2016 Toyota CamryThe Toyota Camry has long been America’s best-selling car. In Canada, the story is quite different, as consumers tend to lean towards smaller cars, which has made the Honda Civic a sales champion for 18 years running.

However, if you dig deeper into the sales charts, you’ll realize that the Camry hasn’t earned top spot in its own midsize category since 2012. That top spot has gone to the Ford Fusion, but so far at the halfway point of 2016, it’s the Camry that currently leads the way.

The Camry being on top is no fluke. The influx of sales can directly been pinpointed to Toyota’s focus on design for the Camry during its major revamp in 2014. In order to stay on top of its game for 2016, Toyota has added two new trim levels—the XLE and XSE. I wasn’t able to get my hands on one of those, but I got something close enough to the XSE—an SE with the Special Edition package.

The enhanced look and feel of the Camry
A couple years ago, we would never have focused in on the looks of the Camry. Similar to its smaller sibling, the Corolla, it was a safe and conservative choice that was all about comfort, space and cost, features also reflected in its competition.

Perhaps, the overall decrease of sedan sales has prompted a shift towards design, but if you look down the highly competitive list of cars in this segment—the Fusion, Chevrolet Malibu, Nissan Altima and Hyundai Sonata—they’re all at the top of their design games with recent significant changes both inside and out.

The Camry has never looked better with an aggressive front fascia that features a wide blacked-out grille and sleekly-carved fog lamps. The sporty look continues throughout its body with a thick character line that runs low from its front 18-inch alloy wheels to its rears. Toyota has done a masterful job in making the Camry bold enough for a new, younger clientele without alienating its loyal customer base by taking the design language too far.

Inside, this 2016 Toyota Camry possesses a lot of soft-touch materials that include two-toned “Sport” fabric seats that are comfortable to ride in. The seats came in black and blue, an unusual colour combination with a black base and blue contrast stitching to go along with a blue-filled middle section. I’m still not sure it works, but it definitely grabs your attention and the blue stitching on the dash and seats serves a purpose in elevating its overall look.

The infotainment unit gets upsized to the seven-inch touchscreen flanked by pushbuttons that could be used for audio, phone and climate control. Once again, I like how Toyota doesn’t push the envelope that far and sticks to a more simplified style that will resonate more with families. Granted, the buttons could be made smaller and look outdated, a similar argument that I have with many Honda products.

As for space, Toyota has done a fine job with expanding the interior of the Camry with a look that feels more open. There’s plenty of headroom, legroom and storage space in both the front and back rows. And if you’re a family that needs plenty of cargo space, you’ll be happy to read that the Camry is healthy in that department with 436 litres (15.4 cu. ft.) of space.

A comfortable and quiet ride
Toyota offers two engine choices for the Camry, but you need to be in the XLE or XSE trims to get the bigger and more powerful, 268-hp, 3.5-litre V-6 unit. This SE version gets the base, 2.5-litre four-cylinder that produces 178 hp and 170 lb.-ft. of torque that’s matched to the only transmission used for the Camry—a six-speed automatic.

A simplified system is the common theme throughout this review, and I have to applaud Toyota once again. Midsize sedan customers aren’t looking for three or four engine choices (à la Ford Fusion), nor a manual transmission as seen in the Honda Accord.

I can’t speak for the 3.5-litre engine, but the 2.5 inline-four that I had showed enough power for the cruiser that it is. I would call it in the middle-range of its segment, which won’t affect its popularity, as consumers seek more comfort, smoothness and design. The Camry’s performance levels may be lacking, but I found its acceleration to be steady and smooth, while its steering impressed me with direct accuracy without the need for correction. The car is very responsive, allowing you to make manoeuvres with ease on the highway and within the city. All of this was achieved without much road noise thanks to additional sound insulation, allowing for that quiet and comfortable ride.

During the week-long test, my SE Special Edition Camry registered a 9.6 L/100 km fuel economy average, which was thirstier for fuel than the suggested ratings of 6.9 L/100 km on the highway and 9.7 L/100 km in the city. On the positive side, it still clocked under double digits and I was able to match the 6.9 L/100 km number on a final highway stint.

A modernized choice that’s still safe, reliable and cost-effective
The 2016 Toyota Camry has a wide range of pricing that starts at $24,655 and can go all the way up to $36,070 for the XLE V6. My tester—the SE Special Edition—rings in at $28,195, which is reasonable for the amount of infotainment and technology features received.

The Camry, much like many others in this segment, are safe purchases without much baggage attached. It truly comes down to preference, and Toyota has done its best in a fresh design language that adds a bit of attitude to appease its loyal followers, while bringing in some new faces.