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2003 Toyota Camry Review
  • Silky smooth V6 powertrain, Ample boot for families, Generous space for 5 adults, Quiet running on the highway, Good visibility all around
  • Port Hole restricts the cargo load, Ride can get bouncy on Aussie roads, Urban fuel consumption, Large turning circle, Rear seats don't fold flat

by Jin N

As an impending father to be, I can say that I am ready for when my baby comes, car-wise anyways. My vehicle of choice you ask? The humble Toyota Camry before it split into Aurion V6 and Camry 4 cylinder models. I know all the rev heads or anybody with any sort of passion for cars will roll their eyes and say, ‘that’s so boring’, but hear me out. It’s a car that has a 4 star ANCAP safety rating so I can take some comfort in knowing my little one will be safe. Couple that with a large 473L boot ready to accomodate a pram, baby bag and still be able to swallow the weekly groceries, it’s easy to forgive. I reckon I will live with it until I can someday afford a Ferrari which the wife agreed to if we win the lottery.

My car is not new, although, I did drive it home from the dealers the very day my mum bought it 13 years ago, so you could say I have a strong bond. It’s been the family car which has been handed down to me. Considering the vintage, the reliability and build quality of the car is a true testament to Toyota. In that time, there has been no faults whatsoever except for general wear and tear items like front control arms which needed replacing as well as batteries and brakes. Servicing costs have been about $250-$275 every 6 months for general servicing and a recent major service I replaced the timing belt and water pump which cost about $600 for the parts and $300 for labour.

The engine is a bit of a gem. It’s Toyota’s tried and tested V6 that produces 141KW at 5200 revs and 279NM at 4000 revs in the base model. Upper spec V6 models produced 145KW and 284NM. It’s really smooth and pairs well with the auto transmission. Changes are reasonably smooth for the 4 speed auto and rarely do you find it hunting for gears as there is enough torque from the engine to pull the car along and the ratios are well chosen.

The power steering is nicely weighted but the turning circle is quite large which make 3 point turns and tight spaces tricky. The car is easy to drive but you do notice a lot of body roll in corners and understeers a lot when pushed as it’s quite heavy. On smooth roads, the car impresses with its quiet cruisability compared to my wife’s Mazda 3. It gets a bit jiggly on broken and bumpy roads though. To compare, I recently drove a 2014 model Altise when I was holidaying in New Zealand earlier in the year and I can see Toyota has made leaps and bounds with their local suspension tuning. Ride quality has been improved impressively on bumpy roads, exhibiting less body roll and greater compliance. It also inspires greater confidence in corners with a lot less understeer.

Sitting in the car, visibility is really good all around.The dated interior is pleasant even though times have moved on with vehicles having more gadgets and electronics on board like Satellite Navigation and rear view cameras but everything feels light and functional, without any horrible fake wood inlay in upper spec models or nasty hard plastics found in the generation that followed. Seats are comfortable for 5 adults but front occupants do sit quite upright which is fine and comfortable for long trips.

The fuel consumption for the V6 is decent given the era of the car. It will do an impressive 600 kms on a single tank on the highway and about 400-450 kms around the suburbs and in city traffic. The 0.28 drag coefficiency does help here.

The main gripes with the car are mostly around packaging. I wish Toyota had improved the ski port hole so that when the rear seats are folded, you could say fit in a new door from Bunnings for your bathroom. Unfortunately, I had to go with my backup, the Mazda 3 sedan, which surprisingly was able to accommodate the door having the front passenger seat reclined & rears folded. Here’s hoping the new collaboration between Toyota and Mazda will bring some better interior packaging & ambience in the next generation.

All in all, this is really one of the best family cars in the more than 10 years old category. Live long and prosper old friend.

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2003 Toyota Camry Review Review
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