Until recently, driving a hybrid car required some sort of sacrifice, whether in terms of space, performance or anonymity. However, in the case of the Camry Hybrid, one could argue that Toyota has given the buying public a hybrid that demands few or no sacrifices.
If judged only on its merits as a competent midsize sedan, the Toyota Camry Hybrid would score well. We've found that it shares all the attributes that make the conventional Camry one of the best-selling family sedans out there: a comfortable and quiet ride, more than adequate power, lots of amenities and plenty of room for five. That its fuel economy beats that of most compact cars and its price is well within the normal range for an average midsize car are just icing on the hybrid cake.
Current Toyota Camry Hybrid
The current Toyota Camry Hybrid features a 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine paired with an electric motor. Combined output comes to 200 horsepower and it's routed to the front wheels through a specialized continuously variable transmission (CVT). The EPA estimates combined fuel economy at an excellent 40 or 41 mpg, depending on the trim level.
The Toyota Camry Hybrid is offered in LE, XLE and (late introduction) SE Limited Edition trim levels. Standard feature highlights for the LE include keyless entry and ignition, dual-zone automatic climate control, full power accessories, Bluetooth, a touchscreen display and a six-speaker sound system with a USB port. The XLE adds a power driver seat and an upgraded sound system. The SE Limited Edition is essentially an XLE with sporty styling cues and the sport front seats of the non-hybrid Camry SE. Main options include a sunroof, leather upholstery, heated front seats, a premium audio system, a navigation system and a smartphone integration system.
It should be noted that halfway into the 2014 model year, the Camry Hybrid saw a few minor changes. These include the aforementioned new trim level, the rearview camera becoming standard across the board and a renaming of the car's infotainment systems.
Inside, the Camry's new interior benefits from roomy seats, admirable outward visibility and well-placed controls. What the cabin design lacks in cohesiveness, it makes up for with generally good materials quality, especially the handsome stitching on the dash and door panels of upper trims. Toyota's Entune system is also praiseworthy in the way it easily adds enhanced audio, information and navigation features, although the touchscreen's virtual buttons can be a little frustrating to use at times.
While fuel economy gets top billing here, the Toyota Camry Hybrid is still pleasant to drive. Its hybrid powertrain is quite smooth in its operation and provides quick acceleration. Handling is unremarkable and the steering is quite light and uncommunicative, but for most buyers this will likely be a non-issue.
Used Toyota Camry Hybrid Models
This latest Toyota Camry Hybrid was redesigned for 2012, as was the conventional Camry. As such, it benefited from the same generational upgrades, such as a much nicer interior and new electronics features. Fuel economy and power are also considerably better than they were with the previous-generation hybrid. Note that these Camry Hybrids lack a few minor updates of the current version, including the addition of the SE Limited Edition trim level, the rearview camera becoming standard across the board and a renaming of the car's infotainment systems.
That previous, first-generation Toyota Camry Hybrid was produced for the 2007-'11 model years. While it shared much of the same advantages of the current car, it suffered from a rather small trunk, disappointing interior materials and inconsistent fit and finish issues. Additionally, its fuel economy, while high, was not as good as the current model's.
This Camry Hybrid was powered by a 2.4-liter four-cylinder gas engine working in concert with an electric motor. Power was sent to the front wheels through a specialized CVT. The gas engine produced 147 hp and 138 lb-ft of torque, and the electric motor added another 40 hp, yielding 187 maximum hp. Fuel economy was quite good for the time, checking in at an EPA-estimated 33 mpg city/34 mpg highway and 34 mpg combined.
For most of the first generation's production run, standard features included 16-inch alloy wheels, dual-zone automatic climate control, keyless ignition and entry, a power driver seat, a tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, a trip computer and a six-speaker sound system. Main options were a sunroof, leather upholstery, heated front seats, a power passenger seat, a navigation system and a premium sound system.
Changes were slight over the years, with revised front-end styling, a new instrument cluster and unique upholstery made of silk protein and synthetic fiber being introduced for 2010. In 2011, the alloy wheels were downgraded to steel wheels with plastic covers.
On the whole, the Camry Hybrid presented a complete package. It was roomy, comfortable and kept up to date with the latest features. And thanks to the Prius, Toyota has shown that its hybrid powertrains are able to meet consumers' expectations of durability and reliability. Our only suggestion would be to also check out the Ford Fusion Hybrid, which eclipsed the Camry Hybrid in terms of economy and interior design for the final two years.