Second Place: 2012 Toyota Camry LE

2012 TOYOTA CAMRY LE. Click image to enlarge

If you’ve followed our previous comparison tests, you may have gotten the impression that we hate Toyotas. This is not the case. It is just the unfortunate circumstance that we were performing tests in segments where Toyota was well into its model cycle and several years old from a development perspective. Well, this time we have the 2012 Toyota Camry, a year out of a full redesign, and a product that has earned Toyota a reputation for comfortable, reliable, and efficient transportation that appeals to a wide range of people.

Not only that, but you could make the case that the Camry is the quintessential family sedan, and the gold standard for mid-size sedans. The sales charts back me up on that, the Camry is set to eclipse 400,000 units in sales south of the border for the first time since 2008 (the only mid-size sedan to achieve that kind of volume), and perennially the bestselling car in America. It’s also a solid seller in Canada, although last year both the Hyundai Sonata and Ford Fusion outsold it in this market, but it is back on top this year.

But sales don’t win you Comparison Tests, and the Camry sneaks into second place on value, efficiency, and a surprisingly capable road manners. At $25,365 ($1,565 freight and A/C tax in) as tested, we were afraid that the base Camry LE would be underequipped, but the Camry’s impressive list of standard equipment covered the basics of modern transportation.

The LE includes tilt and telescoping steering wheel with audio controls, power windows, mirrors, keyless entry, A/C, 6.1-inch touchscreen for the six-speaker audio system with Bluetooth streaming and an auxiliary USB port. In order to keep its price point this low it goes without power seats, navigation, leather, alloy wheels (16-inch steelies for the LE), satellite radio, sunroof, push-button start, auto climate control, premium audio system, heated seats all of which are available as you move up to SE and XLE models. Not surprisingly, the Camry brought up the rear in our Feature Content category, and the stereo delivered disappointingly poor quality.

Despite the dearth of creature comforts, the Camry is comfortable and pleasant, its cloth seats promising durability, though little in the way of comfort. While not as comfortable as other seats in this test, the Camry was spacious and roomy in back, judged to be the best option for three-wide seating if that’s a priority in your family.

2012 TOYOTA CAMRY LE. Click image to enlarge

On the road is where the Camry surprised us the most. No, it’s not a handling champ like the Fusion, but it holds its own and the powertrain, steering, and handling were all rated middle of the pack, and thanks to great sightlines, parking was easy (second in test) even without a back-up camera. Of course, the Camry was the comfort champ, its smaller, high profile tires working with the suspension to eliminate bumps and rough roads from impacting passengers; “Wafty” and “Sooooo comfy” were a couple of notable comments from the driving notes.

While the 178-hp, 170 lb-ft 2.5L four-cylinder engine was non-descript in operation and the six-speed automatic unobtrusive, that’s a good thing because in this class, many people just don’t want to be bothered by engine noise or transmission lurches. Highway speeds are achieved at a leisurely 1,800–2,100 rpm (100–120 km/h), and the cabin is quiet except for a hint of wind noise.

It also delivers the expected efficiency finishing the test at 8.9 L/100 km, not far off its official rating of 8.2/5.6 for city/highway cycles.

So, while giving up a lot of features to the other entrants, the Camry’s essential qualities and convenience shone through, and its low price of entry were enough to earn this signature Toyota a second place finish.

It’s about time. –JY

Pricing: 2012 Toyota Camry LE
Base price:
Optional equipment: None
A/C tax: $100
Destination charge: $1,565
Price as tested: $25,365

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