2012 Toyota Camry SE vs. Mazda 6 iTouring

By Zack Klapman and edited by Christina Selter.

I am spending my first tryst with a 2012 Toyota Camry SE. I haven’t driven one in years, and when I did it was for 15 minutes, hoping it would turn into 40 in the back seat. Hardly a fair impression. It also wasn’t as interesting as my 5 hours trip over 400 miles of city and highway.

Sitting behind a 5’4” driver, my legs thought I was in the exit row. Seriously, unless you’re behind LeBron, you’ll be comfortable in the back for a while. It’s also comfortable in the back for 3.5 men. I know that because 4 weren’t as bad as we thought. Later I was at the helm, rushing along arrow-straight blacktop in the witching hour. The under-whelming had impressed me. I had to give the it the “Appreciators of Logic and Long Distance Chops” award.

2012 Toyota Camry
  • Acceptable space for as many occupants as there are doors.
  • Ability to jog long distances.
  • Do it on a budget.

I want to do 350 miles in 4.5 hours and I don’t have much money. The poor man’s private jet. The Toyota Camry can be that plane. It is a good transportation vehicle. Cars have a job, and a lot of the ones I love, are really bad at it. This car knows its role, and excels at it.

Toyota Camry
The council’ criteria are:

I’ll tell you, though, nothing is less threatening than 4 guys, wearing matching T-shirts, lost, in a Camry. Everywhere, the vibe this car emits is “vulnerable conformity”, not a good message, anywhere. We were one female short of looking like kids going to day camp.

It’s not that I don’t like the exterior design, I do. But flames won’t be impressed and foes won’t be deterred. But that’s not what this car is about, is it? At the core, it’s a dishwasher; A good one.

Mazda 6 iTouring

This is what happens when someone takes a dishwasher and finds a way to make it look better. I remember when my parents replaced our old off-white Kenmoore with a box of brushed metal. Same job: new and better looks.

2012 Mazda 6

The headlights look furrowed in skepticism, like a BMW before it decided to glare. Likewise, the inside is more interesting than the Toyota. It has new cleaning tricks too: It’s faster, it weighs less, it goes farther, and it comes with a backup camera. That last gadget brings us to a popular topic for TV shoppers: price disparity. Your next TV always costs more than your current one did.

2012 Mazda 6

At $25,000 MSRP, the Mazda6 is a few grand over the Camry’s post-tax price. You can get the cheaper iSport, but the only way to get Bluetooth (like the Camry) is to go up a trim level. It’s a moderately pricey inconvenience, but the usefulness of having Bluetooth and the best parallel parking aid ever can’t be ignored. And it’s quite good looking, something I can’t ignore if I have to walk up to it every day.

(Note: All vehicles provided by manufacturers for comparison test purposes. Photos provided by Mazda and Toyota.)