A mere three years after being completely redesigned, the 2015 Toyota Camry Hybrid has been given a significant mid-generation overhaul. Its styling has been updated, suspensions have been retuned, the interior has been upgraded and several new features debut. In total, the updates don't break any new ground in the family sedan segment, but they do upgrade the Camry Hybrid to a level more in keeping with more recently introduced competitors.
What Is It?
The 2015 Toyota Camry Hybrid is a five-passenger midsize family sedan with a gasoline-electric hybrid powertrain. As before, it offers a spacious cabin, ample feature content and thrifty if not class-leading fuel economy.
For 2015 it's available in three trim levels: LE, SE and XLE. The SE is a sport-oriented model that gets its own unique suspension tuning along with larger standard wheels. We gave the Hybrid SE trim level an "A" rating after our testing.
What's New on the Outside?
With the exception of the roof, every exterior body panel is new for 2015. The rear is more rounded, with more prominent taillights and a large chrome strip that creates a more premium look in keeping with its larger sibling, the Avalon. The sides are more sculpted and the blocky C-pillar has been broken up with the placement of chrome and piano black trim to create the appearance of a more streamlined roof.
That grille on the Camry differs depending on trim level, with the new, sportier SE trim getting a glossy honeycomb insert and the other trims getting five bars spanning the lower portion. To identify the Hybrid you'll have to look for the badging, as that's the only way to tell it from the standard model.
What Has Changed on the Inside?
Passenger space is unchanged, which isn't a problem in the least. The backseat remains one of the most spacious in the segment, with abundant leg- and headroom for 6-footers and an open greenhouse that aids visibility and doesn't make your rear passengers feel claustrophobic. Unfortunately, the fixed head restraints can make affixing a child seat difficult. Also, the hybrid's nickel-metal hydride battery pack robs more than 2 cubic feet from the regular Camry's trunk. And although it does provide a small pass-through (unlike the Honda Accord Hybrid), it lacks the full-width fold-down seat and consequent versatility of the Ford Fusion Hybrid.
The general cabin design has also carried over, but the materials and switchgear have been redone in an effort to create a more upscale environment. The quality of plastics has been improved, especially on the center console, while much of the doors are covered in padded simulated leather or suede (depending on trim).
The buttons and knobs for the climate controls are bigger than before, less toylike in quality, and as a result, are not only easier to use but imbue a higher-end look and feel. The controls that border the two available touchscreen infotainment interfaces are similarly bigger in size and nicer in quality. Those touchscreens feature the same new menu design and structure as those found in the 2014 Toyota Highlander and are quite user-friendly.
The gauges also received a refit, with a simpler, classier twin gauge design and a color display in between that showcases trip, navigation, entertainment and vehicle settings information. Within its menus are a revised tire-pressure monitor system that provides the pressures for each tire (rather than leaving you to figure which one is low) and a speed limit readout that may help prevent future tickets.
We can't say that these updates to the Camry make it stand above the current crop of Edmunds "A"-rated hybrid sedan class leaders: the Ford Fusion Hybrid and Honda Accord Hybrid. However, while the quality of its cabin still may not beat or even necessarily match them, the 2015 Toyota Camry is significantly closer than it was before.
What's New Under the Skin?
Toyota didn't simply set out to make a more interesting Camry to look at or a nicer one to sit in. There was a concerted effort to make it better to drive as well. Additional spot welds create a stiffer structure that allowed for changes to the suspension tuning of every Camry model. Toyota engineers say the new settings provide a more buttoned-down, dynamic driving experience. The electric power steering system was also recalibrated for better on-center feel, enhanced straight-line stability and more direct-feeling steering inputs.
Indeed, after driving the car on curving suburban roads, we can confirm the new Camry does indeed instill more confidence from behind the wheel. Although there remains a lack of steering feel that doesn't encourage you to drive enthusiastically, there is more steering effort than before and less on-center play at speed.
