Offering the practicality of a good-size family sedan, as well as miserly fuel consumption and environmentally friendly green credentials, the Toyota Camry Hybrid has a foot firmly planted in each camp. It looks smart, feels comfortable and has an easy-to-drive nature that’s just like most other cars. There are few of the compromises usually found in other hybrids.
The petrol/electric Camry Hybrid was introduced in 2010, but really established itself as a serious contender in the mainstream market with the second-generation model in 2012. Toyota smartened up the styling and presentation, found almost as much cabin and boot space as in the petrol version, added extra standard features and significantly improved the on-road ability.
This second generation, built in Australia, initially came in two relatively well-equipped grades, the base-model Camry H and the luxury-packed Camry HL. From 2015 the Hybrid drivetrain became available across the entire Camry range, except the Atara SX, as an alternative to the petrol-only models. All versions have seven airbags and a 5-star ANCAP rating.
Seamless switching, brisk performance
Toyota’s Hybrid Synergy Drive system can operate solely on petrol, on electric, or a combination of both. With the second generation, the Hybrid engine capacity was increased from 2.4 litres to a more powerful 2.5 litres, and with a high-torque electric motor the system delivers an impressive combined output of 151kW. Performance is brisk, with seamless switching between petrol and electric.
The electric motor adds a lot more punch off the line and down low. It will outrun its petrol-only compatriot and most other medium-size naturally aspirated four-cylinder cars. At the same time, the fuel consumption of around 5.0 to 6.5L/100km is approximately 33 per cent better than the equivalent petrol-only Camry, and pretty much class leading. The battery is charged while driving, with regenerative braking adding an extra boost. The Camry can run up to two kilometres on battery only, at speeds under 45 km/h.
Seating is comfortable and the cabin is generally quiet. The Australian-tuned suspension provides surefooted handling for this type of car, with a ride that is a touch firm but compliant enough to soak up most bumps. The brakes tend to have a strange pedal feel that’s not as easy to regulate as some, and the response can seem sudden.
Toyota has long history with petrol-electric hybrids and Camry’s are proving to be exceptionally reliable. Proper servicing is always important but be aware that the high-voltage side of the electric propulsion system should only be worked on by a properly trained specialist.
Life expectancy, reliability of the propulsion battery and cost of a replacement are common questions buyers ask. Our research suggests that there have been very few failures, even in high-kilometre taxis, and replacement costs have come down significantly. Like other cars, the Hybrid still has a conventional 12-volt battery and electrical system for starting, lighting and ancillary equipment, and if this battery goes flat the car won’t start.
Owners we spoke with were impressed with the solid construction and the high quality of fit and finish. The foot-operated park-brake, however, was an annoyance.
Towing has been a contentious issue with the Camry Hybrid. The maximum towing capacity has progressively improved but it’s still less than in many similar-size cars. Towing was not recommended with the original model, and for the second generation Toyota specified a mere 300 kilograms – just enough to pull a small trailer. In 2014 it was lifted to 1200 kilograms – same as the petrol Camry. Toyota recommends a 10 per cent maximum ball loading.
TOYOTA CAMRY HYBRID
Camry Hybrid H (2012-15) $16,100-$24,100
Hybrid HL (2012-15) $21,400-$30,400
Altise Hybrid (2015-17) $22,300-$27,200
Atara S Hybrid (2015-17) $23,800-$29,600
Atara SL Hybrid (2015-17) $29,600-$36,000
Approximate Glass’s Guide prices
FUEL CONSUMPTION: Expect 5.0 to 6.5L/100km depending on hybrid use.
SAFETY: Seven airbags, including knee airbag. ESC. ABS. Hill-hold assist. 5-star ANCAP rating.
TOWING: Varies with model year, ranges from 300kg to 1200kg.
THE COMPETITION: Ford Mondeo diesel, Mazda6 diesel and VW Jetta.
RACV can help
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