In the mid-1990s Toyota was doing its utmost to compete with Holden and Ford with a new wide-bodied mix of four-cylinder Camrys and V6 Vientas.

With Australians still head-over-heels in love with the Commodore and Falcon, the Camry and Vienta found it hard going, despite their build quality, economy, and reliability.

Today, however, those same attributes are helping to underpin the popularity of the Camry and Vienta with used cars buyers.

Models

Launched in 1993, the (V10) Camry and Vienta were the first of the so-called ‘wide body' models; they were larger, wider, stronger, safer, roomier, more refined, and more comfortable.

The Camry and Vienta were closely related family-sized front-wheel drive sedans and wagons, but at the same time were distinctly different.
 
While they shared the same bodies the Camry offered the fuel economy of a four-cylinder engine, while the Vienta promised the smooth performance of a V6.

Two engines were available, a fuel efficient four-cylinder or a more powerful 3-litre V6.Two engines were available, a fuel efficient four-cylinder or a more powerful 3-litre V6.


 
Four models made up the Camry range, beginning with the bare bones Executive, above that were the CSi, CS-X and the Ultima.
 
There were few perks for the Executive driver; the entry model was very bare indeed. This was the model aimed mostly at the fleet buyer.
 
All it had was an AM/FM radio with a cassette player and two speakers; the steering column could be adjusted for tilt and reach, there was central locking, power mirrors, and a remote release for the boot.
 
If you hoped to add some extra features you would have been disappointed to discover the options list was nonexistent.

The only extra features you got for the extra money you paid were a couple of extra speakers, a tacho and intermittent wipers.

The good news if you bought the CSi instead was that you could have air conditioning, if you were prepared to pay extra for it.

That's where the good news ended, however, as the CSi was also quite sparsely equipped. The only extra features you got for the extra money you paid were a couple of extra speakers, a tacho and intermittent wipers.

In contrast, the Ultima boasted a relatively long list of standard features, including climate control air conditioning, cruise control, power windows, remote keyless central locking, variable intermittent wipers, sports seats, leather steering wheel, alloy wheels, a rear spoiler, and sports suspension.
 
The CS-X was added to the range in 1994, and came with the option of a driver's airbag and ABS braking. The Executive was dropped and the CSi became the entry model.
 
The Camry Vienta range had a similar line-up of models, starting with the Executive, then moving up through the CSi, CS-X, the Touring with its sports suspension, Ultima and Grande.
 
Each was similarly equipped to the equivalent model on the four-cylinder side of the family.
 
Like the Camry, the Executive had the bare basics, but it did have the option of ABS braking and air conditioning.

An update in 1995 brought a minor cosmetic makeover.

Same with the CSi, it was better equipped than the Executive, and ABS and air conditioning were available on the option list.

The Ultima, like its four-cylinder cousin, had a reasonable list of standard features, including climate control air conditioning, cruise control, and alloy wheels.
 
An update in 1995 brought a minor cosmetic makeover, new trim, an immobiliser, and front cupholders to the Camry range.
 
In the same year Toyota dropped the Camry tag from the V6 models as they ramped up their attack on the local six-cylinder cars. The Vienta then went it alone, while the Camry continued on as a four-cylinder only model.
 
The 'Getaway' and 'Intrigue' were value-added special edition Camrys released as the V10 model came to the end of its run; features included air conditioning and a CD player.
 
Missing from the V10 were features such as a sunroof, sat nav, parking sensors, there was no reversing camera, or park assist.
 
It didn't have a touch screen, or Bluetooth, so you couldn't sync your iPhone or Android device.

Cabin

The V10 was labelled the ‘wide body' Camry for a reason, it was bigger inside and out.
 
Toyota was competing for the family dollar and had to produce a car that would accommodate an average family.

You could have air conditioning in the CSi, if you were prepared to pay extra for it.You could have air conditioning in the CSi, if you were prepared to pay extra for it.


 
As a result, the V10 was roomy inside for front and rear seat passengers. Whether in the front or rear you were accommodated in comfort with good head and legroom.
 
Although it had five seats, it really suited a family of five with two adults in the front and three kids in the rear. With three adults in the rear it was a squeeze, particularly for the one in the middle.
 
Along with the roomy cabin there was a generous boot; the sedan's measured 518 litres, the wagon's 690 litres.

Engine

There were two engines in the V10 range, the 2.2-litre four-cylinder engine that powered the Camry and the 3.0-litre V6 that gave the Camry Vienta its zip.

The 2.2-litre four was a fuel-injected twin-cam alloy unit that put out 93kW – 125 horsepower – at its power peak, and 185Nm of peak torque.
 
With the bulk of the V10 Camry the performance with the four-cylinder engine wasn't startling, but it was more than adequate in most circumstances.

The gearbox choices were a five-speed manual and a conventional four-speed automatic transmission.

For more performance, and refinement, there was the silky smooth 3.0-litre V6, which at its peaks put out 136kW – 182 horsepower – and 264Nm.sport

Before the introduction of the current fuel consumption testing, the four-cylinder consumption was claimed by Toyota to be 6.6L/100 km in town and 10.0L/100 km on the open road; it was claimed the V6 used only a little more at 7.6L/100 km in town and 11.5L/100 km on the open road.
 
Both were recommended to run on 91-octane unleaded petrol, but they can also run on E10 ethanol blend fuel.

The gearbox choices were a five-speed manual and a conventional four-speed automatic transmission.

Driving

The V10 Camry and Vienta weren't tearaway performance cars, they were modest performers aimed at those whose priority was safe, comfortable and reliable family transport.
 
They handled with assurance, went where they were pointed, the ride was supple, and the cabin was a refined and quiet place to be.
 
There was little road noise, and wind noise was kept to a reasonable level.

