For a country that is fervently nationalistic, the news that Toyota Camry winning Korea’s Car of the Year award should come as a shock.
This is the first time a foreign model has earned this title since the award was presented three years ago by the Korean Automobile Journalist Association. The past two winners were Kia’s K5 in 2011 and the Hyundai i40 in 2012.
Even Toyota Korea president Hisao Nakabayashi was surprised announcing before Korean reporters that he felt great honor to win the award and was actually unexpected.
With a 8.25-percent market share in Korea (from just 4.78 percent in 2011), the Camry was second to only the BMW 525 as the top-selling foreign car in Korea in 2012.
The Camry earned the highest score of 78.75 points for its value on price, performance, safety and fuel efficiency. On top of that, Toyota’s Lexus GS and Prius Hybrid were No. 1 in performance and green-car categories, respectively.
Because of previous taxing policy that made importing cars almost impossible, Toyota only entered the South Korean market in 2010.
And despite strong competition from homegrown brands as well as German rivals, the Camry became one of the best-selling import cars in Korea last year. During the same period of winning the title, Toyota’s sales in Korea soared over 200 percent in 2012 compared to the previous year.
The seventh-generation Camry looks smoother than its predecessor, weighs much less although the length, width, height, and wheelbase remained unchanged. It offers a completely new nose that incorporates a refreshed headlight and grille design.
The interior is a big improvement, with much more soft-touch materials, color combinations and contrasting stitching that convey elegance.
In Korea, the Camry is available in 1.8-liter and Hybrid (with 2.0-liter engine) configurations (Here in the Philippines the Camry is available in a more opulent package of either 3.5 V6 or 2.4 configurations).