This is especially true of the SE trim, which makes its debut on the Camry Hybrid for 2015. Although it shares the same altered steering, sport seats and styling flourishes as the equivalent trims on the gasoline-only Camry, the SE Hybrid also features its own suspension tuning. It's supposed to deliver the same handling benefits as its gasoline-only counterparts, but due to the added weight of batteries and other hybrid components, Toyota engineers did not need to dial the same amount of body-stabilizing firmness into the suspension and thus maintained a more comfortable ride.
In other words, no longer must you choose between sharper driving dynamics and improved fuel economy, and although every Camry Hybrid is better to drive than before, the SE is indeed the trim level we'd most recommend.
Is There Anything New About the Hybrid System?
Absolutely nothing. The Camry Hybrid's powertrain goes unchanged for 2015, maintaining the familiar Toyota Synergy Drive system that consists of a 2.5-liter four-cylinder and a 105-kW electric motor fed by nickel-metal-hydride batteries (virtually all competitors now have more energy-efficient lithium-ion battery packs). This is a bit of a detriment.
During our last Hybrid Sedan Comparison Test, a 2013 Camry came in a distant last behind new competitors, chief among them the Ford Fusion and Honda Accord. True, much of that distance was a result of the Camry's previous failings that have been corrected for 2015, but the fact remains that it's less efficient than those competitors. EPA estimates of 41 mpg combined (43 city/39 highway) for the LE trim (the others are slightly lower still) compare unfavorably to the Accord (47 mpg combined) and Fusion (42 mpg combined). The same goes for Edmunds' own testing, as the Camry Hybrid achieved 42.9 mpg on Edmunds' hybrid evaluation route. Based on past testing, the Fusion and Accord are likely to be between 5 and 8 mpg better.
Now, these fuel economy differences aren't as great as they seem, since MPG is, in fact, a poor indication of actual fuel cost. You won't end up spending that much more to fill up the Camry over the course of a year, but you will nevertheless pay more.
On the upside, however, this hybrid's powertrain delivers solid acceleration, going from zero to 60 mph in a tidy 7.7 seconds. This falls in between the slightly quicker Honda and the Ford, which is nearly a second slower. The Camry Hybrid may be frugal, but it also isn't slow.
Which Features Are Available on the Camry Hybrid?
Besides the addition of a standard rearview camera for 2015, the base $26,790 Camry Hybrid LE's standard equipment is relatively unchanged. It still includes dual-zone automatic climate control, keyless ignition and entry, an eight-way power driver seat, Bluetooth phone and audio connectivity, and Toyota's 6.1-inch Entune touchscreen interface. Aside from its aforementioned styling and performance features, the $27,995 SE is similarly equipped.
The $29,890 XLE adds niceties like leather upholstery, a power passenger seat and satellite radio. However, it's also available with additional optional content, specifically in the area of safety. This includes a blind-spot warning system with rear cross-traffic alert, Safety Connect emergency telematics (stolen vehicle locator, automatic collision notification, on-demand roadside assistance) and the Advanced Technology package, which includes adaptive cruise control, automatic high beams, a lane-departure warning system and a pre-collision system that can (in certain circumstances) slow the car in the event of driver inaction.
What Are Its Competitors?
2015 Ford Fusion Hybrid: If you're interested in sharp styling and great driving dynamics, the Ford Fusion Hybrid delivers both along with superior real-world fuel economy in our testing. Finicky electronics controls and less visibility are downsides, but the Fusion is definitely worth a drive.
2015 Honda Accord Hybrid: The Accord Hybrid may not be much of a looker, but it's arguably the most well-rounded family sedan and most synonymous with the Camry. It might not be the best of everything, but it has few faults, excellent reliability and most importantly for a hybrid, best-in-class fuel economy.
Why Should You Consider This Car?
If you liked the Camry Hybrid before, you will like it even more now thanks to expressive styling, more involving driving dynamics and a higher-quality cabin. At the same time, those new to the segment will discover a car more in line with its competitors that also provides a unique choice of comfort- and sport-tuned models.
Why Should You Think Twice About This Car?
Competitors are arguably sharper to drive without trade-offs in comfort. Perhaps more importantly, this hybrid's fuel economy trails that of other gasoline-electric models.
The manufacturer provided Edmunds with this vehicle for the purposes of evaluation.