A good car if you can accept the limitations
Nothing out of the ordinary. I have had to replace a starter, and the front brakes. Those are wear-and-tear items, and at this car's mileage it is to be expected.
When I purchased the car, it had a number of problems. The AC doesn't work. The sunroof is jammed and will not open. The driver's side power door lock will not lock the doors (although it will unlock them). None of these things are a big enough deal in a car this old for me to fix.
The two best selling points of this car are reliability and gas mileage. This car gets 28mpg on a mixture of ~80mph highway and stop and go city traffic. The car is well-built as well, no squeaks or rattles.
The problem with this is that it drives very poorly. The engine, even after a full-tuneup, still is gutless and slow. The engine lacks low-end power and only starts to wake up around 3k. Pulling out into traffic can be a frightening experience. Also on any sort of hill or incline, the car is forced to downshift and rev up to 3-4k to maintain speed. Forget trying to make a quick pass on a two-lane - even with careful planning it is still hairy business.
Another problem is the poorly-designed automatic transmission which goes quickly to the highest gear, which is strange since the engine lacks the low-end torque to carry on in it. It also shifts rather roughly as well. Compared to my other car, which has a GM automatic that has about the same mileage, but shifts smoothly and will not go for overdrive until a certain speed is reached, I am disappointed in Toyota.
The car has tons and tons of body roll. Stock 185/70/14s do not help at all either. If this was my daily driver (someone else drives it) I would replace with a set of 195/60/15s and some larger sway bars (I do not believe it has a rear one stock, as a matter of fact). I am sure the handling would be much improved without much loss of ride quality. Another thing that bugs me is the brakes do not inspire confidence at all. This car needs a larger set of front brakes.
I could never drive this car around. I drive a full-size GM sedan (a Pontiac Bonneville) which ironically, I paid the same amount for as the Camry, but beats it in nearly every category (except gas mileage - it gets ~8mpg less). I am a rather aggressive driver and my current car suits me well. But for the laid-back, slow driver who currently drives the car the Camry is a good choice. I advise you to test drive one before purchasing to see if it fits your driving style.
Would you buy another car from this manufacturer? Yes
Review Date: 3rd June, 2002