Safety

The list of safety features in the V10 Camry and Vienta was a short one.

Built before the advent of most of the safety features regarded as common today, the Camry Executive, CSi, CS-X, and Ultima didn't have airbags of any sort as standard. It wasn't until 1994 that Toyota made a driver's airbag available as an option.

The Camry wagon extended the sedan's boot space from 518 litres to 690 litres.The Camry wagon extended the sedan's boot space from 518 litres to 690 litres.


 
It was a similar story with ABS braking, which while standard on the Ultima, wasn't standard on the rest of the Camry range, and could only be had as an option from 1994.
 
There were no airbags available on the Vienta Executive, CSi, CS-X, Touring, or Ultima, even as an option.
 
ABS was optional on the Executive, CSi, CS-X and Touring, but standard on Ultima.
 
Lap sash seat belts were fitted to all five seats, which allowed for the fitment of a baby car seat, but being released before 2014 it was too early for ISOFIX child restraints.
 
The V10 Camry and Vienta were also released before ANCAP began testing and rating cars, but suffice it to say they wouldn't receive a high rating if tested today.
 
The Used Car Safety Ratings, published in 2008 by the Monash University Accident Research Centre found the V10 Camry provided an "average" level of occupant protection in a crash.

Any common issues?

Toyota built a fine reputation for build quality and reliability over many years and there are no better examples of the company's commitment to delivering on its promises than the V10 Camry and Camry Vienta.
 
History says that little goes wrong with them, but with the average example having done 300,000km or more, issues caused by normal wear and tear become the things to look for.
 
It doesn't matter how well they were screwed together at the factory, time and kilometres eventually take their toll on any car. That equally applies to the Camry and Vienta, despite their reputation for being bulletproof.
 
Start by checking for a service record, a Camry or Vienta that has been regularly serviced all its life will give better reliability than a car that hasn't been well maintained.

An automatic transmission should engage gears smoothly without hesitation.

Look for oil leaks around the engine, they're quite common, and watch for smoke from the exhaust when driving the car.

A tiny wisp of smoke isn't something to be worried about, but clouds of black smoke is a sure sign of a tired engine.
 
The engine should also start without any delay, run smoothly and without stumbling or hesitating in any way.
 
While driving, also note the operation of the automatic transmission or manual gearbox.
 
You should be able to select gears without baulking in a manual gearbox, and there should be no noises in any gear when driving down the road.
 
An automatic transmission should engage gears smoothly without hesitation.
 
Check with the seller to establish if the automatic transmission has ever been serviced. Automatic transmissions of this time required servicing and regular oil changes to perform at their best. Old oil is a killer when it comes to auto transmissions.
 
Production of the Camry and Vienta switched from Port Melbourne to the new Altona plant early in 1995, and with it came a new environmentally friendly water-based painting process.

It's common now to find the clear coat peeling from the upper surfaces.

It's common now to find the clear coat peeling from the upper surfaces on cars painted with this process. It looks ugly, but short of repainting it there's no fix for the problem.

When new the V10 carried a warranty of two-years/50,000 km, depending on which came first.
 
It was released long before the introduction of capped price servicing, but service costs are reasonable and any competent mechanic can do it.
 
Toyota recommended servicing the Camry every 10,000km/12 months, whichever came first.
 
Both engines had timing belts and Toyota recommended replacing them every 150,000km.
 
MORE: If anything crops up, you'll probably find it on our Toyota Camry problems page

Owners’ views

Terry Edwards: I have a 1995 Vienta V6. It’s not cool, but it’s comfortable, has got lots of gear, the engine runs great and doesn’t burn oil. I expect it will keep on going for years to come.
 
Ryan O’Flaherty: The 1996 Camry must be the most underrated car ever. Mine has done 220,000 km and still runs well. The 2.2-litre engine now uses a little oil, but it’s not excessive, it still performs strongly and is economical. The only problem for me is that it doesn’t have airbags, it doesn’t handle great, and rear seat passengers don’t have a lot of room.
 
Jeff Wheatley: I have a 1995 Vienta V6. It’s reliable, comfortable, the boot is huge, it’s easy to drive, has plenty of performance and the economy is pretty good. The only thing I don’t like is the styling.

Rivals

Mitsubishi Magna – 1993-1997
Popular mid-sized four and six gave the Camry a good run for its money, but now an orphan. 
2 stars.

Mazda 626 – 1993-1997
Pre ‘Zoom-Zoom’ Mazda mid-sizer is a good thing. 
3 stars.

Ford Falcon – 1993-1997
Roomy, reliable six that's great for towing. 
2 stars.

Verdict

Aging star still going strong as it approaches the end of the road.

Specifications

Built: Australia
Body: 4-door sedan, 4-door wagon
Models: CSi, CS-X, Executive, Ultima, Vienta CSi, Vienta CS-X, Vienta Executive, Vienta Grande, Vienta Touring, Vienta Ultima
Seats: 5
Engine: 2.2-litre 4-cyl, 93kW/ 185Nm; 3.0-litre V6, 136kW/264Nm
Gearbox: 5-speed manual, 4-speed automatic
Drive: front-wheel drive
0-100 km/h: N/A
Fuel consumption: 6.6/10 L/100 km (4-cyl); 7.6/11.5 L/100 km
Fuel: 91-octane unleaded petrol
Fuel tank capacity: 70 litres
Oil: 10W-40
Front suspension: MacPherson strut independent
Rear suspension: MacPherson strut independent
Turning circle: 11 metres
Safety rating: N/A
Spare: full sized
Kerb weight: 1300-1540 kg
Towing capacity: 1100 kg (trailer with brakes)
Ground clearance: N/A

Do you own a Camry from the early '90s? Tell us about your ownership experience in the comments below.