If I had to buy a car right now (2014 model year, brand new, small to mid-size sedan, around $25K), the Toyota Camry would NOT be on that list:
I'd be looking at something like these (in no particular order):
- VW Passat
- Honda Accord
- Subaru Legacy
- Chevy Malibu
- Ford Fusion
- Hyundai Sonata
- Kia Optima
- Nissan Altima
Reliability is non-issue here, as some of these above actually have better reliability than the Camry (according to autoguide.com). Interior appointments are a wash, some better than others in some areas, some worse in others. Ride quality and fun to drive - even fuel economy - all these blow the Camry out of the water in real-world reviews.
VW Passat - like a limousine compared to the others, like the previous generations of Camry - specifically designed for the North American market (size, lots of buttons, power, etc). A lot of car for the money.
Honda Accord - same league, in terms of reliability, to the Toyota - but with a more flexible engine, better MPG, and better handling. V6 + 6-speed transforms this family car to something that could bring shame to your typical high dollar German touring cars (BMW, Audi, Mercedes, etc.)
Mazda6 - that new Skyactiv engine spanks anything that Toyota put out. More power, better fuel economy, smaller package. Especially the 2.2L Skyactiv-D turbo diesel - 173HP, 310ft.lb just off idle. That is almost your old school V8 power. Plus their handling has always been in their sweet spot - the new Mazda6 doesn't disappoint there.
Subaru Legacy - always the odd-ball one out there, conservative styling, boxer engine layout, symmetric AWD, and built like a little tank. Go anywhere, do anything, and bring you back in one piece sort of car. Their reliability, aside from a few headgasket issues, is legendary like Toyota.
Chevy Malibu - Car that has sort of a crisis, but in a good way. Interior is pretty sad (think typical plastic rental car), but the overall car is solid, great potential - needs to get out from under corporate GM and they will have a winner on their hands.
Ford Fusion - Styling inside and out, lots of powertrain choices, solid car all around. Follows in the same vein as the early Ford Taurus - where they pushed the jellybean shape that has changed a two decades of car styling. Looks like a mini-Aston Martin, good handling and construction.
Hyundai Sonata / Kia Optima - These two are similar chassis, both are a lot of car for the money and offer similar options. Think of the Kia as the "sportier" version of the Hyundai. Both used to be distance finishers compared to the mainstream - now they are considered on par or in some cases, better, than their peers.
Nissan Altima - Seeming a perennial second runner up to Toyota and Honda, they really got their act together with engineering and scales of economy help from Renault - they emerged as a real powerhouse. Well known for handling and powertrain flexibility. Add in some European styling and flair - and you get the new Nissans.