 2.5i $30,240

Since dropping its price a couple of years ago the Liberty emerged as a bargain buy. It has a 129kW 2.5-litre petrol, continuously variable automatic (and a very good one) and all-wheel drive. Like the Camry, it offers a capricious cabin, with Subaru's Eyesight driver assist system standard. Maintenance is hefty though, in comparison to the Camry.

VOLKSWAGEN PASSAT 132TSI $35,490

Probably widely regarded as the segment benchmark, it features a 132kW 1.8-litre turbo petrol engine, seven-speed dual clutch gearbox, with front-wheel drive. Nine airbags and the latest infotainment including CarPlay and Auto, but you have to pay an extra $1500 for the full driver assist safety tech.

AT A GLANCE

Toyota Camry Ascent

PRICE $27,690 plus on-roads (good)

WARRANTY AND SERVICING 3 years/ 100,000km (avg), $195 each for 5 years (bargain)

ENGINE 2.5-litre 4-cyl 6sp auto (punchy)

SAFETY 5 stars, 7 airbags, AEB, radar cruise, lane keeping (outstanding)

THIRST 7.8 litres/100km (can be thirsty)

SPARE Full-size (brilliant) other models use space savers

BOOT 493L with 60-40 split folding seats (reasonable)

The new Toyota Camry Ascent has improved safety equipment and a slightly more sporty stance.
The new Toyota Camry Ascent has improved safety equipment and a slightly more sporty stance. Contributed

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