2002 Toyota Camry Reviews and Ratings

Sedan 4D LE

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2002 Toyota Camry
John Rettie

The Toyota Camry has been America's best-selling car for past few years. That's an important title for auto manufacturers, so Toyota is quite pleased that the Camry has outsold the Honda Accord and Ford Taurus, its arch-rivals among mid-size sedans. Now comes a completely redesigned Camry for 2002, making this the fifth generation.

This year's Camry is a slightly larger car. Yet performance and fuel economy have been maintained. Styling is all new, designed to add sensuality to what has been a bland design.

Better yet, prices have dropped slightly over last year's models. Given Toyota's reputation for quality, durability and reliability, the new Camry will once again prove to be the ideal car for about 400,000 new-car buyers a year who don't want to worry or even think about their car. Model Lineup
Trim levels are nearly the same as last year: LE 5-speed manual ($18,970); LE 4-speed automatic ($19,800); SE 5-speed manual ($20,310); SE 4-speed automatic ($21,140); XLE 4-speed automatic ($22,295) LE V6 4-speed automatic ($22,260); SE V6 4-speed automatic ($23,700); XLE V6 4-speed automatic ($25,405). (Gone is the low-priced CE.)

LE was always the most popular model. This year, it comes with a lot more standard equipment, including air conditioning, power windows, power locks, power mirrors, cruise control, 60/40 split rear seat and vanity mirrors.

However, Toyota hopes that more people will be interested in the luxuriously appointed XLE as it is not such a jump up in price from the LE as before. XLE adds luxury appointments such as wood grain trim, power driver and passenger seats, automatic air conditioning, alarm system, keyless entry, cargo net, and rear-window sunshade.

SE is a new model, a sportier version of the LE with added equipment such as fog lights, stiffer suspension, bigger wheels and tires, rear spoiler and sportier trim inside and out.

Each of the three models can be had with a newly redesigned four-cylinder or V6 engine. Manual transmission is only available on the LE and SE four-cylinder models.

The list of option packages is quite long, enabling buyers to order a Camry to suit taste and budget. Side airbags are available as an option on the LE and SE, but are standard on the XLE.

(Note: The 2002 Camry Solara coupe/convertible is still based on the old Camry platform even though it has a few small cosmetic changes to make it look more like the new Camry sedan.) Walkaround
When Ford introduced its new version of the Taurus back in 1996 it made the mistake of making the new design too radical (and many would say too ugly) for many buyers. Within a couple of years it had to tone down the curvy look, but sales dropped.

Toyota obviously took this lesson to heart as the exterior design of the new Camry does not stray too far from the previous Camry in appearance, even though Toyota says it has made it look more exciting. Ironically, the rear deck and tail light treatment is the most different and it has a distinctly Taurus look to it. The front of the Camry appears to have a bit of Lincoln LS in it, thanks to the way the grille cuts into the top edge of the front bumper.

Overall, the new Camry offers a more sculptured appearance, with slightly flared wheel arches and a distinct dual crease line in the hood, which leads nicely into the grille. The new Camry has a much taller stance on the road than the previous model as its height has increased by more than two inches, while gaining less than an inch in length and width. Interior
Toyota knows how to build quiet cars that with a comfortable ride quality. Toyota's Lexus division has excelled in this area and this expertise appears to have worked its way into the Camry. Not only is the engine quieter, but it is mounted to the body in a new way to lessen vibration. There is more sound deadening, so that even when the four-cylinder engine is driven hard the engine noise is quite subdued.

Other Lexus-type touches are the air conditioning controls that are electronic rather than mechanical giving a smooth tactile feel when operated. On the SE and LE models these large knobs are mounted in a prominent position in the center of the dashboard. Unlike some cars, the Camry's dashboard is relatively plain with no large curved surfaces and it is set relatively high. Although it blends nicely into the door panel trim, the cover for the passenger-side airbag is surprisingly noticeable as the seams show clearly. Many other car manufacturers have managed to make the passenger-side airbag invisible. The instruments are located in a relatively small pod right in front of the steering wheel with large half moon tachometer and matching speedometer. The fuel and temperature gauges are located within the two larger instruments.

Lights and windshield wiper/washer controls are on stalks on the steering column, leaving the left lower edge of the dash free of switches. Radio and climate controls are mounted high in the center of the dash. Manual controls suffice for LE and SE models. XLE trim gets automatic climate control, upgraded sound system controls. A navigational system is an option on the XLE. A wide center console separates the two front bucket seats and contains useful storage areas. The parking brake on the LE and SE is also located in the center console whereas the XLE gets a foot-operated parking brake.

