2019 Camry XLE features stellar fuel economy

The 2019 Toyota Camry XLE has a stellar fuel economy.

The 2019 Toyota Camry XLE has a stellar fuel economy.

David Dewhurst Photography /Toyota Pressroom / Contributed photo

For much of the long life of Toyota's Camry line, we've judged it the class of the midsize-sedan class. But that was before Chevrolet finally let the Malibu reach its potential, and before South Korea's Hyundai and Kia brands exceeded all expectations for quality and performance. The Camry remains a very good car, but some of its competitors — notably, the Malibu and Honda Accord — may be a little bit better.

The first thing we noticed about our test car, a 2019 Camry XLE, was its unexpectedly good looks. The new Camry is sharp and stylish, with long, graceful lines from stem to stern. The second thing we noticed was the collection of stars under the “Government 5-Star Safety Ratings” banner. The Camry was one of a very few cars we've tested that earned five stars across the board, top to bottom in crash tests.

It didn't take us long to take note of the Camry's stellar fuel economy, either. It's rated at 28 mpg city, 39 highway, and drivers can expect to achieve those numbers in the real world. Those figures are well short of the Camry Hybrid's rating of 51/53, but the conventionally powered models cost thousands less: The Hybrid starts at $28,400, compared with $24,095 for the base Camry L.

Our test car, sticker-priced at $35,484, came with a few disappointments. The sound the doors made when closed was on the tinny side, and we felt the Camry's soundproofing could have been more effective. We also had difficulty getting used to the accelerator. Light-footed drivers thought the Camry is underpowered, until they discovered the accelerator pedal required a heavier-than-usual foot to bring forth an appropriate response.

Everything else was top-notch — ride, handling, room and ergonomics. Built in Georgetown, Ky., the Camry exhibits the perfect fit and finish Americans have come to expect from Japanese-built Toyotas.

2019 Toyota Camry XLE

Price: $35,484

Engine: 2.5-liter inline Four, 203 horsepower, 184 lb-ft. torque

Transmission: 8-speed shiftable automatic

Drive: front-wheel

Weight: 3,351 lb.

Suspension: MacPherson strut front, double-wishbone rear

Wheels: 18-in. silver machined-finish alloy

Tires: P235/45R18 all-season

Seating capacity: 5

Luggage capacity: 15.1 cu. ft.

Fuel capacity: 16 gallons

Fuel economy: 28 mpg city, 39 mpg highway

Fuel type: regular unleaded gasoline

Our top-of-the-line Camry XLE didn't have a heated steering wheel or seat coolers, but it had just about everything else — including Toyota's Safety Sense package, as well as blind-spot monitor and rear cross-traffic alert. Optional equipment included a Driver Assist Package, Navigation Package, and panoramic glass roof. These options added nearly $6,000 to the price. Toyota offers a wide range of options at all trim levels, so it's possible to keep the price down while picking and choosing among options.

Toyota is one of several automakers whose executives apparently believe the American driver will fall out of love with the SUV and find his way back to the four-door sedan. Others have checked out of the sedan game. But the statistics are not running in Toyota's favor. U.S. Camry sales peaked at 473,108 in 2007, but have declined fairly steeply since 2015. By contrast, U.S. sales of the RAV-4, a compact SUV, have more than tripled since 2011.

Other popular midsize, medium-priced sedans include the Nissan Altima, Honda Accord, Chevrolet Malibu, Hyundai Sonata, Kia Optima, Subaru Legacy and Volkswagen Jetta.

Steven Macoy (semacoy@gmail.com) is a longtime car enthusiast and full-time editor who lives in Bethel, Conn.