Full 2010 Toyota Camry Hybrid Review
What's New for 2010
The 2010 Toyota Camry Hybrid receives revised front-end styling, a new instrument cluster and unique upholstery made of silk protein and synthetic fiber.
Hybrid-powered vehicles may warm the green-hued hearts of their owners, but they also tend to lighten owners' wallets. Sure, they'll save you money on gas, but typically, you have to pay so much more up front for hybrid technology that you'll never recoup that initial investment. The 2010 Toyota Camry Hybrid is the rare exception to that rule. Thanks to a dual-mode gas-electric hybrid powertrain, its green credentials are impeccable -- 34 combined mpg and Advanced Technology Partial Zero Emissions Vehicle (AT-PZEV) certification -- yet it's barely more expensive than Toyota's top-of-the-line four-cylinder Camry XLE. What's more, its 187 horsepower combined output makes it quicker to boot.
In fairness, the XLE has some luxuries that the Hybrid lacks, such as premium JBL audio (an extra-cost option on the Hybrid) and reclining rear seats (XLE only). But for consumers with heightened green consciousness -- or those who just want a vehicular hedge against future gas price spikes -- trading such accoutrements for about 9 mpg extra might be worthwhile. And it's not like the Camry Hybrid comes sparsely equipped; on the contrary, it boasts dual-zone automatic climate control and an eight-way power driver seat, among other niceties. For 2010, you even get something for nothing: The Camry Hybrid receives refreshed exterior styling, a new instrument cluster and exclusive "Fraichir" silk protein and synthetic fiber seating surfaces (Toyota says it's softer to the skin than normal fabric upholstery), yet the price remains the same as it was in '09.
The Camry Hybrid's sophisticated hybrid powertrain can run solely on electric power at low speeds and while coasting on the highway, and the electric motor provides a tangible kick during hard acceleration, particularly at higher speeds. Otherwise, though, the Camry Hybrid is virtually indistinguishable from a regular Camry. As such, expect a spacious cabin, comfortable seats and a driving experience that isolates you from the outside world. Notably, the Nissan Altima Hybrid shares the Camry Hybrid's powertrain while providing a more engaging driving experience, but the Nissan is only available in California and the seven states that currently follow that state's tailpipe regulations: Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, Rhode Island and Vermont. Also, the Altima isn't as cosseting as the Camry.
The 2010 Toyota Camry Hybrid has a couple of new competitors this year in the Ford Fusion Hybrid and its more upscale corporate sibling, the Mercury Milan Hybrid. Each boasts an EPA rating that's more impressive than the Toyota's. Hybrid-happy shoppers should also consider the practical and significantly more-fuel-efficient Toyota Prius, and those on a budget might want to take the new Honda Insight for a spin. Overall, though, the Camry Hybrid remains one of the best hybrid deals going, offering an enviable combination of excellent fuel economy and familiar midsize-sedan goodness.
Body Styles, Trim Levels, and Options
The 2010 Toyota Camry Hybrid comes standard with 16-inch alloy wheels, dual-zone automatic climate control, keyless ignition and entry, an eight-way power driver seat, a 60/40-split rear seat, a leather-wrapped tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, a trip computer and a six-speaker CD/MP3 stereo with an auxiliary audio jack.
Bundled into various packages, Camry Hybrid options include a sunroof, leather upholstery, heated front seats, a four-way power passenger seat, a navigation system, satellite radio and a JBL sound system with a six-CD changer and Bluetooth.
Powertrains and Performance
The Camry Hybrid is powered by a 2.4-liter four-cylinder gas engine working in concert with an electric motor. Power is sent to the front wheels via a specialized continuously variable transmission (CVT). The gas engine produces 147 hp and 138 pound-feet of torque, and the electric motor adds another 40 hp, yielding 187 maximum hp. The Camry Hybrid can also run on electric power alone, but only under light throttle applications at speeds below 30 mph.
With a respectable 8.4-second sprint from zero to 60 mph, the Camry Hybrid's acceleration falls between that of the four-cylinder and V6 non-hybrid Camrys, though it's closer to the four's. Fuel economy is an impressive 33 mpg city/34 mpg highway and 34 mpg combined.
The 2010 Toyota Camry Hybrid features standard front-seat side airbags, full-length side curtain airbags, a driver knee airbag, antilock disc brakes and stability control. In National Highway Traffic Safety Administration crash testing, the Camry Hybrid received five out of five stars in all front and side collision categories. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety also awarded the Camry its highest rating of "Good" for frontal offset and side collision protection.
Interior Design and Special Features
There's some visual interest in the Camry Hybrid's cabin, thanks largely to the ice-blue backlit trim on the center stack, but the general quality has slipped a bit relative to Camrys of old. Still, interior materials are adequate for a midsize sedan, and the car's inherent quietness combines with the hybrid powertrain's frequent electric-only silence to create a consistent impression of refinement. Comfy seats along with numerous cubbies and compartments make the Hybrid's interior a thoroughly family-friendly environment. The hybrid system's battery packs do eat into trunk space significantly (10.6 cubic feet versus 15 in the regular Camry), but a 60/40-split-folding rear seatback provides some added utility when needed.
Driving the 2010 Toyota Camry Hybrid can be a bit odd due to the CVT, electric motor and eerily quiet cabin at traffic lights. Unlike many other hybrids, though, the Camry Hybrid offers relatively brisk acceleration, meaning you don't necessarily have to sacrifice performance for good fuel economy. While the Camry offers a smooth ride and quiet cabin, the flip side of that coin is lifeless steering and high-seas body roll; for most hybrid shoppers, though, these foibles are unlikely to be deal breakers.