Rear-seat passengers will find the accommodation to be quite pleasant for a mid-size passenger car. Head- and legroom have increased compared to the previous Camry. The rear seat splits 60/40 allowing pass through for large objects in the trunk, although the actual opening is smaller than it might be. The trunk itself is a decent size and shape. Although the gooseneck hinges take away valuable space in the trunk, at least they are hidden under a cover eliminating the chance of contents being damaged when the lid is closed. Driving Impressions
Transparent. That one word sums up the driving experience in the Camry. It's a compliment as it means there is nothing untoward or strange about the car -- it does everything just right. An enthusiast driver would complain that it lacks character, but for the average driver that's a positive comment as it means he or she does not have to think about what's going on.

More than two-thirds of all Camrys sold will come with the four-cylinder engine and automatic transmission. It is inexpensive and fuel-efficient and provides plenty of power. Computer logic controls the automatic transmission; the car can tell when it is going up hill or down hill and shifts gears accordingly. It can hold a lower gear longer when necessary to avoid the annoying shifting up and down that occurs in some automatics.

The ride is pleasant. In fact, it's merging on luxurious, with enough cushioning to make passengers feel comfortable. The steering is light but not sloppy. Those who like a sportier, more precise handling will notice that the different suspension setup and tires on the SE do make the car feel crisper, though it's still far from being a sports sedan.

You'd never know from driving the car, but the gas pedal is a drive-by-wire affair. That means it is not connected directly to the engine by a cable; instead, it reacts through a sensor connected to a computer -- just as in modern airplanes. One advantage of this arrangement is that the optional Vehicle Skid Control system can take over control of the throttle in an emergency and apply just the right amount of braking and throttle to help keep the vehicle on a more stable path. Summary
Toyota admits that the Camry is a car that nobody aspires to own but it's one that everyone recommends others to buy. It's what's known as a safe buy. Toyota has tried hard to make the new Camry more exciting while at the same time make sure it is still a car that will get its occupants from A to B and back without any drama or worries about reliability year in and year out.

The 2002 Toyota Camry is still not as exciting as the 2002 Volkswagen Passat or the 2002 Nissan Altima, both of which are new designs. If looks and character don't matter much, the new Camry should prove to be a great car. It's one we would have no hesitation in recommending to people who just want a solid, reliable car, something that offers a good ride, decent performance and comfort, and blends in nicely with the crowd. That's just what many buyers are after and the Camry fits the bill very nicely, thank you. It will likely continue to be America's most popular new car.

Model as tested
Camry LE automatic ($19,800)
Basic Warranty
3 years/36,000 miles
Assembled in
Georgetown, Kentucky, and Toyota City, Japan
Destination charge
Gas guzzler tax
Base Price
Price as tested
Options as tested
power seats, keyless entry ($585), side airbags ($500)

Model Line Overview
Model lineup
LE 5-speed manual ($18,970); LE 4-speed automatic ($19,800); SE 5-speed manual ($20,310); SE 4-speed automatic ($21,140); XLE 4-speed automatic ($22,295) LE V6 4-speed automatic ($22,260); SE V6 4-speed automatic ($23,700); XLE V6 4-speed automatic ($25,405)
Safety equipment (standard)
dual front airbags, emergency inside trunk release
Safety equipment (optional)
2.4-liter dohc 16v inline-4
4-speed automatic

Specifications as Tested
air conditioning, tilt steering wheel, power steering, AM/FM/cassette stereo, power windows, mirror and door locks, cruise control, daytime running lights, 60/40 split rear seat, full-size spare tire

Engine & Transmission
2.4-liter dohc 16v inline-4
Drivetrain type
front engine, front-wheel drive
Horsepower (hp @ rpm)
EPA fuel economy, city/hwy
Torque (lb.-ft. @ rpm)

Brakes, front/rear
Suspension, front
Suspension, rear

Seating capacity
Head/hip/leg room, middle
Head/hip/leg room, front
Head/hip/leg room, rear

Fuel capacity
Trunk volume
Turning circle
Towing capacity
Track, front/rear
Ground clearance
Curb weight

J.D. Power Rating
Overall Quality Not Available
Overall Quality - Mechanical
Not Available
Powertrain Quality - Mechanical
Not Available
Body & Interior Quality - Mechanical
Not Available
Features & Accessories Quality - Mechanical
Not Available
Overall Quality - Design
Not Available
Powertrain Quality - Design
Not Available
Body & Interior Quality - Design
Not Available
Features & Accessories Quality - Design
Not Available

Overall Dependability Not Available
Powertrain Dependability
Not Available
Body & Interior Dependability
Not Available
Feature & Accessory Dependability
Not Available

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J.D. Power Rating Legend
Among the Best
5 / 5
Better than Most
4 / 5
About Average
3 / 5
The Rest
2 / 5

* The J.D. Power Ratings are calculated based on the range between the car manufacturer or car model with the highest score and the car manufacturer or car model with the lowest score. J.D. Power generates a rating of a five, four, three, or two. If there is insufficient data to calculate a rating, “Not Available” is used in its place.

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