Toyota Camry 2001-2006 used car review

The Toyota Camry is a reliable and comfortable family workhorse.

Richard Edwards
Richard Edwards
Expert Reviewer | Auto Media Group

The Toyota Camry is a reliable and comfortable family workhorse, though even “sports” models are unlikely to excite.

Exterior , 3.5 out of 5 Drive , 3.5 out of 5 Safety , 4 out of 5 Value , 3 out of 5 Interior , 4.5 out of 5

Overall score , 3.7 out of 5

The good
  • Very solid and reliable, even at higher mileage
  • Low running costs for a large car
  • Spacious interior and boot
The not-so-good
  • No longer available as a wagon
  • Many now showing wear from hard use
  • Six-cylinder models thirsty

When this generation Camry was launched, it came without a station wagon option for the first time. Although the model is available as a used import from Japan, most of the cars sold here were new models built in Australia. It was the last Camry model to feature a six-cylinder engine.

Inside and out

Large sedans typically have a long-and-low design. This generation Camry used a format previously seen in small cars, with a shorter front area and taller roof – more than 60mm higher than the previous model. This provided a huge amount of interior space. 

The front of the vehicle features large swept-back headlights with individual lights inside them. The sides have prominent rubbing strips, which reduce damage from small bumps and at the rear, the angular tail-lights cut into the boot opening.

Get into the driver’s seat and the Camry feels spacious, comfortable and airy. The large windows let in a lot of light and the light-coloured interior adds to the feel. At more than a decade old, the interior finishes have held up very well. 

On the “Altise” model, specifications are basic - simple instruments, manual air-conditioning and electric controls for the front windows only. There is plenty of storage to hand, with a large cubby at the base of the dash, a sizeable double cup holder and a large centre console bin under the armrest.

The front seats are wide and comfortable, with plenty of room to stretch out. The driver’s seat is manually adjustable for angle and base height. The light-coloured fabric is durable, though it does show marks. Rear seat space is the best you will find in a car of this size and age - excellent leg and headroom, and a broad, flat centre section that makes carrying three adults easy.

The Camry’s boot was bigger than those in both the Holden Commodore and Ford Falcon of the time. At 567 litres, it is enough for four large cases or more – although a narrow opening can restrict what will fit. The rear seatback folds 60/40 to allow bulkier items to be carried.

On the road

Two engines are available in this generation Camry - a 2.4-litre four-cylinder petrol and a 3-litre six-cylinder petrol, paired with a five-speed manual or four-speed automatic transmission. The four-cylinder is the most common and it’s the same unit found in many other Toyota models, which makes parts easy to find and usually affordable. It produces 112kW and 218Nm, enough for decent performance and relaxed, open road driving.

The four-speed is very smooth, although a small number of gears means it can be caught out in the wrong ratio at times.

New Zealand-new models come with a competent suspension tuned by Kiwi formula ace Chris Amon. At the age it is now, it feels a little soft and slightly vague. The Camry is more of a cruising vehicle than a sports car – the “TS” and “Azura” models offer firmer sports suspension. Noise levels are very hushed. The model is also known for its wide turning circle.

Visibility forward from the driver's seat is reasonable, although shorter drivers might need to raise their seat slightly to see over the bonnet. Large mirrors help you see down the side of the car. We believe most drivers will not require a reversing camera with this car - they were not fitted to any models. Reversing sensors would be a nice option to look for.

The Camry’s tow rating is quite low considering its size. It can handle 500kg unbraked (a small garden trailer) and 1,200kg braked (a small trailer boat). The six-cylinder model can pull up to 1,600kg.


Safety features were low on the base model Altise, with only front airbags and anti-lock brakes as standard. Side airbags were available on higher models. Still, a solid structure means the car received a reasonable four-star ANCAP rating. Japanese import models carry only a two-star Used Car Safety Rating.

No ISOFIX child seat mounts are available in the Camry. The rear centre seat features a full shoulder-type belt, which offers more protection than the lap-only type.


Our trade contact described this generation Camry as “brutally reliable”, with age and wear the most significant issues identified. The four-cylinder engine uses a timing chain which will not require regular replacement.

In very rare cases high mileage cars have seen instances of head gasket failure, which will make itself noticeable by a drop in coolant level and a tendency for the engine to overheat. The top plastic tank on the radiator can discolour and crack. Replacement is simple and cheap, less than $200.

Check the interior air-conditioning temperature rotary dial for operation.

The plastics on the sleeve are very susceptible to fracturing, rendering it impossible to change the temperature. Moisture accumulation within the control unit electrics themselves (behind the dial) can also short-circuit because of corrosion. Replacing the unit isn’t easy since a large part of the dashboard has to be removed.

The cloth headlining in the Camry can become separated from the roof insulating liner over time so check the material for signs that it is starting to pull away, especially at the edges and around the front and rear screens.

Cost of ownership

Toyota recommends servicing the Camry every 12 months or 15,000km, whichever comes first. Services cost around $260 each.

RightCar estimates that over 14,000km of driving a year, a four-cylinder Camry will cost $2,460 to fuel. The 70-litre fuel tank will cost $140 to fill at $2 per litre and should take you 730km before the fuel light comes on.

A vehicle licence for the Camry costs $99.02 a year, with the car in the second cheapest ACC levy group.

Trade Me Insurance estimates insurance for a Camry valued at $7,240 will cost $44.35* per month. This is the same as a Honda Accord of the same year.

Buyers’ guide

This generation Camry is available on Trade Me priced from $2,500 to $10,000 for later and lower mileage vehicles. Four-cylinder models hold their value better than the six-cylinder one, with its additional fuel use a turnoff to buyers.


  • Altise – Steel wheels, CD player stereo, front-only electric windows and manual air-conditioning. A “Limited” package adds alloy wheels, cruise control and leather steering wheel.
  • Ativa – Adds alloy wheels, full electric windows, remote central locking and cruise control.
  • TS – Adds body kit, fog lights, sports seats, sports suspension rear spoiler, sports leather steering wheel and cassette player.
  • Azura – Adds leather interior, premium interior trim and climate control air-conditioning. Removes body kit.
  • Grande (launched 2004) – As per Azura, without sports suspension and sports seats.

Japanese import cars are available in G and G-Limited grades, essentially the same as the New Zealand-new Grande, without standard leather seats.


  • 2001 Launched in Japan
  • 2002 Launched in New Zealand
  • 2004 Given minor cosmetic facelift and Grande model introduced
  • 2006 Replaced by new model


Review vehicle

2006 Toyota Camry Altise Limited


$4,300 to $8,500 for models which have travelled 70,000 to 120,000km


2.4-litre four-cylinder, 112kW/218Nm (claimed)


Four-speed automatic, front-wheel drive

Safety rating

Four-star ANCAP


15,000km or 12 months

Spare wheel

Full size tyre

Fuel economy

8.8-litres per 100km (claimed)

Fuel type








Towing capacity

500kg (unbraked), 1200kg (braked)

Turning circle


This review covers the Toyota Camry for model years 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005 and 2006.

Review vehicle supplied by Turners Cars.

*Our insurance estimates are based on a 35-year-old male with no accidents in the last two years, garaging the car in Mission Bay, Auckland. The car is not used for business and will cover 10,000km to 20,000km a year. We estimate with no option add-ons and $500 excess. Customise your estimate at Trade Me Insurance.

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